With the estimated current number of lions in Africa to be as low as 32,000, the African lion population has decreased by an astonishing 80 – 90% over the past 40 years. Lions play an important role in drawing many foreign tourists to enjoy safari experiences and therefore generate much needed income for many impoverished areas in Africa. Lions are also vital in the maintenance of biodiversity as they fulfill their role in the food chain by regulating more dominant herbivore species. The aim of the Lion Rehabilitation Program is to restore lion populations through a 4 stage program that will also provide social benefits to surrounding communities.
The four stages start with breeding cubs on the project breeding sites and in step 2, developing a natural pride social system in a minimum 500 acre enclosure. The pride is then relocated into a managed ecosystem of a minimum 10,000 acres, where there are no resident human beings, there are sufficient prey species to hunt and there are competitive species such as hyena. The lions in stage 3 will give birth to cubs, which will be raised by the pride in the managed ecosystem. In stage 4, the lions born in stage 3 can be released into the wild in several natural social groups or ‘prides’.
With the help of wildlife volunteers in Africa the project has released 7 lions into the second stage of the Lion rehabilitation project. These have further had their own cubs that were born in the stage 2 site and are doing well with the whole pride. Volunteers in Zambia have also contributed with this project in building a new preschool in a local village, upgrading classrooms and building an extra shelter at Natebe Primary School.
As you work with lions in Africa you will spend time playing with, walking with and caring for them.