Why are lions the only cooperative cats? Why do they have manes? How do they endure outbreaks of disease? How do they co-exist with other species? These are some of the questions Dr. Craig Packer, Director of the Serengeti Lion Project, and his students have sought to answer in Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania.
Craig has been studying Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater lions for more than three decades. His research has been instrumental to our understanding of lion behaviour, group living and human–lion conflict, and to promoting lion conservation.
Now the Serengeti Lion Project’s grid of 225 camera traps – automatic cameras that take pictures of passing wildlife – is making the lions’ secret world visible to everyone through ‘Snapshot Serengeti’.
In remote areas tourists never visit, hundreds of camera traps automatically take photographs day and night. Each year, the cameras snap more than one million candid photos of wildlife species in the Serengeti – beautiful portraits and intimate close-ups of lions, cheetahs, wildebeests, zebras, everything from aardvarks to zorillas – and of breathtaking Serengeti vistas. Some contain rare glimpses of mating porcupines, lions making a kill, or bat-eared foxes chasing nocturnal animals.
The Lion Project shares these amazing images at SnapshotSerengeti.org – relying on volunteers to help identify the species in each picture. Through camera traps as well as on-the-ground lion radio-tracking, Craig’s team is answering questions like how large carnivores – lions, hyenas, cheetahs and leopards – all live in the same area, even though they will kill each other given the chance, and how these predators cope with the constant movements of their prey, including the great wildebeest migration.
But the project’s funding is running out, and Craig and his team are appealing for our help to keep the lion project and the camera traps running.
The Serengeti Lion Project’s current funding extends through to September 2013, so it needs US$33 000 just to get to the end of this year.
If you would like to help lions and the Serengeti in which they live, through the Serengeti Lion Project and Snapshot Serengeti, please go to: