What does it take to protect Africa’s lions?

Securing a future for Africa’s most iconic species

Celebrating World Lion Day

Lion populations have declined by 50% in the last 25 years.

On World Lion Day, we bring together a panel of wildlife experts to talk about the threats facing the species, describe some of the projects being undertaken to reverse the loss and speak about how conservationists throughout Africa can work together to ensure the survival of the species.

Join our live event on 10 August 2021 at 16h00 CAT as we explore conservation projects from across Africa that seek to promote the growth of Africa’s wild lion populations.

  • Watch and ask questions on YouTube or Facebook.
  • To join on YouTube: Click on the image below, and ask your question in the chat box on the right-hand side.

Investing in lion conservation is not simply a charitable act that might protect populations of one particular species … it also protects the many commercial and subsistence values that rely on lions directly, or that rely on the landscapes where lions live

Kaddu Kiwe Sebunya
Chief Executive Officer African Wildlife Foundation

Meet our panel of experts

Lions are one of the world’s most iconic wildlife species and a huge drawcard for the millions of tourists who travel to Africa each year.

However, few of those tourists are aware that lions’ conservation status is listed by the IUCN as Vulnerable or Critically Endangered. As apex predators, lion are critical not only as a key indication of how well the entire ecosystem is doing, but also as a means of maintaining ecological balance.

Our panel of experts talks about what is being done to save the lions and the why we simply cannot let them, and the ecosystems in which they live, disappear.

HOST: Paul Thomson

Director, Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN)

Paul Thomson has almost 20 years of experience in the conservation field and specialises in highly threatened and endangered species, creating conservation start-ups, and building leadership capacity in the environmental field.

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Paul oversees the Wildlife Conservation Network’s (WCN’s) Crisis and Recovery Funds Strategy, which includes the Lion Recovery Fund. Prior to WCN, Paul was a director of the Ewaso Lions conservation project in Kenya, helping build and run the project.

In addition to his work with WCN, he runs Save Pangolins, a project he co-founded to address the illegal trade of the pangolin, the world’s most illegally trafficked mammal.

Paul is an alum of the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders programme and now serves on the board. He holds a BSc from the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources & Environment and received his Master’s from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

Peter Lindsey

Director, Lion Recovery Fund (LRF)

What is the stark reality of the situation facing Africa’s lions? How endangered is the species and what are the factors that have contributed towards this? What is being done to help their survival and what are the areas with the best potential for recovery?

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Peter has been working with African wildlife since 1993, when he was an apprentice in the Save Valley Conservancy in Zimbabwe. He went on to study at Oxford and then obtained a PhD from the Mammal Research Institute at the University of Pretoria.

Developing an early expertise on African wild dogs, Peter went on to work on a broad array of conservation issues ranging from predator conservation to the threats facing them and other wildlife, wildlife ranching and community conservation, and, most recently, Africa’s vast protected area network.

Prior to joining WCN, Peter worked for Panthera’s Lion Program as the policy coordinator and completed some major overviews of the issues facing the conservation of lions in Africa’s protected areas.

Thandiwe Mweetwa

Project Manager Luangwa, Zambia Carnivore Programme

Why is  Zambia important in the protection of large carnivores? What projects are active there, and how are young people being encouraged to protect species such as lions? As an apex predator, what are the implications of declining lion numbers?

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Thandiwe Mweetwa is a wildlife biologist working on large carnivores and threats to their existence with the Zambian Carnivore Programme (ZCP). Her work focuses on studying population dynamics and threats to the survival of lions.

She is a supporter of community-based conservation and is dedicated to exploring innovative and meaningful ways of integrating local communities into long-term conservation programs.

Thandiwe manages ZCP’s conservation education program and, in 2016, she launched the Women in Wildlife Conservation Training Program, aimed at providing training and opportunities for young Zambian women to pursue careers in the wildlife sector.

Thandiwe is a National Geographic Explorer and an alumna of the Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa Program. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Animal Biology and a Master’s degree in Natural Resources Conservation.

Ingela Jansson

Founder, KopeLion Inc., Ngorongoro Conservation Area

What is the unique cultural relationship that exists between the Maasai tribe and lions? How can conservation projects work to mitigate cultural outlooks that have an effect on local wildlife species? What techniques can be used to reduce conflict between lions and people in areas where they coexist?

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Better known as Mama Simba or ‘mother of lions” in Swahili, Ingela is the Swedish-born naturalist who is the driving force behind the KopeLion project in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

She began working with lions as a research assistant for the Serengeti Lion Project in 2006.

In 2011, by engaging Ngorongoro community members, she expanded the long-term lion survey, founding KopeLion.

Ingela also works closely with local communities to promote lion-human coexistence through the Ilchokuti programme.

Ingela is currently tackling a PhD on lion-human coexistence at SLU university in Umeå, Sweden.

Simon Naylor

Conservation Manager, &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve

What are the challenges that come with managing lion populations on a private reserve? Why is it so important to ensure genetic integrity and how do you know when to introduce fresh genes? What is the role that some reserves can play in providing lions for other parts of Africa?

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Simon Naylor has been an integral part of &Beyond’s conservation and guiding teams for the better part of two decades.

He brings a deep understanding shaped by years of learnings at &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, which has a thriving lion population that has been used as a source to re-stock many other reserves around Africa.

Simon is responsible for all aspects of wildlife and habitat management both at Phinda and for the entire Mun-Ya-Wana Conservancy. He has also brought his skill to bear on formulating national conservation strategies for elephant, lion, cheetah and both black and white rhino.

He is a founding member of Project Rhino KZN, as well as the Lion Management Forum.

Jean Labuschagne

Director, Conservation Development & Assurance, African Parks

Looking at the projects protecting some of Africa’s most vulnerable lion populations in countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, why are lion reintroductions critical? What kind of preparation goes into a wildlife translocation project, and what monitoring happens afterwards?

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Jean was born in South Africa, but spent her childhood in national parks in Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya.

Having been brought up in the conservation world instilled in her a deep passion for nature conservation, which led her to complete her Honours in Conservation and Ecology at the University of Stellenbosch.

Jean joined African Parks in Zakouma National Park in Chad in 2012, before moving on to Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2014 as Special Projects Manager.

Jean is now based out of APs Head Office and oversees the Conservation Development & Assurance department, responsible for new project development and assuring organisational consistency and performance management.

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