ALERT African Lion & Environmental Research Trust Sat, 09 May 2020 13:29:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 ALERT 32 32 African Lion Database Annual Project Report April 2020 Sat, 09 May 2020 13:29:38 +0000

About the Project

It is generally understood that our knowledge of the status and trends in African Lion (Panthera leo) numbers is quite poor, and the collective ability of governments and the wider conservation community to identify priorities or to assess the impacts of interventions, is limited.

This can largely be attributed to the lack of a single repository of information on lion abundance, status, trends, and fine-scale distribution. Information that currently exists is often siloed and therefore of limited conservation value.

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) was awarded a grant from the Lion Recovery Fund and National Geographic in 2018 for a project to establish such a database and work began on this in October 2018.

The African Lion Database (ALD) Project is endorsed by the IUCN Cat Specialist Group (CatSG) of the Species Survival Commission, and the goal of this project is to create a database that consolidates reliable data on the population and distribution of lions across the continent. With this database, we aim to provide a basic platform from which to assess priorities, to measure conservation progress, and to monitor trends in lion populations and their threats in Africa.

Brief Update

The African Lion Database (ALD) has been capturing and recording lion related data for the last 16 months.

In the last year, we have been productive and substantial progress has been made in recent months. The distribution mapping component of the project is well underway with ~25% of lion areas included in the ALD with associated references.

In the last quarter, we have more than doubled the number of population records, with ~24% of lion areas having population estimates in the ALD.

Your Contribution to Lion Conservation

Through your data submission to the ALD you are contributing to lion conservation in the following ways:

  1. Assisting the continuous assessment of the status of lion populations
  2. Informing range countries and national and international institutions about the status of lions
  3. Disclosing the reliability of information and identify knowledge gaps
  4. Continuously improving the monitoring of lions, and conservation planning and resourcing for the species.

Your help is still needed

While we are making progress on the ALD, we still need your help. Please continue to submit data and reports on lion distribution, population and mortality (more details on page 2). Data templates are available from the ALD coordinator (

If you can recommend people or organisations whom we can contact that are able to assist with data, please let us know. Please continue to spread awareness for this exciting project that will aid in the conservation of this iconic African species.

Encourage people to contribute their research, and share information about the project

Data in the ALD

1) ALD Distribution

To date, there are an estimated 215 protected areas, private reserves and concessions included in the ALD distribution map (Figure 1). We have also received ~8,349 ad hoc distribution points that have been included in the ALD that will contribute to creating range maps.

While we are making good progress, there are still significant data gaps in the ALD. These gaps are evident in the “Lion Range_ GCLA_2019” layer shown in Figure 1.

Using the distribution map from the Guidelines for the Conservation of Lions in Africa (GCLA), it is estimated that approximately 25% of lion range is included in the ALD.

2) ALD Population

To assess the trends in lion populations throughout their range and determine the current population status we require accurate population data. In the last quarter, an extensive literature review has been done to search for lion population data.

The ALD currently includes an estimated 10,360 lions. This will obviously increase with more areas being included in the ALD; only 25% of lion range has associated population figures included at present.

3) ALD Mortality Data

In late 2019, we began the process of capturing anthropogenic lion mortality events in the ALD. This was done in an effort to record the number of human-induced mortalities and identify threats to lion across the continent.

This task has a specific focus on the potential trade (both international and local) in lion body parts (e.g. paws, claws and bones). Currently, there are a total of 104 records in the ALD.

The ALD is an ongoing project and to remain as up-to-date as possible, please continue to submit your data that has yet to be included in the ALD. Data templates for population, distribution and mortality data are available for your use.

Figure 1: Current areas (n = 215) included in the African Lion Database shown in green. These areas all have associated population data and suitable references.

Exciting Findings

In the last year of the ALD, we have received exciting out-of-range records of lions in areas where they were previously thought to have been extirpated (Figure 2).

  1. Two male lions were discovered for the first time at Mpem and Djim National Park in southern Cameroon by a team led by Dr Hans Bauer of University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) – supported by Born Free, the German development cooperation GIZ, and Cameroon authorities. Read more:
  2. A male lion has been resident in Nyika National Park in Malawi and was reported by Central Wilderness Safaris.
  3. We also received data from Luando Reserve, in Angola, where a small pride of lions were seen. This is the first evidence of a resident lion pride in the Luando Reserve in many decades that are breeding successfully.

ALD Contributor’s Logo

We developed an ALD contributors logo that has been shared with organisations and individuals that have contributed data to the ALD. We encourage the proud use of this logo on organisation websites, LinkedIn and other profiles, email signature, reference documents, Facebook pages, CVs etc.

ALD Video and Lion Estimates

We recently gave a webinar on the ALD and recent updates on lion population and distribution for the Endangered Wildlife Trust “Wild Chat Series”.

ALD Facebook Page

A Facebook page for the ALD has been set up to share information and results from the project and will hopefully also encourage additional information.

Figure 2: Exciting out-of-range records that have been received. The ALD serves as a platform to save and consolidate this data. Without the ALD, there would have been a risk that these records could have been forgotten and not included in species population and distribution assessments

Some of the organisations that have contributed significant amounts of data to the ALD (in alphabetical order):

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What do lions eat? Wed, 25 Mar 2020 10:03:29 +0000

Lions are carnivores, this means they like meat

They eat many different kinds of animals, known as prey.? Lions can eat a LOT!? Male lions will eat an average of 7kgs of food a day and lionesses 4.5kgs.? Both are capable of eating up to 15% of their body weight during just one meal.? For a male, that’s the same as 70 cans of cat food!? Lions are well known for being greedy and will hunt animals even when they are not hungry.? When tucking into a juicy zebra, if another animal comes near, a lion will often forget about that kill in its eagerness to catch some more food.

Lions can’t run very fast.? With a maximum speed of 60 kilometres per hour, compared to a cheetah’s 97kph, they are pretty slow.? Plus, they can’t run for very long without getting out of breath.? Because of this, lions need to be clever hunters.? By stalking their prey they are able to get as close as possible before the chase begins.? Very slowly, crouching near to the ground, lions creep as near to their victims as possible.?? Making sure they haven’t been seen or heard, they can then jump on an animal very quickly, taking it by surprise.

When hunting smaller animals, lions will often ankle-tap their prey.? By clipping an animal’s ankle from behind while it is walking or running, the lion aims to trip it up, making it easier to catch.? Larger animals are brought to the ground by jumping on their backs.? This is usually when the bigger, stronger male lions decide to join in.

Although lions are able to hunt alone, it can be much easier to have a little help.? When hunting in a group, each lion has its own place.? Just like in a football team, they will choose to be in either a left, right or centre position.? If stalking is too difficult, a group of lions may decide to ambush their prey instead. ??

Running very quickly at an animal forces it to run towards other lions, or into bushes, where it will be trapped.? Working together like this means that the lions are much more likely to catch their prey.? Lions have even been known to climb trees and jump on top of unsuspecting elephants as they walk underneath!

Even though lionesses do most of the hunting while the males just sit and watch, once an animal has been caught it’s the males that are always first to feed.? Lions are good at working together to catch their prey, but they are terrible at sharing and will fight over their food.? Often smaller, weaker lions go hungry, while the others are first to have their fill.? Depending on the size of the kill, they may not get anything at all.

Lions are also?scavengers and will happily steal food from other animals, or eat leftovers after a kill.? This means than when other carnivores have caught prey, lions will often bully them into giving up their meal.?

This doesn’t always work with hyenas though, who also live in a family group called a clan.? If there are more hyenas than lions, often they will get to hold on to their food.? Even the biggest clan of hyenas is no match for a male lion though.? The King of Jungle always wins! ?

Lions don’t normally drink a lot of water, but often make chose to live near rivers, streams and waterholes.? This is not because they are thirsty, but because they know prey animals will come to drink sooner or later.? They can lay patiently in wait until dinnertime.? Areas with a lot of water often flood, so lions literally have to?jump in at the deep end?to catch their food.? Because swimming is such good exercise, these lions are often very large and muscly, just like Olympic swimmers!

What animals do lions eat?

  • Antelopes
  • Buffaloes
  • Zebras
  • Young Elephants
  • Rhinos?
  • Hippos
  • Warthogs
  • Crocodiles
  • Giraffes
  • To name a few…

FAQs about what lions eat

Are lions carnivores?

A carnivore, meaning “meat eater”, is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of animal tissue, whether through predation or scavenging.

What kinds of food do lions eat?

Lions are carnivores, which means they are animals that only eat meat. Some of the types of prey they catch include birds, hares, turtles, mice, lizards, wild hogs, wild dogs, antelopes, cheetahs, buffaloes, leopards, crocodiles, baby elephants, rhinoceros, hippopotamuses, and even tall giraffes!

Do lions eat everyday?

Lions are believed to feed every three or four days, and need on average between 5kg and 7kg of meat a day. But they can go without food for more than a week and then tear into prey, eating up to 50kg of meat at a time – that’s almost a quarter of the animal’s body weight.

What do lions eat first?

The strongest male lion will eat first, followed by other members of the pride. Lionesses will feed themselves first, with cubs getting the scraps. Lions sometimes become the victims of their intended prey.

What do lions eat and why?

The simple answer to the question “What Do Lions Eat” is that they eat flesh and meat. In order to get meat they hunt other animals. Lion is an apex predator which means that it hunts most of the animals that are found in its habitat. This makes it the king of the jungle.

Do lions have predators?

No predators hunt lions to eat them; however, they do have a few natural enemies, such as hyenas and cheetahs. Hyenas compete with lions for food and often try to steal their kills.

Do lions eat grass?

