EXTRACT FROM THE FOLLOWING THIRD PARTY SOURCE: Panthera
New footage out of southeastern Gabon has captured a male lion on camera in a region where the species was believed by scientists to be “locally extinct.” Two camera trap videos taken in the same fortnight captured 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: The Cultured Chimpanzee 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.
Panthera’s Lion Program Survey Coordinator, Dr. Philipp Henschel, explained, “This footage is truly unexpected, and yet wonderful proof that life for the lions of Gabon and the region still remains a possibility.”
Dr. Henschel continued, “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.”
In 2001 and 2003, Dr. Henschel led lion surveys on the Gabonese side of the Batéké landscape, walking several hundred kilometers in search of Africa’s biggest wild cat. Henschel’s team found almost no wildlife during the expeditions, and camera traps set during the surveys produced more photos of Congolese poachers than of animals.
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. Dispersing male lions can also easily travel 300-400 kilometres from their natal area.
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.
Similar survey efforts are additionally warranted in protected areas potentially harboring lions in neighboring Congo and DRC. Survey data confirming the number and location of lions remaining in the unique forest-savanna mosaics of the Batéké Landscape will allow Panthera and partners to devise a strategic conservation strategy and initiatives for this unique and isolated population.
Learn more about Panthera’s lion conservation efforts carried out through Project Leonardo.