Over the past 100 years, it was thought that Ethiopia's lions were long gone. However, wildlife conservationists have now announced the "ground-breaking discovery" of over 100 lions living in the country.
The Born Free Foundation has said that a team of researchers from Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, led by Dr. Hans Bauer, found the lost tribe of lions deep within the dry savannah of Alatash National Park, north-west Ethiopia.
The team believes that their findings strongly suggest there will be more lions over the border in Dinder National Park, Sudan.
While they had known that this area was a “possible range” for the species based on historical records, only locals knew of their current presence. To verify the rumors, the conservationists went there to gather original and undisputable evidence of the lions' existence.
According to the report, the researchers placed camera traps near a dry river bed where they had spotted lion footprints. By the second night, their suspicions were proved to be correct after capturing numerous images of the predators.
Image credit: Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU)
The exact numbers of this Ethiopian clan are unknown. However, the team has speculated on the size of the population. In a statement, Dr. Bauer said, “Considering the relative ease with which lion signs were observed, it is likely that they are resident throughout Alatash and Dinder. Due to limited surface water, prey densities are low, and lion densities are likely to be low, we may conservatively assume a density in the range of one to two lions per 100 kilometers squared (38.6 miles squared). On a total surface area of about 10,000 kilometers squared (3,861 miles squared), this would mean a population of 100-200 lions for the entire ecosystem, of which 27-54 would be in Alatash.”
The natural range of lions has been declining for hundreds and hundreds of years. Through loss of habitat and poaching, it’s thought as little as 8 percent of their historical range remains.
The African lion (Panthera leo) is listed as "Vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. While their populations are forecasted for more doom and gloom in the coming years, the study has provided a much-needed boost of hope for their conservation.
Born Free’s chief executive, Adam M. Roberts, also added: “The confirmation that lions persist in this area is exciting news. With lion numbers in steep decline across most of the African continent, the discovery of previously unconfirmed populations is hugely important – especially in Ethiopia, whose government is a significant conservation ally. We need to do all we can to protect these animals and the ecosystem on which they depend, along with all the other remaining lions across Africa, so we can reverse the declines and secure their future.”