SAVE Lions - Living with lions

Africa’s lion population has plummeted by 43 percent in two decades. Experts estimate that fewer than 20,000 lions live there today. The SAVE Wildlife Conservation Fund, together with Pro Wildlife, now wants to change that in a new project to protect lions in Botswana near the Okavango Delta.

“SAVE Lions – Living with Lions” has chosen as project area one of the most ecologically valuable, wildlife-rich but therefore also conflict-prone regions on earth. Despite the dramatic decline, countless big cats are poisoned or shot there – as in many places around Africa’s game reserves. Especially when they kill livestock, which threatens the existence of the people. The loss of revenue from wildlife tourism due to the Corona crisis has further exacerbated the situation. “Through better protection of livestock, species conservation education and the creation of alternative sources of income, we want to enable humans and lions to coexist,” said Lars Gorschlüter of SAVE Wildlife Conservation Fund.

“SAVE Lions – Living with Lions” starts in the village of Quqao in the southern part of the Okavango Delta, itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to many endangered species such as lion, cheetah, wild dog and black rhino.

Because many people there live from cattle farming at the same time, Quqao in particular has an above-average number of conflicts between lions and livestock, according to statistics from the Botswana Wildlife Authority DWNP. The village, which is a sad hotspot of lion killings, was therefore selected for a pilot project. Because of this particularly dramatic situation, SAVE will establish a base for Lion Rangers there. The Lion Rangers will provide immediate assistance in emergency situations, advise affected farmers and monitor the movement patterns of the predatory cats through tracking.

SAVE Wildlife Conservation Fund Botswana has already been able to recruit community members from Quqao for the lion conservation project and hire the first Lion Rangers. Together with them and the villagers, SAVE will analyze concrete conflict situations and develop effective solutions for herd protection, such as mobile and predator-proof fences.

In addition to concrete protection measures, the SAVE Lions project is making an educational offer to the rural population: the environmental education program “Education for Conservation”, or E4C for short, which has already been successfully tested at 28 locations in Botswana, informs people of all ages about the value of the unique ecosystem. “Only by working with people in wildlife areas, providing educational opportunities and helping people to help themselves to create livelihoods beyond livestock farming will we enable people and wildlife to live together peacefully in the long term,” says Daniela Freyer of Pro Wildlife.

In the future, the lion conservation project is to be extended to a further five communities in the Okavango Delta in order to ensure comprehensive protection of the endangered lions.