Lions are actually omnivores meaning they eat both meat and vegetable material. … For our domestic Lions, grass is often the most readily available plant for them to munch. Second, Lions may eat grass if they have an upset stomach. Eating grass causes irritation to the stomach and will often cause the dog to vomit.

Does lion eat cheetah?

Lions and Hyenas scavenge a great deal from other predators such as the Leopard, Cheetah and Wild Dog. To overcome the stealing of their food by other predators Cheetahs eat very quickly once they have killed in order to prevent scavenging by others.

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Zambezi National Park: February 2020 Wed, 04 Mar 2020 10:06:58 +0000

Zambezi National Park Report on Wildlife Monitoring & Research January – February 2020

This report has been compiled by Miss Angela Ferguson (Conservation Research Manager – ALERT), Tafadzwa Shumba (Elephant Research Officer) and students on attachment with ALERT Wildlife Encounter, Esnath Nhire (Chinhoyi University of Technology) and Natsani Dube (Lupane State University).


Thanks go to all those institutions and individuals that have contributed to the below-mentioned projects. Wildlife Encounter (formerly Lion Encounter) for their financial and logistical support as well as interns and volunteers for their financial contributions and hands-on support during field sessions.

The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, for permission to conduct research in the park and on-going support of ALERT’s research activities. Special thanks to personnel stationed at Zambezi National Park (ZNP), that is the Area Manager, Resident Ecologist, Wildlife Officers, Senior Rangers and Parks Rangers.

Monitoring Projects

Large Predator Occupancy Survey


Three incidental predator spoor sightings were recorded in January 2020 all in Chamabondo.

Table 1: Incidental predator sightings recorded in January 2020. (Age: A = Adult, SA = Sub-adult, J = Juvenile, Sex: F = Female, M = Male, U = Unknown sex, Collar: Y = Yes, N = No)

Date Time Species Spoor/Visual Total Location Age/Sex Collar Y/N
06/01/2020 15:24 Lion Spoor 1 Chamabondo 1UA U
09/01/2020 15:47 Lion Spoor 1 Chamabondo 1AU U
28/01/2020 12:30 Hyena Spoor 1 Chamabondo 1AU U


Four visual incidental predator sightings were recorded in February 2020 in Zambezi National Park.

Table 2: Incidental Predator sightings made in February 2020. (Sex: F =female, M = male, U = unknown, Collar: Y= Yes there was a collar, N=No there wasn’t a collar, Type: T=Track, S=Sighting).

Date Time Species Spoor/Visual Total Location Age/Sex Collar Y/N
04/02/2020 10:00 Hyena Visual 1 Chamabondo 1UA N
04/02/2020 10:05 Black-backed jackal Visual 1 Chamabondo 1AU N
06/02/2020 16:15 Hyena Visual 3 Chamabondo 3AU N
20/02/2020 16:10 Lion Visual 3 Zambezi 1MA, 2FA N

Biodiversity Assessment (large mammals)


Nine road transect counts were conducted in January 2020, five along Zambezi River drive and four along Chamabondo game drive (Figure 1). The species with the highest number of individuals observed in the Zambezi was Impala with 242 individuals (Table 3) while in Chamabondo buffalo had the highest number of individuals observed with 308 individuals.

Of the 8 species recorded in the Zambezi, hippopotamus (7 individuals) were the least abundant and of the 8 species recorded in Chamabondo, sable (6 individuals) were the least abundant.

Overall, impala had the highest relative abundance (RA = 0.30). The relative diversity for all mammals (Shannon’s Index) in this month was H`= 1.76, higher than in December 2019. The Jaccard similarity index for Chamabondo and Zambezi is 33.3% indicating some level of overlap in the species occurring in both areas.

A Zambezi
Transect 1 Transect 2 Transect 3 Transect 4 Transect 5 Total
Individuals per KM
Elephant 10 0 2 50 0 62 1.21
Giraffe 0 0 8 9 0 17 0.33
Hippo 0 0 0 7 0 7 0.14
Impala 77 18 69 58 20 242 4.72
Kudu 0 0 0 0 8 8 0.16
Warthog 10 10 1 8 9 38 0.74
Waterbuck 2 4 1 3 4 14 0.27
Zebra 0 4 22 4 0 30 0.59
Species richness 8
Distance (Km) 11 10 11 9 10 51
B Chamabondo
Transect 1 Transect 2 Transect 3 Transect 4 Total
# of Individuals per KM
Buffalo 308 0 0 0 308 7.51
Eland 0 21 0 5 26 0.63
Elephant 0 2 10 3 15 0.36
Giraffe 6 10 8 3 27 0.65
Impala 20 16 5 36 77 1.88
Sable 0 0 0 6 6 0.14
Wildebeest 0 8 0 8 16 0.39
Zebra 40 42 35 51 168 4.09
Species richness 8
Distance (Km) 8 20 13 17.8 41

Results for large mammal road transect counts in January 2020.

Zam Nat Park

Locations of mammals recorded during game counts across ZNP in January 2020


No game counts were conducted in February due to several logistical issues as well as rain.

Bird Survey


Two bird surveys were conducted in Zambezi National Park during the month of January 2020. A total of 41 bird species were observed in the 1st bird survey along Zambezi Drive including Reed?Cormorant, African jacana and 32 bird species were observed in the 2nd bird survey in Chamabondo including Amur falcon, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Violet-backed starling and White-faced whistling duck.

Two species of special concern, Southern ground hornbills and Kori bustards were recorded in Chamabondo Vlei.

White Faced Whistling Duck

White-faced whistling ducks sighted in Chamabondo


One bird survey was conducted in Zambezi National Park. A total of 29 bird species were observed along Zambezi River Drive which includes Dickson’s kestrel, Green-capped eremomela, Temminck’s courser, Black-backed puff back and Violet-backed starling. Southern ground hornbills and Kori bustards were sighted in Chamabondo and were recorded as they are species of concern.

Temminck's courser sighted along Zambezi drive

Temminck’s courser sighted along Zambezi drive

Incidental bird sightings of species of special concern recorded in January and February 2020.

Date Time Species Number A J
03/01/2020 09:47 Kori Bustard 1
06/01/2020 07:47 Ground Hornbill 1 1
06/01/2020 15:24 Kori Bustard 1 1
09/01/2020 08:08 Ground Hornbill 1 1
09/01/2020 11:55 Ground Hornbill 2 2
16/01/2020 08:56 Kori Bustard 1 1
21/01/2020 09:44 Ground Hornbill 3
28/01/2020 11:33 Ground Hornbill 3 3
31/01/2020 09:28 Ground Hornbill 1 1
31/01/2020 09:31 Kori Bustard 2 2
31/01/2020 09:45 Kori Bustard 1 1
31/01/2020 10:00 Kori Bustard 1 1
06/02/2020 16:00 Kori Bustard 2 1 1
06/02/2020 16:15 Kori Bustard 2 2
06/02/2020 16:15 Ground Hornbill 3 3
13/02/2020 17:00 Kori Bustard 1 1
13/02/2020 11:38 Ground Hornbill 3 3
13/02/2020 09:50 Ground Hornbill 2 2
20/02/2020 10:40 Kori Bustard 1 1
20/02/2020 10:45 Ground Hornbill 2 2

Research Projects

Zambezi Hyena Project

Learn about our Zambezi Hyena Project

This research is now included as a component of ALERT’s Large Predator Occupancy Survey (see the section above).?

Zambezi Giraffe Project

Learn about our?Zambezi Giraffe Project


  • Eight giraffe sessions were conducted in January during which 14 sightings were recorded on both Zambezi and Chamabondo sides of the park (Figure 4a i).
  • 71 individual giraffe sightings were recorded; 14 adult males, 35 adult females, 3 sub-adult males, 5 sub-adult females, 7 juveniles and 7 individuals of unknown age and sex (Figure 4b i).
  • Giraffes were most often observed displaying vigilant behaviour (50% of observations) and at other times feeding (35.7% of observations) or resting (14.3% of observations).
  • Half of the giraffe sightings recorded were in mopane woodlands but they were also observed frequently in mixed woodlands. Very few observations were made in teak and grassland vegetation types giraffes (Figure 4c i).


  • Six giraffe sessions were conducted in February during which 11 sightings were recorded on both Zambezi and Chamabondo sides of the park (4 a ii).
  • 60 individual giraffe sightings were recorded; 16 adult males, 15 adult females, 6 sub-adult males, 6 sub-adult females, 5 juvenile, 8 adults of unknown sex and 4 sub-adults of unknown sex (Figure 4b ii).
  • Giraffes were most often observed feeding (54.5% of observations) and at other times vigilant (45.5% of observations).
  • Most of the giraffe sightings recorded were in mixed woodlands (73% of all sightings). The other sightings were made in riverine, mopane and grassland vegetation types (Figure 4c ii).
Research Images

Zambezi Elephant Project

Learn more about the Zambezi Elephant Project

The Zambezi National park ALERT elephant project, has four distinct broad thematic components, namely population demography, GPS collaring and monitoring, elephant impacts on vegetation, and human-elephant conflict (HEC).

Population Demography

The objectives are to understand the population size and structure i.e. how are the different sexes and age classes are represented in the population, through road transects and opportunistic sightings. Between January to February, 15 field sessions were conducted, from which a total 72 individuals were recorded in ZNP across both the Zambezi and Chamabondo sides of the park.

However poor visibility presented a challenge determining the age and sex of individuals observed.

Elephant Research

Demography of observed individual elephants in ZNP from January to February.

GPS Collaring & Monitoring

The main objectives of this component of the project are to understand home range dynamics during the wet and dry season, habitat use and selection. The three collared cows are monitored remotely on a daily basis and regularly tracked in the park using telemetry to gather data on habitat use, behaviour and herd composition. Two more individuals will be collared?later during the year. Preliminary GIS analysis is ongoing to begin to determine the size and location of home ranges for each of the collared individuals.

