Lions return to Liwonde

Lions in boma in Liwonde National Park, photo credit: Frank Weitzer

African Parks has completed a series of lion translocations as part of wider efforts to restore Malawi’s parks. For the first time in 20 years, a population of lion has been re-established in Liwonde National Park. 

African Parks partnered with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, the Dutch Government, the Lion Recovery Fund and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation to translocate 12 lion from South Africa to Malawi. Their arrival also follows the recent reintroduction of cheetah to Liwonde in May 2017, as part of a wider initiative to restore predators to the region.

This translocation also included introducing an additional five lion into Majete from South Africa to enhance genetic biodiversity of the founder population of the reserve, where the predators were also reintroduced by African Parks in 2012, years after being poached out.

“We are immensely proud of the restoration of our country’s parks and are committed to ensuring the ongoing protection of the extraordinary national assets,” said the Director of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, Brighton Kumchedwa. “The reintroduction of lions and other emblematic species form a core part of this vision, enabling the rejuvenation of wildlife populations, enhancing tourism and socio-economic development, and contributing to the wellbeing of those living around the parks.”

In Liwonde, years of human-wildlife conflict and poaching eradicated resident predator populations, but, before bringing predators back, African Parks overhauled law enforcement to secure the park, constructed a robust perimeter fence, removed thousands of snare traps, established rigorous ranger patrols, and worked with local communities to prevent poaching and human-wildlife conflict. With infrastructure and security in place allowing a prey base to recover, African Parks began the process of reintroducing wildlife.

Predators serve an important ecological function. “Bringing back lions restores a key species that is critical to the healthy functioning of the natural system,” explains Patricio Ndadzela, African Parks’ Deputy Director of Conservation. “Symbolic of the Malawian Government’s commitment to revitalising its parks and wildlife, the translocation also contributes to the establishment of a significant national predator populations and to the development of sustainable tourism economies to promote local livelihood and socio-economic growth.”