May 15: Remember the young male lion caught on camera in Gabon in March? Conservationists everywhere were thrilled by new footage and images obtained in a part of Africa where lions were thought to be extinct. Now, big cat conservation charity Panthera has released a new camera trap photo of a young male lion, believed to be the same one photographed in March.
Panthera’s release of the camera trap videos, taken in the same fortnight in March, revealed a single male lion roaming along an elephant path in the Gabonese region of the Batéké Plateau – a savannah landscape extending across southeast Gabon and into Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the lion last roamed in any great number in the 1950s. The footage was recorded as part of a chimpanzee study in Batéké Plateau National Park, led by Panthera’s partners, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology's Pan African Programme and The Aspinall Foundation.
Immediately following this discovery, Panthera joined with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, The Aspinall Foundation and Gabon’s National Park Authority (ANPN) to mount a new, intensive lion survey in the Gabonese park. This new image is part of the result of those efforts.
Panthera’s Lion Program Survey co-ordinator Dr Philipp Henschel says: “The videos demonstrate that the efforts of the Gabonese authorities to protect this landscape, starting with the designation of the Batéké Plateau National Park in 2002, after an initial lion survey in the area, have been successful.”
Habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching and illegal hunting of the lion’s prey species contributed to the loss of lions in the region by the end of the last century. Until recently, lions were known to be present on the DRC side of the Batéké Plateau
The new survey aims to determine if the male lion filmed in Gabon is a solitary individual, which may have immigrated from a remnant population in the Malebo region of the DRC, or if it is part of a new breeding lion population in Gabon.
Damian Aspinall, Chairman of The Aspinall Foundation, says: “The return of lions to the Batéké marks a significant step in the work of the Foundation to do everything humanly possible to encourage endangered species to return to the ancestral homelands which are their rightful place.”