  • The three collared herds continue to predominantly use the national park (Figure 6) with only SA19 and SA20 occasionally going outside. Both SA 19 and SA 20 have been physically located during field sessions this year.
  • SA 20 was last seen on 16/01/2020 with a herd comprising of a total of 28 individuals (13 adults, 4 sub-adults, 3 juveniles, and 8 calves). This herd uses both the Zambezi and the Chamabondo portions of the park equally.
  • SA19 was last seen on 23/01/2020 but only some of the individuals in the herd were visible. The herd has been using much of the area west of Chamabondo, Matetsi safari area, Pandamasuie forest, as well as woodlands rural communities.
  • SA21 has not been physically seen given that the VHF component on the collar is dysfunctional, making tracks in the field difficult, especially in the existing low visibility conditions. However, as shown in Figure 6 the herd predominantly uses the Zambezi side of the park and occasionally overlaps with SA20s herd movements.
Elephant GPS Research

The movement of collared cows in Zambezi National park using GPS data. Note this represents the cumulative data from the time of collaring (November 2019) to date (February 2020).

Human-Elephant Conflict in ZNP & Matetsi Communal Area

Community HEC:

Work has started to carry out questionnaire surveys in Kasivi and Breakfast villages in the Matetsi Communal Area. The questionnaire aims improve our understanding of the magnitude and extent of HEC, perceptions of villagers towards elephants and the different social-ecological factors associated with their perceptions, as well as predict HEC conflict hot spots to guide our mitigation efforts.

Preliminary discussions with the community members indicate a higher level of tolerance of elephants among the social elites and those deriving reasonable benefits from hunting and ecotourism. However, no conclusions can be drawn until the surveys have been completed.


Plastic pollution in dung: removal exercise

Background: Plastic pollution poses a threat to both marine and terrestrial wildlife. The problem in Victoria Falls town is two-fold improper waste management in the urban areas and no barrier to wildlife coming from the national park to access that waste. Illegal dumping of waste on the edges of the residential areas near to the national park and overflowing dumpsite are attractive to wildlife.

Given that the Zambezi National Park is unfenced, animals are able to access Victoria Falls town without too much trouble. Elephants, baboons and hyenas are common visitors to the town, and are often seen rummaging through the rubbish bins in the town centre, feeding on rubbish at the dumpsite or near the edges of the residential areas.

Piles of elephant dung filled with unnatural waste excreted by elephants are a common sight outside as well as inside the national park. Furthermore, there are known cases of elephant mortality due to the ingestion of non-biodegradable waste in the Victoria Falls area.

Therefore, there is a pressing need to address the issue in the short and long-term to protect wildlife.

Clean-up exercise: After finding a particularly “littered” section inside the Zambezi National Park ALERT staff and volunteers teamed up with ZimParks staff on Friday 24 January 2020 for a clean- up exercise:

  • 11.4 km of roads near the air-strip was cleared

  • 202 contaminated elephant dung piles were removed

  • an average of 17 contaminated dung piles per km was recorded and cleared

  • contents included plastic bags, broken glass, bottle tops, baby diapers, clothing, earbuds, coffee sachets, hair extensions, toiletry bottles, wire, wet wipes, chip packets, condoms, vegetable sacs and mealie meal bags

Clean Up Victoria Falls

Eastern portion of Zambezi National Park. Red lines indicate the 2 sections of road (each 5.7km long) along which a total of 202 piles of elephant dung contaminated with non- biodegradable waste were removed.

Plastic waste in elephant dung removed from the Zambezi National Park

Further recommendations: Through our research and conservation action, we hope to draw urgent attention to the problems of improper waste management and associated threats of plastic pollution to wildlife. We will be presenting our findings at the next monthly Waste Management Meeting hosted by Greenline Africa.

We urge ZimParks to engage with other government departments (VFM and Town Council) and other stakeholders who have the authority and capacity to implement reforms to address the issues of improper waste management in the area to mitigate against the negative effects on the national park and its wildlife.

Wildlife Mortality Kazungula Road

On Thursday 20th February 2020, the ALERT research team recorded a dead juvenile spotted hyena on the Kazungula road. The individual had been partly skinned and had its face removed, presumably for “muti” purposes. ALERT participated in an exercise to put up speed limit signs along the road in October 2019, as a first step to address the problem.

However, this observation re-emphasises that the Kazungula Road is a high-risk zone for wildlife and further action is urgently required to reduce the high wildlife mortality rates in this important protected area.

Dead spotted hyena found mutilated on the Kazungula Road.

Park entries

Volunteer entry fees paid for access into ZNP:

Month PAX Foreign
Total foreign (rate $15 per 1PAX)
January 44 660
February TBC TBC
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Chizarira Report: January 2020 Mon, 02 Mar 2020 09:32:16 +0000

The ALERT Research Team at Chizarira National Park would like to acknowledge Wildlife Encounter and Antelope Park for their continued financial support towards conservation efforts at Chizarira National Park. The team is also grateful to Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) for their constant support of the ongoing research program being conducted within Chizarira National Park. Gratitude also goes to Sinansengwe Secondary School, the Local Community and its Leadership for their continued support and participation in ALERTs community-related programs. Appreciation also cascades to our fellow ALERT co-workers in different sites for emotional and mental support.

On-Going Research Projects

Lion Research


Chizarira National Park has an estimated population of 35 – 40 lions excluding those under a year old and 48 individual lions (inclusive of cubs’ younger than 12 months).? The ALERT Research Team propounds that there are 4 -5 resident prides, these include collared prides (Mabola and Kaswiswi) and Un-collared prides (Sinompas and Chimbova).

Two lionesses are currently collared within Chizarira National Park, a Protected Area in Matabeleland North. These lionesses are part of the Mabola pride-Lion 2171 (n=15) and Kaswiswi pride- Lion 2170 (n=8) respectively. Through regular spoor transects, incidental sightings, camera traps and call ups during collaring activities throughout the park, the team postulates that the? Sinompas pride has 1 adult male and 3 adult females (n=4).

Pride dynamics

Unfortunately, due to the dense vegetation cover and the regular rains experienced at Chizarira National Park, the active tracking of Lion 2170 was impossible both on foot and by vehicle. However, GPS tracking of the lioness and her pride showed that she moved extensively throughout her range though most of her time was spent near the Mucheni river which is within the territory of Lion 2171 (Mabola pride). Home range overlap is a common phenomenon around lions or some wild cats.

The Mabola pride (Lion 2171) was actively tracked by VHF and GPS as their presence was at times close to the roads and consequently easily noticeable (Figure 1). The pride was still intact and enhanced the notion that lions are the most social cats as different roles have been seen and noted from the females of the pride.

The male of the pride was noted with the pride and unlike the females and the cubs (Figure 2&3), he was not afraid of foreign elements (Research vehicle).? The cubs spent most of the close to their mothers and not so much as the male of the pride.

Lions in Chiz

Images showing the male and a female within the Mabola territory.

Home ranges

The movement of the collared lions, Mabola and Kaswiswi Prides. The Mabola pride showed to move less throughout the park, this could be a result of the high resources within the Mabola territory. Unlike the movement of the Kaswiswi pride which could have been a result of fewer resources within its home range.

Various factors could have been at play however research to understand why the lioness? 2170 moved extensively. Though the Mabola pride was collared in the last half of the year it has remained rooted within its core territory (Figure 4)

Home Ranges Chizarira National Park

Home ranges of the collared lions : Movements patterns of two prides as from Jan 1, 2019 to Jan 31, 2020

Cub survival

Due to the aforementioned reasons, i.e dense vegetation cover the cubs in the Kaswiswi Pride were not identified. However, in the Mabola Prideonly, four (4) were seen in the first sighting session and eight (8) cubs were seen during the second session. The other two could have been there but due to the dense vegetation cover their presence was not seen. Attaining the extent of Cub survival is essential in places such as Chizarira National Park as the lion population is low within the Park and reasons, why they are low, have to be established and documented.

Cub survivals also reflect on the extent of predator dynamics such as infanticides, intra-guild competition etc. Chizarira National Park is also a source to other “sink” protected areas around it ie Chete and Chirisa Safari Areas. Cub monitoring will continue as it will give management and the scientific community a deeper understanding of lion population dynamics.

Prey preference

Kill sites were identified using the cluster system on the AWT system, unfortunately, this method is skewed towards large prey base. The Kaswiswi pride preyed on waterbuck (n=2), bushbuck (n=1) and a warthog (n=1). The Mabola pride killed and preyed on waterbucks (n=3) during the first month of the year. The high degree of waterbucks killed by the collared prides does not resonate with most research findings.

However, this could be a result of the high abundance of waterbuck within the park especially close to the escarpment and lions being opportunistic in nature.

Activity budgets

The activity budgets for the Mabola pride were done to ascertain how wild lions conduct themselves in the hot wet period. As assumed the lions / pride spent most of the time resting which is a common phenomenon with lions. Lions are known to be lazy cats and this also affects their hunting successes hence being opportunistic hunters.

Activity budgets of Mabola pride

Lion Activity Time
2171 (female and cubs) Feeding (acoustics- night near station) 5 hours
Locomotion 25 minutes
Vigilant 30minutes
1 hour 30 minutes
Mabola male Vigilant 6 minutes
Locomotion 8 minutes
Drinking water 2 minutes
Resting 2 hours
Elephants in Chizarira National Park

Elephant Research

The collared herd was still resident near ZPWMA HQ and moved through Mabola- Kaswiswi and Kasansi areas. The herd is actively tracked by GPS and VHF to check on their condition and foraging patterns. The core areas of their home ranges were influenced by the springs ieBimba, Manzituba, Kasansi springs. The observed diet of the elephants included Brachystegiaboehmii, Colophospermummopane, Julbernadiaglobiflora, Dispyrossp, Silver Terminalia, Marula, Combretumspp, Peltophorumafricanum.

