Written by Rae Kokes
Changa Safari Camp have put together some interesting facts about one of our favourite big cats – lions!
1. Lions are listed as a vulnerable species. Despite their affectionate name, ‘king of beasts,’ they are under serious threat on the African continent, with estimates of approximately 30,000 lions remaining in the wild, down from 200,000 in 1975. They have also lost a staggering 75% of their habitat in the last 50 years. The main threats faced by lions are habitat loss, human-lion conflict and loss of prey.
2. Matusadona National Park is categorised as a ‘lion conservation unit,’ which is an area known for possible lion range and of significant ecological importance to the species. The park is also part of the Kavango-Zambezi lion population, one of only two lion populations left in Africa with over 2,000 lions. These conservation efforts are crucial to ensuring lions continue roaming in Africa!
3. Matusadona National Park once held Africa’s second highest density of lions. There was approximately 100+ lions that could be found in the 400km2 valley floor in the 1990s. However, as Lake Kariba water levels rose, the huge buffalo herds sustaining these prides began to die off and eventually so did the lions, with numbers falling to 28 by 2004.
4. Matusadona National Park is currently home to four prides in the valley, and one male cohort that are pride males for all the prides, totaling approximately 30 lions. The Matusadona Lion Project, supported by Changa Safari Camp, has been monitoring this population since 2014 and is working to improve their long-term viability by addressing issues limiting the population within and beyond the park.
5. Two of the resident prides in Matusadona – The Eastern and Tashinga Pride – are known to prey on crocodiles on the odd occasion. Changa Safari Camp guests have been lucky enough to witness this unique behavior during our afternoon game drives.
6. Matusadona National Park supports a staggering 48 different mammal species, yet the lion in the area prefer to feast on kudu, waterbuck and the plentiful impala.
7. The current pride males, the “Jenje Boys”, are well known elephant hunters. The Matusadona Lion Project has recorded 25 kills in just two years! The males are the only lions known to take elephants, which are usually aged around 10 years old.
8. Changa Safari Camp falls within the territory of two resident prides – the Eastern and the Kanjedza Pride. They have been known to pass through the camp, once chasing a waterbuck and once even stealing a discarded leather shoe belonging to our guide! A story worth hearing, be sure to ask him to tell you the tale during your next stay with us in Lake Kariba.
Please help the Matusadona Lion Project to raise funds for new batteries on the GPS collars of the lions of Matusadona NP.