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Saturday, June 1: Franklin Park Zoo will be closed for our annual gala, Zootopia. We hope to see you on another day!

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Two female lions

African Lion Conservation

Zoo New England supports Lion Landscapes in their community-led conservation efforts to protect large wild carnivores moving out of protected parks and into human-dominated landscapes.

Lions Under Threat

Lions have had a range decrease of over 90%, and are now found in less than 10% of their original distribution. They have suffered a population decline of over 40% in the last 25 years. Habitat loss is still a big issue, as human population growth in Africa puts more and more pressure on coexistence and increases conflict. Over 50% of the remaining lions live in unprotected rangelands, shared with people and livestock.

The main threats to lions are indiscriminate killing (primarily as a result of retaliatory or pre-emptive killing to protect human life and livestock) and wild prey base depletion. Habitat loss and conversion has led to a number of subpopulations becoming small and isolated. Disease is a considerable threat, with roughly a thousand lions dying from an outbreak of canine distemper in the Serengeti in 1994.

Supporting Community Conservation

ZNE supports Lion Landscapes in their expansion of the community led conservation work that has been successfully tested around Ruaha National Park, aimed at protecting all of the large wild carnivores that move out of the park into the human-dominated landscape. The community initiative around Ruaha has led to a reduction in carnivore killing by over 90%. The new site, the Selous-Nyerere landscape in Tanzania, is considered to be one of the last lion strongholds, being one of only six populations to contain over a thousand lions.

The work that Lion Landscapes does helps directly to stop the loss of carnivores due to retaliatory killing, by reducing the loss of livestock, while increasing the benefits of living with large carnivores. This involves:

  • Co-designed programs that include livestock protection efforts around strengthening enclosures and bomas to reduce livestock losses;
  • Lion Defenders, where pastoralist warriors are employed not to hunt lions (an historical activity) but to patrol areas, help local people find lost livestock, and help mitigate potential conflict situations;
  • A community wildlife camera trapping program, where communities camera trap predators and receive funding for education, healthcare, and veterinary medicine, thus providing an incentive for allowing predators to live on the landscape;
  • Education and outreach measures, including park trips for community members living in lands adjacent to the park (many of whom have never been inside the park), DVD nights, storybooks, wildlife clubs, and constant outreach for pastoralists on how to improve livestock husbandry and minimize conflict with predators.

These initiatives are working largely around and outside the formal protected areas, greatly increasing the area of land and thus the amount of biodiversity, including lions, under protection.