The elephant herd had not gone down into the communal lands or left the protected area and shown no signs of Human-wildlife conflict however from the 20th to the 24th January the herd moved to the communal conservation area and a bit of the communal area and then back into the protected area (Figure 5). Pictures of the herd were taken during the 28th of January within the park (Figure 6&7)

Peradventure where the elephants moved through, is a corridor of elephants between Chete safari area and Chizarira National Park. This is essential information for conservation since this could aid in mapping hotspots for Human-wildlife conflict and coming out with mitigation strategies suited for the Chizarira National park and its buffer areas ie Gumpoles, chilli bombs and bee hives.

The movement of the herd out of the protected area calls for the resuscitation of the lion guardian, one could focus on the elephants and one on the lions. This could assist in reducing human-wildlife conflict which is rampant during the first quarter of the year. The first quarter of the year has more pronounced green mealies, sorghum and millet in the communal gardens.

The herd dynamics of the group were checked during the tracking sessions and 50 elephants (both male and females) and calves were identified with the herd.

Elephant Research in Chiz

Conservation Education

This Month the conservation education program was at its planning phase. The 2020 annual conservation education syllabus was compiled by the ALERT community research desk in Chizarira National Park. The year’s strategy consists of the taking up of the form one and two classes.

The classes will be taught a new syllabus which shall include practical and theory lessons meant to instil and strengthen a sustainable Afro-centric view towards conservation and living adjacent protected areas.

Vegetation assessment

The ALERT team in collaboration with ZPWMA carried out a field excursion into the park where vegetation assessment feasibility and pilot studies were done. The idea of establishing permanent, recorded and monitored plots overtime was the intended objective. The re-creation of a herbarium was also a welcome idea.

Though instruments such as a tape measure, graduate pole, stationery were availed to the research team, the team still was in need of field guides i.e. (Trees of Southern Africa)

Lantana Camara

The research team with assistance from ZPWMA establish a pilot study to assess which species utilize L.camara within Chizarira National Park. The pilot study was done through the setting up of camera traps in areas where there is an invasion.

The cameras captured a number of interesting species grazing and browsing through the area of invasion. Amongst these species captured included bushbuck, buffalo and chacma baboons. Of these 3 species, only the baboons were clearly seen utilising the Lantana and seemingly browsing on the leaves and fruits ( Pictures below)

Park assistance

ALERT is glad to have assisted with park activities that include deployments and assisting with tasks that ZPWMA asked them to do. The research team hopes to continue aiding parks when a duty arises.

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Lion Diseases Mon, 24 Feb 2020 12:30:59 +0000

Endemic and epidemic diseases, viruses and parasites Impacting lion (Panthera leo) populations


Diseases can be classified as endemic or epidemic dependant on their persistence in a population. Although lion populations can be affected by high mortality over brief periods caused by epidemic viruses, endemic viruses can be constantly prevalent and are thought to exhibit low pathogenicity.

Epidemic disease risks for animals living in fragmented small populations become significantly higher as contact with human and domestic animal populations become more frequent and as a result of alterations in microclimate and landscape ecology. The tools to predict, prevent and respond to these risks are not well established in conservation management.

Co-infection by more than one pathogen can change the expected transmission rates and virulence of disease whilst also promoting parasite infection. Environmental perturbations can also change the effect on the host by the pathogen/s. 100% of extant lion populations are infected with at least one, and most with multiple pathogens, often with multiple strains of those pathogens.

Different populations, even those geographically close to each other, carry different viruses. Plans for corridors between isolated wildlife populations to promote gene- flow might also include the unwanted consequence of spreading diseases between sub-populations and promoting co-infections. This is especially of concern where one population may be naive to a disease carried by another and as such, have no acquired immunity to it. Many infections can persist in seropositive hosts and asymptomatic carriers can continue to transmit, or shed, the virus. Translocation of shedding individuals into a susceptible population thus could entail serious consequences for overall population health.

Given the lack of data on pathogens infecting lions in the greatest percentage of lion populations, the consequences of infection upon the host species, the alterations to transmission and virulence of these diseases through combination of the viruses and their subtypes in a single host or how these combined pathogens respond to stochastic disease outbreaks, it should be considered that using any extant wild populations as a source for reintroduction programs should involve extreme caution.

It should also be noted that the pathogenicity and course of disease progression of many of the feline pathogens discussed in this section have only been carefully described among domestic cats. However, post-mortem studies of mortalities among exotic felids in zoos indicate that among many viral diseases at least, there are parallel consequences of infection. In addition, the occurrence of a particular disease among free-ranging lion populations is by necessity based on serum antibody presence, which is by definition retrospective – the animal survived the challenge. In only a few cases, as perhaps in the Canine Distemper Virus outbreak among lions in the Serengeti in 1994, is a progression of a disease recorded with any scientific rigour in a wild lion population.

Mostly, lions simply “disappear” from study populations. This is especially true of lion cubs, the most disease susceptible among the population. Carcasses, even if found intact by field biologists, cannot be given the careful post-mortem analysis to determine the cause of death as such biologists neither have the means nor the expertise to do so. Multiple infections by a diversity of pathogens as is common among lions will also cloud a clear diagnosis of mortality. It is entirely likely that lions, like many other wildlife species, eventually succumb to overload rather than a single pathogen.

What has become clear is that lion populations, even in protected areas like Kruger National Park (bovine tuberculosis) and the Serengeti (canine distemper), are fragile and susceptible to introduced diseases in addition to those that we assume occurs naturally in their environment. The high number of individuals infected with the several strains of lion Feline Immunodeficiency Virus now identified is worrisome, as it has belatedly been recognized that this virus erodes immune competence over time as similar among domestic cats. Some strains seem more virulent than others, and individuals infected with multiple strains are potent sources for the evolution of new FIV viral strains.

Disease threats to wild animals have long been recognized and now become ever more important as we deal with small and isolated wildlife populations. The increasing rate of lion population declines has many causes, and we need to pay careful attention to pathogens as contributory agents in the future. We cannot medicate and inoculate wild lions. But we can more carefully identify sources of diseases from domestic animals and ensure they do not increasingly spread to wild carnivores.

Endemic Diseases Lions

Endemic Diseases

Feline Herpesvirus (FeHV)

Feline herpesvirus 1 (FeHV – 1) has been reported in free-ranging wild felids in Europe, Asia, North America, and Africa. FeHV – 1 permanently infects the host causing feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR), a disease of the upper respiratory system. It grows in the nasal, oral and conjunctival mucous membranes and intravaginal installation of the virus has led to vaginitis and congenitally infected offspring. In domestic cats the nasal discharge leads to the sense of smell becoming severely diminished, causing inappetence. Whilst loss of appetite is dangerous in all cats, it is especially so in the young. Additionally, secondary bacterial infections can occur due to the damage caused to tissues.

FeHV is highly prevalent in all free-ranging lion populations tested so far (67% in Etosha National Park, 91% in Kruger NP and 99% or 100% in Serengeti NP, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara region and Central Kalahari region). FeHV, however, is thought to be innocuous to survival or to reproductive success in infected lions, but high prevalence throughout different populations makes it difficult to compare such parameters among infected and uninfected hosts.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

FIV is a significant cause of disease in domestic cats (FIVfca) producing AIDS-like pathology characterized by CD4 depletion, immune suppression and death. Species-specific strains of FIV were demonstrated in non-domestic cat species; however general opinion was that FIVple, widespread in African lions, was benign.

Recent studies, including the first to study the complete genome sequence of the provirus from some FIVple subtypes, have shown that infected lions exhibit declines in CD4+ subsets, reductions of the CD4+ / CD8+ ratio, reduction of CD8+β high cells and expansion of the CD8+βlow subset?parallel to observations with HIV infection, strongly suggesting an immunological cost of FIV infection to lions. FIVple subtype E, recorded in populations from the Okavango Delta in Botswana, has been shown to be more similar to FIVfca than to FIVple subtype B indicating possible pathogenesis similar to that seen in domestic cats including a possibly as yet un-sequenced strain for the env gene.

The extent of recombination among the six FIVple subtypes within free-ranging lions is not yet known, but studies of Serengeti lions (where up to 93% of adult lions are infected) have shown that 43% of individuals are multiply infected with FIVple subtypes A, B and C allowing opportunities for recombination and possible evolution of more virulent strains. FIVple negative populations have been confirmed in Etosha NP although it is possible that they are infected with an as yet un-sequenced subtype.

Epidemic Diseases

Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB)

Mycobacterium Bovis, the causative agent of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) was introduced in the southern part of Kruger National Park by domestic cattle. The disease has spread northwards through infected African buffalos (Syncerus caffer) with serious concerns for the viability of the Kruger lion population as well as the development of the Greater Limpopo Trans-frontier Conservation area. Aside from the clinical effects of bTB leading to greater mortality in affected populations the prevalence of the disease within Kruger has also been shown to drive social change with lower lion survival and breeding success with more frequent male coalition turnover and consequent higher infanticide.

Elsewhere, among the Serengeti lions, 4% of animals tested were seropositive for bTB. The disease is also present in reserves adjacent to Kruger NP including Hluhuwe- iMfolozi. bTB also occurs among buffalos in Queen Elizabeth NP, Uganda, although so far not observed among resident lions, and also among lechwe (Kobus leche) in Zambia’s Kafue NP. Lions in Mozambique’s Niassa reserve have tested negative for the disease (Colleen Begg, pers comms. 2011)

Canine Distemper (CDV)

Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) affects both free-living and captive carnivores worldwide and is now recognised as a cause of large-scale epidemics in felids. Primarily transmission is by aerosol transfer or contact with bodily exudates containing the virus. Clinical symptoms mainly affect the respiratory, gastrointestinal and central nervous systems, causing grand mal seizures and myoclonus with mortalities usually occurring due to encephalitis or pneumonia.

Lion populations in the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem experienced two major CDV epidemics in 1994 and 2001, with the disease originating in domestic dogs. The 2001 outbreak in the Ngorongoro Crater caused 35% mortality among its small population of lions, while the 1994 outbreak that hit the Serengeti National Park lions, spreading North to Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve infected 85% of lions causing mortalities in a third of the 3000 strong population. Several other carnivore species were also affected and a single CDV variant was found circulating in lions, spotted hyenas, bat-eared foxes, and domestic dogs, suggesting extensive inter-specific transmission.

Possible explanations for such high mortality rates of infection in these outbreaks include the emergence of a particularly virulent strain of CDV, repeated introduction due to multi-host disease spill-over and climate extremes, coinciding with both outbreaks, which created conditions exacerbating the immunosuppressive effects of infection, which may otherwise have been tolerated in isolation.

CDV antibodies have also been detected in Central Kalahari lions and in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park. CDV has been and continues to be, present across much of Southern Africa, in its domestic dog and wild carnivore populations. Lions in Mozambique’s Niassa reserve have tested negative for the disease (Colleen Begg, pers comms. 2011)

Feline Parvovirus (FPV)

Also known as feline infectious enteritis (FIE) or feline panleukopenia, feline parvovirus (FPV) is an acute, enteric, viral infection of domestic and exotic felines caused by a single-stranded DNA virus, from the Parvoviridae family.

Parvovirus is very stable in the environment and indirect transmission can spread rapidly. In nai?ve populations, this can be the cause of high mortality.

Clinical symptoms include depression, vomiting and diarrhoea. Ataxia (tremors and jerky movements) may also ensue due to cerebellar hypoplasia which will be more noticeable in young cubs.

Antibody titers for FPV are highly prevalent in Serengeti populations (75%) but less so in the nearby Ngorongoro Crater population (27%). Other locations with published results include Laka Manyara region (60%), Kruger National Park (84%), Etosha National Park (0%) and Central Kalahari Game Reserves (0%).

Feline Calicivirus (FCV)

Feline Calicivirus (FCV) has been well documented among domestic felines; more so than exotic felids. Nevertheless, this highly prevalent pathogen has been found to have infected wild members of the Felidae, and nature, severity and clinical signs associated with FCV in exotic felines are similar to those reported in domestic cats.

FCV is related to upper respiratory tract diseases and can be identified by rhinitis, pneumonia, fever, lameness and oral ulcerations. The FCV strain usually causes temporary infection and appears to be harmless in most cases. However, upon recovery, the infected host may still act as an asymptomatic carrier; potentially infecting those who are susceptible to the disease.

Outbreaks of the virus have been reported in different lion populations residing in Africa. The prevalence rate has fluctuated in each population, with FCV being absent from the small, isolated Crater population in Ngorongoro, to occurring at low prevalence in Botswana, to being highly prevalent in the Serengeti Plains. This suggests that the FCV infection occurs in populations of high density, with outbreaks increasing as the size of the susceptible host population grows.

Feline Coronavirus (FCoV)

Feline Coronavirus is an upper respiratory infection not dissimilar to FHV, which is transmitted by various routes; faecal, oral and possibly aerosolized. It can infect domestic animals such as dogs and in cats has been known to develop into the more pathogenic feline infectious peritonitis. It has also been found to be the cause of high mortality in domestic kittens.

Like many of the other epidemic diseases (such as parvovirus or calicivirus) found in serological studies of lions, there have been no consistent signs of clinical disease for FCoV.

Unlike the endemic diseases, FCoV is an epidemic disease, and thus has different implications for wild lion populations. Epidemic diseases by nature briefly sweep through a population often inflicting a high mortality rate however, due to this high mortality and a lack of further susceptible hosts the initial bursts are short-lived. The disease will then return through the population at a later date once there are sufficient numbers of susceptible individuals, known cases of this include coronavirus, parvovirus and calicivirus in the Serengeti lion population. FCoV has been found in varying levels of population infection throughout African lion populations.

Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)

Feline Infectious Peritonitis is a viral disease caused by some strains of feline coronavirus (FCoV) either by mutation of the virus or by an aberration of the immune response. Cats with weak immune systems such as young or old cats and those infected with feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) are at particular risk from developing FIP from FCoV.

An intense inflammatory reaction occurs around vessels in the tissue; often in the abdomen, kidney or brain. The virus is unique in that antibodies actually assist the infection of white blood cells of the FIP virus. Clinical FIP is progressive and almost always fatal. Symptoms include inappetence, weight loss, depression, anaemia, fever and roughening of the fur. Fluid may also accumulate in the abdomen causing difficulty in breathing when accumulation becomes significant.

Potential Disease Threats Not Yet Identified in Free-Ranging Lion Populations

Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV)

Feline leukaemia virus (FeLVs) can be classified into three subgroups: A, B and C and are pathogenic retroviruses that induce proliferative, degenerative and immunosuppressive disorders. The disease can be transmitted via saliva (ie, grooming each other), through nasal secretions or across the placenta from a queen to its developing foetuses.

This disease is a cancer of the blood cells known as lymphocytes. The main systems to be affected are lymphatic, immune and nervous however all other body systems can be affected due to secondary infections. Initial symptoms include – Lymphadenomeagly (enlarged lymph nodes), rhinitis, persistent diarrhoea, gingivitis and progressive ataxia (the ‘’wobbles’’/collapsing).

In cases of infected animals, several antiviral agents have been proposed. Unfortunately, administration of a ‘reverse inhibitor AZT’ does not appear to clear viremia in most felines. The prognosis for infected animals is guarded and the majority die within 2 – 3 years.

Non-symptomatic individuals can harbour a latent infection in a dormant state within the bone marrow and may be reactivated if the immune response is compromised or removed. The latent viral infection is eliminated over time however evidence suggests that virus shedding may occur from a queen to her young through milk. Whether latently infected individuals can shed the virus by other means is undetermined.

To date, no evidence of the virus infecting wild lions has been discovered although clinical signs may be missed in populations, not under close observation, so lack of pathogenicity should not be assumed. Seronegative samples have so far been collected from populations including Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda, Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater and the Lake Manyara area in Tanzania, various locations in Botswana and Zakouma National Park, Chad.

Feline Monocytotropic Ehrlichiosis

Ehrlichia is a tick-borne obligately intracellular bacterium of the family Rickettsiaceae that infect white blood cells causing monocytotropic ehrlichiosis.

Common clinical signs include anorexia, lethargy, weight loss, vomiting or diarrhoea, pale mucous membranes, joint pain, lymphandenomeagly and dyspnoea (shortness of breath) non-regenerative anaemia or thrombocytopenia (low platelet count) and low white blood cell counts have been observed in laboratory blood tests.

Whilst seropositive results for the antigens in African lions have not been identified results from some captive wild felids and domestic cats have been.

Parasites for Lions


Parasitic infection may be endemic or epidemic and clinical symptoms of infection may or may not be prevalent, possibly suggesting some level of genetic adaptation to some parasitic infections.


Babesia spp.

Babesia is a tick-borne intracellular erythrocytic haemoprotozoan parasite causing babesiosis. The disease infects red blood cells with symptoms characterized by haemolytic anaemia [1]. Only infected ticks which carry the disease from feeding on blood from an infected animal transmit the disease. Infected ticks may pass on the infection to the next generation through eggs.

Babesia leo has been isolated in lions and is morphologically similar to B. felis found in domestic cats and wild pumas (Felis concolor). However clinical babesiosis has not been recorded in lions except in one specific case. “Elsa” the lion made famous by Born Free was reported to have died of babesiosis following release into an area where she was severely mauled by presumed infected wild lions. It is speculated that the severe stress caused by the release protocol negatively impacted her immunocompetence as the reason why she succumbed to an infection which other lions have been shown to tolerate?56 free-ranging lions and 25 captive lions in South Africa and Swaziland were tested finding that 28 (50%) of the wild lions and 12 (48%) of captive lions tested positive for the parasite. Of those that tested positive some were infected with B. felis, some with B. leo, some with both whilst others were infected with unidentified Babesia spp.

Two outbreaks of canine distemper virus (CDV) in Serengeti lion populations 1994 and in the Ngorongoro Crater population in 2001 resulted in high mortality whilst a further, at least, five outbreaks of CDV between 1976 and 2006 occurred without clinical signs or measurable mortality suggesting CDV was not necessarily fatal. A common event for the two periods of high mortality was extreme drought conditions with widespread die-off in herbivore species, and in particular Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer). After the resumption of the rains, heavy tick infestation of compromised buffalo populations led to unusually high Babesia infection in lions which were already immunocompromised by CDV infection. Stomoxys flies also flourished in the rains following the Crater drought, causing pruritic skin ulcers in lions, further compromising them. Biotic and abiotic factors had converged to create a “perfect storm” resulting in unprecedented mortality in lions. “Such mass mortality events may become increasingly common if climate extremes disrupt historic stable relationships between co-existing pathogens and their susceptible hosts.”

Trypanosoma spp.

Trypanosomes are unicellular parasitic flagellate protozoa transmitted by tsetse flies (Glossina spp.).

Between July and September 1985 113 lions were examined for blood parasites in the Serengeti National Park and 10 from the Ngoro Ngoro Crater in Tanzania. 28% of Serengeti lions and 0% of Ngoro Ngoro crater lions carried trypanosoma sp. of parasites. Higher incidence of infection was found in lions utilising the Serengeti woodlands of highest concentrations of tsetse flies suggesting transmission is most likely from the flies. With some positive results discovered in non-tsetse areas, it has been suggested that mechanical transmission is also possible through predator-prey interactions of infected prey animals.

Theileria spp.

Theileria is a genus of parasitic protozoan that belongs to the phylum Apicomplexa and is closely related to Plasmodium. Theileria are transmitted by ticks. The life cycle within cats is similar to Babesia spp except the infectious sporozoites invade leucocytes as well as erythrocytes. In lymphocytes, the sporozoites undergo shizogony and multiply, then invade erythrocytes. Erythrocytic shizogony is rare or absent in cats. Infected erythrocytes are then ingested by ticks where they undergo gamogony and fertilization within the midgut, then invade the salivary gland cells. Here, sporogony occurs, resulting in sporozoites that are transmitted to the cat when the tick feeds.

Clinical signs in domestic cats include Clinical signs in cats include fever, weight loss, lethargy, anorexia and lymphadenopathy.

Between July and September 1985 113 lions were examined for blood parasites in the Serengeti National Park and 10 from the Ngoro Ngoro Crater in Tanzania. 100% of lions in both locations carried Theileria-like sp. piroplasms.

Hepatozoon spp.

Hepatozoon is a genus of Apicomplexan protozoa which incorporates over 300 species of obligate intraerythrocytic parasites. Hepatozoonosis results when an animal eats an infected tick rather than a bite from one. Feline hepatozoonosis is associated with muscular pathology and is often reported in conjunction with a retroviral disease.

Between July and September 1985 113 lions were examined for blood parasites in the Serengeti National Park and 10 from the Ngoro Ngoro Crater in Tanzania. 100% of lions in both locations carried Hepatozoon sp. of parasites.


Endoparasites can exist in one of two forms: intercellular (inhabiting spaces in the host’s body) or intracellular (inhabiting cells in the host’s body). Intracellular parasites, such as bacteria or viruses, tend to rely on a third organism which is generally known as the carrier or vector. The vector does the job of transmitting them to the host. Intercellular parasites include protozoa, trematoda (flatworms), cestoda (tapeworms), nematode (roundworms), acanthocephalan (thorny-headed worms) and arthropoda.

Numerous reports of African lion (Panthera leo) endoparasites originate from zoological parks and managed game reserves without indication of the lions’ origins, their diets or prey, or their movements. Reports are sparse on parasites of free-ranging wild lions of eastern Africa. Taenia regis, Taenia gonyamai, and Taenia simbae were found in lion collections from the Serengeti and Spirometra sp. was frequent in these lions.

Accounts of parasitism in free-ranging lions from other areas of Africa, particularly southern Africa, are more numerous. Ancylostoma paraduodenale has been found in lions in Northern Rhodesia [now Zambia] as have Lagochilascaris major in the Congo, Echinococcus felidis in Northern Transvaal, and Echinococcus granulosus felidis in Transvaal. Trichinella spiralis, Dirofilaria sudanensis, Linguatula serrata, Linguatula nuttalli, Cylicospirura sp. and Schistosoma mattheei?were reported from Kruger National Park. An individual lion from Northern Rhodesia was infected with Pharyngostomum cordatum, Galoncus perniciosis, Gnathostoma spinigerum, Mesocestoides sp., Dipylidium sp., Ollulanus tricuspis, Toxascaris leonina, Physaloptera praeputialis, Dirofilaria acutiuscula, A. paraduodenale, and Taenia hydatigena was reported from a lion in Nigeria that had originated from the Leipzig Zoological Gardens, Germany, where it had been fed raw goat meat.

Many reports of lion endoparasites are from zoos in India, but information on lion habitat, origin, or diet is incomplete. Sarcocysts were found in two zoo lions and Taenia jaipurensis was found in the intestine of a lion that died in the Jaipur Zoo. Spirometra erinacea, Ascaris felis, Galonchus perniciosus, T. leonine, and Parascaris felis?were all reported. Both wild Gir forest lions and Indian zoo lions had Spirometra sp., Toxascaris sp., and Ancylostoma sp.

Toxocara cati, T. leonina, and Spirometra sp. were described in Australian circus lions and zoo lions in central California were serologically positive for Toxoplasma gondii. Giardia sp. was reported from a captive lion. Two undescribed species of Isospora were reported from captive lion cubs in England. A spurious coccidian parasite, Eimeria felina, was observed in a lion from the Leningrad Zoo”

In a survey of lions of the Serengeti nineteen different parasites were identified of the orders Protozoa, Trematoda, Cestoda, Nematoda, Acanthocephala and Arthropoda. The number of parasites recovered per lion averaged 3 (range 0 – 9) including Eimeria sp., Giardia sp., Isispora sp. including I. felis and I. rivolta, Sarcocystis sp., Toxoplasma-like sp. Trematoda-like sp., Anoplocephalidae, Taeniidae, Aelurostrongylus sp., Ancylostoma sp. Capillaria sp., Habronema sp., Tococara cati, Trichuris– like sp., Acanthocephala and Demodex sp.

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Lion Physiology Mon, 24 Feb 2020 10:57:19 +0000

Physiology of the African Lion

Body Size & Weight

Lions are unusual amongst cats in displaying a striking sexual dimorphism due to the availability of a large number of females in grouped social structures allowing larger males to be able to monopolize breeding.

There are significant differences in the size of both within and between lion populations.

Males Females
Average shoulder height 120 cm 110cm
Average weight 189kg 126kg
Record weight 272kg* 152kg**
Head and body length 2.6-3.3m 2.6-3.3m
Tail length 0.6-1.0m 0.6-1.0m

* from near Mount Kenya, Kenya
** from Kruger NP, South Africa

Lion Teeth


Armed with canines up to 7cm in length, jaws which can exert 690lbs of pressure and which are hinged to allow a gape of 11in, the lion’s mouth is an intimidating place.

Like all other mammals, the African lion has a fixed arrangement of teeth which can be generalised into a dental formula. This formula can only be effectively applied to adults as, like all other cats, the permanent teeth only begin to erupt at around three months of age, pushing the deciduous teeth up and eventually causing them to fall out. The full set of adult teeth are gained between the age of 13 and 15 months.

The dental formula can be determined by dividing the skull in the middle, then starting at the symmetrical midpoint and counting the teeth moving backwards along the jaw. Each type of tooth is counted individually, with top teeth being the number in front of the slash. The whole dental formula for a lion is I=3/3 C=1/1 P=3/2 M=1/1. I= incisors, C= canines, P= premolars and M= molars, meaning a lion has 30 permanent teeth.

The dentition of any animal is a structural adaptation to its diet and therefore directly related to its feeding, foraging and hunting behaviour.

The front canine teeth are spaced such that they can slip between the cervical vertebrae of their prey severing the spinal cord and also to rip chunks of meat away from the bone.

Premolars and molars are termed as carnassials. These are specially located at the cheeks of the lion and are very sharp so as to perform their specified role – that of slicing. The shapes of the back teeth make them work like a pair of scissors and this is also aided by the stiff jaws that cannot move from side to side, which helps keep the carnassials teeth in alignment for cutting.

Lion Claws


The retractile highly curved claws can be up to 38mm / 1?in. in length.

Lions have four claws on their back feet but five on the front where the dewclaw is found. This acts as a thumb and is used to hold down prey while the jaws rip away the meat from the bone. Set well back from the other claws the dewclaw does not appear in the print.

Claws grow as a series of layers; as each layer wears away it is shed and a new sharp-pointed claw is exposed.


The tongue is covered in backward curving spines called papillae, which help to scrape meat from the bone and for efficient grooming


Lion cubs are born with woolly, greyish coats. The coat is spotted (some more so than others), especially on the head, legs and back which aids in camouflage against their many predators, including hyena, leopard and buffalo. Most spots disappear after three months however leg spots are often visible well into adulthood.

The colouration of the fur varies from region to region, and within populations, including between siblings, however, lions in areas that are either cooler or that have higher humidity levels tend to have darker fur.

Lion Mane

The Lion’s Mane

Throughout history, manes of male lions have inspired admiration and fear yet no consensus has been reached concerning its function.

The modern lion is instantly distinguished from the other living species of the Panthera lineage by the mane in males and by group-living. All members of the Panthera lineage are thought to share a common ancestor, and yet these features are unique to lions. We can assume that they evolved after the lion diverged from other members of the?Panthera?lineage and that both are genetic responses to selection pressures only in the lion within this lineage. However, not all lions sport manes; the lions of Tsavo NP in Kenya are largely maneless!

Three elements must be considered when looking at manes; only males have them; manes start to grow at puberty; and manes vary greatly in both colour and extent, both between and within populations. Such elements lead to the assumption that the mane is, therefore, a product of sexual selection, either for competition between males or in making a male more attractive to females.

Female lions live in prides resulting in severe reproductive competition. This has lead to the formation of coalitions of males working together to take over a pride. Larger coalitions are more likely to be able to oust a sitting dominant male, are more likely to hold the pride tenure for a longer period and are therefore able to sire more cubs. Females reproduce in synchrony meaning that more than one female may be in oestrus at any one time, allowing several members of the coalition opportunities to mate. This social system, therefore, allows for sexual selection between males as well as in mate choice.

Darwin suggested that manes were used to protect the male during fights, however, there is greater advantage of avoiding a fight altogether. This requires a signal that can convey the fighting ability.

From the females’ point of view, incoming males kill all the cubs present in order that they can start to reproduce and pass on their genes. A female can benefit from a signal that a male is able to protect her cubs. Further, males are an important asset in providing food for the pride. Buffalo are slow prey and require the strength of a male, rather than the speed of a female to catch. As such, a signal to a female of a male’s hunting ability and the physiological condition is very valuable.

In sexual selection, hair is condition-dependent, and its extent and pigmentation are linked to testosterone levels as well as nutritional deficiencies. A study by West (2005) therefore hypothesised that manes may function in any of three ways; as a shield against injury, as a signal of the males fighting ability and as a sign of a males physiological status. The study set out to look at each of these three functions:

If true, the first function, that of shield against injury, would suggest that males with larger manes are injured less frequently or less severely. As fights between lions are rarely witnessed, the study looked at two other ways of testing the hypothesis. Firstly, if the mane is a protection then that would suggest that the mane area is attacked more often and that these areas would, therefore, show more wounds, and secondly, that injuries to these areas would be more severe. The study, however, found no evidence that the mane area was more likely to be attacked, nor with greater severity, and wounds on males showed the same distribution and severity as were found on females and sub-adults that do not have manes.

The study started to look at the second and third possible functions, that of the mane as a signal of fighting ability and physiological condition. It was found that the manes of males of the Serengeti study area changed over time both in length and pigmentation, and also that manes grew longer and darkened with the increase in testosterone during adolescence.

The study also found a correlation between mane length and colour and several ecological factors; in males over five years of age, mane length was closely associated with injury, leading to a possible signal that a short mane was an indication of lower fighting ability.

Testosterone levels were found to be higher in males with darker manes, and therefore a possible signal of increased fighting ability. Further, darker maned males were generally better fed suggesting a higher dominance level or better hunting ability.

Given the possible signalling properties of the mane, the study set out to test whether lions actually used these signals in their social behaviour. Loudspeakers were used to broadcast the sounds of a female in oestrus. Although mane length was not a significant indicator, males with darker manes were far more likely to win the race to the “female”.

Where there is more than one female in oestrus at any given time, the female is able to make a choice as to which male to mate with. The study, therefore, looked at mating situations where a male mated with more than one female within an hour, on the assumption that at least one of the females was there by choice. In only 50% of examples did the females choose a male with the longest mane length, however in all but one case, the female chose the male with the darkest mane.

To try and answer the question why females did not respond to the signal of mane length when a short mane could be an indicator of injury, the study used dummy lions of varying mane length and colour. The tests showed that females would approach a darker maned dummy, but did not take account of mane length. Males avoided the dark maned males, and were extremely sensitive to mane length, avoiding the longer maned dummy. Data from these studies, when added to results from previous studies concluded that darker maned males are more likely to reside in a pride, are more likely to survive the injury, have more surviving offspring, and are less likely to be wounded. Short manes appear to be a signal of short term injury. The study went on to ask the question of why all males do not have dark manes, hypothesising that there must be some sort of cost to growing and maintaining one. Males in cooler climates tend to have darker manes than those that live in warmer climates, and a male taken from a warm climate to a cool one is likely to show a darkening of their mane as they acclimatise to the new location. Lions are particularly sensitive to heat as they do not sweat and can only dispel heat through their skin, a process made less efficient by having a mane, especially a dark one. It is therefore highly likely that only the strongest, fittest males can afford to maintain a dark mane.

The study goes on to suggest that global warming and rising temperatures will have an effect on lion populations as the heat stress of darker manes becomes too much and the trait will become less common, with negative effects on photographic tourism and legal trophy hunting industries. For the lions themselves, it may become necessary to adapt behaviorally and/or physiologically to overcome the loss of this important sexual selection signal.

So why are the lions of Tsavo maneless? A study of the number of females in prides has refuted the notion that smaller group sizes lead to reduced sexual competition. Further, hunting has been banned within the Park for many years dispelling the idea that the off-take of large maned males has bred smaller manes into the population. As such, maybe there is a higher environmental cost to holding a mane in this hot, arid area? The thornbush habitat may have an effect. Males tend to take part in hunting more often in closed bushy habitats than in open grassy plains where their conspicuous mane makes hunting more difficult. In such habitats, a mane can easily get snagged as they stalk through the Bush impeding movement and making noise. Thirdly, the burrs of the plant Pupalia lappacea are abundant in Tsavo and even the dextrous fingers of the local baboons struggle to entangle them from long hair.

What is not clear is whether manelessness has evolved as an adaptation to some aspect of the Tsavo environment (i.e., genetic cause) or if the thorns and burrs merely pull out the mane as it grows in adolescent males (i.e., environmental cause). If mane hair is pulled out in each generation of male lions, young males would be expected to have larger manes, and individuals in more open habitats would be expected to retain their manes longer. If manelessness is a newly evolved adaptation, the mechanism may involve testosterone (or its derivatives), which is linked to hair growth and hair loss in mammals.

The mane in males develops during their second year and is complete in the fifth; mane colour ranges from blond to black.

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Lion Status Overview Mon, 24 Feb 2020 09:44:24 +0000

Species Status Overview

Estimating African lion (Panthera leo) populations with any accuracy is difficult and involves many uncertainties. While the three main surveys to date all used different methods, it is widely accepted that lion populations in Africa are in serious decline, even in protected areas. ?

In 2015 the IUCN stated that “The Lion population is inferred to have undergone a reduction of approximately 42% over the past 21 years (approximately three Lion generations, 1993-2014)” and estimated that fewer than 20,000 lions remain.

Lions are listed as Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Appendix II and are regarded as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.? The criteria for classification being:

An observed, estimated, inferred or suspected population size reduction of ≥ 30% over the last 10 years or three generations, whichever is the longer, where the reduction or its causes may not have ceased OR may not be understood OR may not be reversible, based on:

  • direct observation
  • an index of abundance appropriate to the taxon
  • a decline in area of occupancy, the extent of occurrence and/or quality of habitat
  • actual or potential levels of exploitation


Lion Population
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Community Conservation Report August 2019 Thu, 20 Feb 2020 13:42:08 +0000

The report compiled by the ALERT Community & Conservation Team 2019 (Rumbidzai Magwiro, Norman Moyo & Portia Dube)

People & Wildlife

Human-Wildlife Conflict Mitigation

Six livestock attacks (5 cattle, 1 donkey and 8 goats) were recorded during the months of July and August across all the six villages being monitored in Matetsi Ward. 13 of the recorded attacks were from lions and resulted in fatalities. The cattle were attacked on different days, in the rangeland. Two of the losses happened when cattle were being herded.

Unfortunately, the cattle herders were scared and had to flee from the lion (pride of six lions). The attacks on the goats took place at night in the kraal. The lions first attacked two goats and later on came back and finished the remaining six. The last attack which was on a donkey recorded in August and was from a hyena.

The attack took place at night outside the kraal. The owner had not put the donkeys in the enclosure hence it happened, however, it only led to an injury. Unfortunately, the issue of human-wildlife conflict in Matetsi goes beyond livestock loss. It is also affecting the literacy of children in other parts of Matetsi Ward. Due to the long distances which are there between some villages for example in Kasibi and the nearest school as well as the existence of wildlife, parents opting to send their kids to school at a later age.

This is because their children might fail to escape from dangerous wildlife species such as lion, elephants or buffaloes which are in their area. For more on this please refer to our Early Childhood Development section.

Conservation Education

Conservation education club students managed to finish their syllabus on plants and vegetation in July. The concluding lesson was on the chemical process in plants and they had a revision session on the whole syllabus.

The students are looking forward to starting their syllabus on wildlife and going for a trip to wildlife encounter during the third term. More on this section will be in the September report when the students resume their school their term

Education Projects

English Teaching Assistance

The English literacy program is going on well. Students at Sekebelo Primary School graduated from learning the alphabet to forming words and doing spellings. This is mainly because of a small number of pupils the school has.

Masue Primary School greatly improved from an average score of 18.2 to 22.9. Beginning September the program will only be focusing on 2 students at Masue Primary who are still struggling and scoring way below the average class score. Breakfast Primary School is still struggling; it maintained the same average score.

The program will be continuing with a full class until their scores improve.

English Teaching Report ALERT

Early Childhood Development

Early childhood development (pre-school) is one of the most important education stages in children, despite having an urban or rural background. Kasibi village is located in Matetsi ward, a communal area in the KAZA region. Like any other villages in Matets ward, it is surrounded by several unfenced protected areas, making it vulnerable to lions, elephants and even hyenas.

The village does not have a school of its own hence the children from the village attend school at Matetsi Primary and Matetsi Secondary, which are very far away. Because of the long-distance that children walk to school, it has led to parents keeping children under the age of 7 years at home and unable to attend pre-school.

This is also being caused by the fear they have of dangerous wildlife species e.g lions, elephants found in the villages which could possibly attack the children.

Due to this ALERT, Community Department held a meeting with the parents from the village whose kids were not attending school and they came to a decision of starting a pre-school within the reach of the community. The pre-school has been formed so that the small kids do not have?to walk the long-distance and they can obtain an education.

For starters, the community chose a teacher, and the organisation sees to that all materials needed for the pre-school is provided. ALERT managed to provide equipment such as crayons, toys, books, charts, markers, paper, The organisation also managed to get one of our professional ECD teachers we work with at Chinotimba Pre-School to train the community teacher.

We hope with time we will be able set up a proper ECD in the area which is recognised by the ministry so the children can get a professional, qualified teacher

Social Development

Old People’s Home

Work at the old people’s home proceeded as usual. The ALERT team assisted the caretakers at the home with cleaning, gardening and serving food. The organization also managed to secure medication for one of the elderly persons living with a heart problem.

Unfortunately, her condition is worsening and her legs keep on getting swollen even when taking medication.

Girls Club

The girls from our girl’s club received washable and disposable pads, special thanks to one of our former volunteers from Sweden. The girls also managed to end the term in a very calm manner by watching a movie on their last day.

We hoping they will be able to improve their soft skills especially in sewing next term and also learn more about child abuse.

Girls Club Report

Girls from Sekebelo Girls Club watching a movie during their last meeting of term 2


The ALERT mobile clinic managed to assist the district immunization outreach programme within the Hwange District, collaborating with the district health office. We assisted them with transport and recording during the immunization program.

During the intensive clinic week, approximately 302 babies were weighed and checked for normal growth. At least 71 babies were immunized (received Vitamin A, IPV, OPV and some even BCG). The areas which were covered during the program include Matetsi Ward, Chidobe Ward, Jambezi Ward, Chikandakubi, Chikamba, Mizpah and Lupinyu. The programme also involved educating and distributing contraceptives to the mothers.

Most mothers opted for oral contraceptives but were however encouraged to try long term and less demanding methods such as implants and the loop.

The reason being with tablets people tend to forget to?take them.

Clinic Report

Shows the areas which were covered during the mobile clinic, the number of kids which were attended to either for growth assessments or for immunization purposes.


The ALERT Community Conservation team would like to thank ALERT, Wildlife Encounter and Volunteer encounter for supporting all the community projects.

We would also like to extend our gratitude to all the Ministry of Health, Hwange District, Hwange Rural Communities which work with us and the Hwange Rural District Council for their support.

Thanks to the ALERT team across all departments for the good job and the hard work they put into the projects daily.

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Lion Depiction Across Ancient & Modern Religions Thu, 20 Feb 2020 12:56:05 +0000

Lions in Religion

The oldest known animal-shaped sculpture ever found is a half-human half-lion, carved from the tusk of a mammoth during the upper Palaeolithic period in South Germany, 32,000 years ago.? It is possibly the eldest of the ancient gods, there is no similar find like it from this period.? A

ll other finds in the area were singular representations of animals, with no other morphological combinations of men and animal, suggesting the lion-man was perhaps used for specific ritual purposes.

Sphinx Lion

Egyptian Sphinx

Across history and across religion, the half-human half-lion is an icon of remarkable consistency and persistency. ?It is present in ancient Egypt with the Sphinx as a half-human half-lion Goddess, the Protector of the Pharaohs.? From Persia to Rome, the lion was a symbol of the sun god Mithra, whilst the Etruscan lion with wings stands at the entrance of the Temple Mountain at Troy.?

In Islam, Muhammad’s son-in-law and cousin was known as the Lion of God, whilst a lion-headed angel is one of four beings that supports Allah’s throne.

The lion is also deeply ingrained in Buddhism – lions were frequently pictured with bodhisattvas who guide people to the path of enlightenment, whilst Manjusri, a bodhisattva who is symbolic of transcendental wisdom is frequently on the back of a lion.

The lion is not merely present across the major religions; it also suggests links or commonalities to the roots of many religions.? For Jews, the lion is a symbol of messianic promise and redemption.?? This has parallels to both ancient civilisations and Christianity.

Egyptian Warrior Goddess Sekhmet

The Egyptian Warrior Goddess Sekhmet (pictured to the right), most commonly depicted as a lioness, was the fiercest of warriors, creating the desert from her breath and believed to be a terrifying goddess worshipped as “the destroyer”.

Egyptian Warrior Goddess Sekhmet

Amongst the Hindu Gods and Goddesses, you find a parallel, as echoed by the Goddess Kali, the Creator, who starts the motion of the ‘Wheel of Universal time’, creating the Universe, and at the end of the cosmic cycle of manifestation, devouring all of Creation.??Both are solar deities, and the Vedic Sastra tells us Kali’s consort, Lord Vishnu appeared in the divine form of half-man, half-lion, Narasimha, to stop the demon Hiranyakasipu promoting irreligion.? Both half-human half-lion(ness)s are protectors, destroyers and redeemers, similar to the Jewish role of the lion.

In parallel to the Jewish and Hindu religions is the Christ-lion.? With its built-in halo, the Christian lion is often pictured with a book or scroll, in his role as humanity’s judge and teacher. ?The Christ-lion, the Lion of Judah, is a beacon of light, courage, bravery, agility and dignity.? And he is a fighter, symbolic of the line of David and of Kings. ?Jesus descended from the tribe of Judah and is mentioned as being the Lion of Judah in Revelation.

The role of the Lion of Judah links to the destiny of man.? In the Book of Revelation, we learn:

‘No man in heaven or in earth, neither under the earth can open the book of seven seals’.?

And in Revelation 5:5:

‘And one of the elders saith unto me, weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof’.

Jesus is commonly referred to as the ‘overcoming one’ and ‘the one qualified to open the scrolls and seven seals’.

This is of some significance, especially when considered in the context that the lion, like most sun symbols, became an emblem of Christ, the ‘light of the world’, with Christianity’s arrival.? The lion energy of all energies, in opening the seven seals, delivers the great reckoning, the retribution that The Book of Revelation talks of, destroying the dark, and unleashing the wrath of God on the sins of humanity, cleansing the earth to a renewal and one thousand years of peace.? The great reckoning wipes out most of humanity, leaving 144,000 humans in the form of the 12,000 people in each of the 12 tribes of Israel.

The lion, being a sun symbol like Jesus represents the light of the world, but is also the great destroyer of darkness, bringing light back into the world.? The prophecy of the coming of the Lord to ‘judge the world’ as the Lion of Judah is clear all through Revelation 5:1-5.? Jesus was slain by the darkness of humanity and returns as the Lion of Judah to judge humanity and in so doing rid the World of its darkness.

Narasimha – The Hindu God

The Hindu half-lion half-man God, Narasimha (pictured to the right), actually plays a similar role to the Lion of Judah.? His consort Kali is the Destroyer, and Narasimha wipes out irreligion, which is metaphorically similar to the wiping out of Darkness in The Book of Revelation. ?There is is a further link between the Lion of Judah and Narasimha. ?The link between the two lions is suggested in their respective religious texts.?In the Bhagavata Purana, there is the line:

‘He was, He is and He Will Be.’??This refers to Lord Vishnu who is Narasimha.

In the Book of Revelation 1:8, there is the line:

‘I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come.”


This is Jesus who is the Lion of Judah.

These similarities may be no coincidence.? The lion is endemic through religious texts, and the lion merged with the highest beings of a religion (Vishnu / Jesus) is thus at the pinnacle of both religions, whilst also at the apex of the animal kingdom in Africa on Earth.

In religion, lion’s are merged with human Gods.? Lions are revered as Kings.? If humanity emulated this on Earth as in Heaven, lion’s may not be staring down the barrel of a gun facing extinction.

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Lion Ecology Thu, 20 Feb 2020 09:42:08 +0000

The Ecology of the African Lion

Lion populations differ ecologically, even within an eco-system. The inter-relationships of habitat and prey with lion ecology, sociality, and behaviour are obvious and striking.

Habitat Selection

Lions have a wide habitat tolerance; preferring open woodlands, thick bush, scrub and grass complexes, even penetrating deep into deserts along watercourses. The only habitat where they are generally not found is rainforest. Densities are highest in savannah or plains habitats with the greatest variety and biomass of hoofed mammals. In Ngorongoro Crater densities reach c. 38 / 100km2, 26 / 100km2?in Nairobi NP, 12.7 in Kruger NP and 12 in Serengeti.

Culture of Predation

Different prides have different preferences and traditions of what prey species they favour, but due to their opportunistic nature, lions hunt a large variety of game. The most widely distributed ungulate species of impala, wildebeest and zebra are also the most common prey species. When a group of females hunt together or when the larger males are assisting lions are able to take larger prey such as buffalo, giraffe or even young elephant. They will take smaller prey from warthog and rodents to ostrich eggs and even fish. Lions are also known to eat cheetah, cape fur seals, chimpanzee, tortoises, termites, grass and fruit.

Kills in southern Kalahari: wildebeest (37%), gemsbok (32%), springbok (13%), hartebeest (7%), eland (4%), ostrich (4%), porcupine (2%). In Kruger NP, in normal years of rain: impala (29%), Burchell’s zebra (16%), wildebeest (14%), warthog (13%), porcupine (13%). In Savuti wet season: buffalo (41%), zebra (29%). Mana Pools: impala (45%), buffalo (20%), waterbuck (15%), warthog (7%), zebra (7%).

Lions kill a greater proportion of males and young animals of prey species.

Two Lionesses in the wild


Lions will scavenge and respond to smells or sounds of a kill, including following circling vultures; they will readily drive other predators off a kill. In Serengeti c. 40% of food is scavenged. Scavenging behaviour allows lions to thrive in periods of drought. Lion densities in northern Kruger NP rose from 1 per 30km2?in 1989 to 1 per 8 – 9km2?in 1993 after the 1991 – 92 drought.

Lions and spotted hyenas have similar prey preferences and often compete at kill sites. Lions are dominant except when substantially outnumbered and will generally only surrender a kill once most of the meat has been consumed.

Food & Water Intake

The average daily intake for males is 7kg, and 4.5kg for females but this varies considerably between seasons. The maximum at one meal is up to 15% of body weight.

Lions can survive for long periods without water, getting much of what they need from the moisture content of their prey, however where a water source is available they will drink regularly.

Social Biology

Habitat also affects the social biology of lions. In Kruger woodlands, males spend less time with females, hunting more themselves and scavenging less from females. Males and females also rely differentially on prey species, females taking more zebra and wildebeest and males taking more buffalo. Associated with these differences, juvenile survivorship and birth intervals are higher and post-natal dispersal of cubs is lower, producing dramatically different life-table and settlement patterns than in Serengeti.

Most Kruger males settle within 20km of their birthplace versus moving >200km away before settling, apparently as a result of both habitat structure and prey density.

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