Cheetah sighting in “W” National Park (Niger): A hopeful sign!

Samaila Sahailou, technical assistant of Arly and Pendjari National Park, reported that on31 December 2012a male cheetah was seen walking around camp Tapoa. The sighting was fortunately captured on photo camera by Mr Frédéric Modi, director of hotel Tapoa. (see photos below). This sighting is another indicator that “W” National park(Niger) still holds a small cheetah population.

Cheetah sighted in park W (Niger)During a recent survey, funded by the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative, by Philipp Henschel and colleagues of Panthera and partners only tracks of two cheetahs were encountered in Pendjari Biosphere reserve and adjacent Arly NP in Burkina Faso and zero cheetah tracks were found in “W” NP in Niger. This indicates the presence of a very small population of cheetahs. The survey did not find any evidence for the presence of African wild dogs and local extinction of this species is feared. The population of lions in the whole complex was estimated at 311 (123-498) lions, which is lower than previous estimates of Riggio et al,. (2012).Cheetah sighted in park W (Niger)

The Regional Conservation Strategy workshop for Cheetah and wild dogs held in Niamey in February 2012 will result in the publication of the Regional Conservation Strategy for cheetah and wild dogs for West, Central and North Africa and based on this, national conservation plans will be developed. It is hoped that action resulting from these national action plans will not be too late to save the remaining populations of these species from local extinction.Cheetah sighted in park W (Niger)

Pendjari Biosphere Reserve is very important as one of the last remaining strongholds of large carnivores in West and Central Africa, such as lions, leopards, hyenas, cheetahs and wild dogs. Therefore every observation of these carnivores is of importance and should be recorded. We would like to ask you when you have encountered any large carnivore in a park in West and Central Africa to inform us.

Strong decline of savannah landscapes and lion populations in West and Central Africa; local lion populations are expected to go extinct in 10 years time

A group of scientists from different universities from USA, UK, South Africa and Leiden University in The Netherlands have demonstrated through a meta analysis in a publication in the Journal of Biodiversity and Conservation, based on the analysis of Google Earth satellite images, that the savannah landscapes in Africa shrank from 11.9 mio sq km in 1965 to 9.7 mio sq km in 2000.  Much of the degradation of savannah landscapes took place in West and Central Africa.

Free ranging lion populations occur in only 25% of these savannah landscapes (approximately 3.4 mio sq km). The total remaining lion population is estimated to be between 32,000 to 35,000 lions, of which less than 3000 in West and Central Africa.  The researchers conclude that lion populations in West and Central Africa show the strongest declines with recent extinctions, even in nominally protected areas. The researchers also conclude that only 24,000 lions remain in ten (10) strongholds, four in East Africa, six in South Africa and none in West and Central Africa. Over 6,000 lions are in populations doubtful long-term viability, most of them in West and Central Africa.

A recent PhD study of the Cameroonian researcher Pricelia Tumenta, who defended her thesis at Leiden Universityon11 December 2012, has demonstrated which factors contribute to the local extinctions of lions in this region. She predicts that without strong conservation measures the remaining population of 17-22 lions in Waza national park will go extinct in 10 years time.

She found that conflicts between humans and lions due to livestock predation is a key factor driving population declines of lions in Africa, especially on the edges of small protected areas without transitional buffer zones. Pastoralists around Waza National Park suffer high levels of livestock depredation, with most attacks occurring at night, increasing during full moon periods though not significantly. Consequently lions are killed in retaliation.

Lions are economically a substantial threat accounting in the Waza area for total losses of 100,000 EUR per annum (price level 2010). Per household, resident pastoralists loose one cow while nomadic pastoralists loose two cows per annum, equating to about 260 EUR and 520 EUR respectively (price level 2010).

The Waza lion population, with 17-22 lions left, which was one of the most viewed lion populations in the Central Africa region is now seems to be most threatened, concerted conservation efforts could still save this population from extirpation.

For the lion populations in West and Central Africa to be protected from complete extinction, the governments in the region have to greatly improve the park protection through the park management authority and law enforcement, as well as providing more timely the financial and human resources of the national parks.

To read the entire article click here or to read the entire study of Pricelia Tumenta click here

Cheetah encounter in Pendjari National Park (Benin): A hopeful sign!

Dr Tehou Aristide, research coordinator and regional coordinator of ROCAL for West Africa, reported recently that not far for hotel Pendjari, a group of 4 cheetahs were photographed, who were enjoying themselves (see photos below). This sighting is an indicator that Pendjari National park still holds cheetahs.  Reliable population estimates are difficult to make although recent surveys by Panthera and partners may shed more light on the number of remaining cheetah in the WAP complex (W-Arly- Cheetahs in Pendjari National ParkPendjari).  A Regional Conservation Strategy workshop for Cheetah and wild dogs, held in February 2012 under auspices of the IUCN Cat specialist group, will soon publish its findings.  Several initiatives are in preparation to support local initiatives to conserve large carnivores like the cheetah.

On 14 September the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju adopted Resolution 5.022 Supporting Regional Initiatives to conserve mammal diversity in West and Central Africa, and this resolutions call on governments which gives further support to large carnivore conservation in the region of W and C Africa.

Pendjari National park was established in May 1961 and is located in the north of Benin. The entire Pendjari national park covers an area of 2750 km² and forms together with several other parks the Pendjari Biosphere Reserve.  This reserve is part of a large protected complex in West and Central Africa which includes parks like W, Arly, Pendjari, Oti Mandouri and Kéran in the countries BCheetahs in Pendjari National Parkenin, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Togo. This large complex is very important as one of the last remaining strongholds of large carnivores in West and Central Africa, such as lions, leopards, hyenas, cheetahs and wild dogs. Therefore every observation of these carnivores is of importance and should be recorded. We would like to ask you when you have encountered any large carnivore in a park in West and Central Africa to inform us.

Lion killed near Borno, Nigeria, may orginate from Waza National Park in Cameroon.

Some months ago we have reported that a lion was presumed to have killed 2 persons and 30 livestock animals in Yobe, Nigeria. It’s was suggested that this information was false. However, during the search for the stray lion, Talatu Tende (University of Lund) collected two faecal samples from one of the sites.

Analysis showed this scat samples are beyond doubt from a lion. The result based on the genotype showed that this lion did not belong to either the Yankari population or Kainji population in Nigeria. It did not match any of the individuals that have so far identified in either Yankari or Kainji. However, the stray lion shares some alleles with lions in Yankari and Kainji, which means we can say that it is from the region at large and not an alien lion from a zoo.  The suggestion is made that this was a stray lion or lion(s) from Waza National Park in Cameroon. It is important to confirm this, because it would give some evidence for the potential of connectivity between the Waza lion population and the remaining population in Yankari, which is small and under threat of inbreeding.

There is some scientific evidence for movements of lions from Waza to Nigeria form research by Pricelia Tumenta et al., During 2008 and 2009 three nomadic male lions (which one collared) this moved to the border of Nigeria.  They made a livestock kill near the border with Nigeria and one of the lions was killed, the two remaining lions moved back to Waza NP.  Shortly after this incident the collared male lion was killed inside Waza national park. The collar was retrieved, it was cut loose with a knife, and the lion carcass was never retrieved. Another collared lion (collared in Benoue NP in 2007), was observed 150 km to the West in Faro NP, at least  one year later.

Information from the research group of WILDCDRU Oxford in Zimbabwe showed that they had a collared lion in Hwange NP (Zimbabwe) which moved 250 km in half a year. So movements of 250 km for lions are well possible.

Recently a lion was killed near the village of Borno(see pictures). This lion was assumed to be the stray lion of Yobe. From Waza to Yobe in a straight line is 300 km. We can therefore not exclude that this lion originates from Waza  NP.

Ultimate proof of this should be obtained by further genetic analysis of the lion scat and genetic samples.

Adoption of resolution supporting regional initiatives to conserve mammal diversity in West and Central Africa at WCC in Jéju

On 14 September the IUCN members present at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jéju (South Korea) adopted Resolution 5.022 Supporting regional initiatives to conserve mammal diversity in West and Central Africa, and this resolution calls on governments. This resolution is giving strong support to large mammal conservation in general and large carnivore conservation in particular in the region of W and C Africa.

The resolution:

  • APPLAUDS the establishment of regional conservation initiatives in West and Central Africa, as mentioned above;
  • CALLS UPON all IUCN Members worldwide to support these initiatives;
  • CALLS UPON range states in the region to develop national action plans for Lion, Cheetah and African Wild Dog and their prey as part of a strategy for long-term conservation and to invest in implementation of these national action plans;
  • CALLS UPON all stakeholders to encourage and launch new initiatives in West and Central Africa for halting and reversing the declining trends of mammals, and biodiversity in general, in the region;
  • REQUESTS the Director General, the Species Survival Commission and the Commission on Ecosystem Management, to provide policy support to these and new initiatives and to bring them to the attention of range states and international donors, like the United Nations Environment Programme, the African Development Bank, World Bank and the Global Environment Facility.

Draft motion for supporting regional initiatives to conserve mammal diversity in West and Central Africa for IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju

During the World Conservation Congress at its 5th Session in Jeju,Republic of Korea, which will be held from 6-15 September 2012 a motion on large mammal conservation in West and Central Africa will be submitted. The motion asks for support for regional initiatives to conserve mammal diversity in West and Central Africa. It is sponsored by the Garoua Wildlife College and co-sponsored by some 8 IUCN members. The motion recognizes the mission of the IUCN in promoting the conservation of biological diversity since its inception. And the sponsors are alarmed by the increasing loss of forest and savannah habitats in West and Central Africa.

Large mammal populations in protected areas in West and Central Africahave declined by 85% between the period 1970 and 2005 between, a decline which appears overall greater than in East and Southern Africa. Large carnivores like the African Wild Dog Lycaon pictus, Cheetah Acinonyx jubatus and Lion Panthera leo are now extirpated from many former range states in West and Central Africa, with evidence for only few reproducing populations in the region. The sponsors are aware that the decline of the mammalian prey base is having a detrimental impact on other species.

Notion is giving to studies which reveal that populations of a number of large mammal species occurring in the region such as including Lion, Roan Antelope, and Giraffe, are genetically distinct from those occurring elsewhere in Africa, making this region very important for conserving the maximum diversity present within a species. The motion welcomes the initiatives such as the development of Regional Conservation Strategies for large carnivores and their prey, including the Regional Conservation Strategy for Lions in West and Central Africa, the Regional Conservation Strategy for Cheetah and Wild Dog for North, West and Central Africa, and the launch of the Large Carnivore Initiative in West and Central Africa in 2011 with the involvement of several IUCN members and IUCN SSC Specialist Groups;

To read the entire motion, click here>>

Public Statement of the second African Lion Working Group Workshop

The African Lion Working group is a professional working group with as members, individuals who are actively involved in field research and conservation of the African lion. The ALWG is affiliated with the IUCN Cat specialist group and has a science based approach to conservation. The African Lion Working Group (ALWG) organised a workshop in Etosha National Park, on 10-11 February 2012, which was attended by 30 members and a number of observers (Namibian authorities, media and park staff). The ALWG brought out a public statement on which this newsletter item is based.  The ALWG acknowledges that the lion is an emblematic and charismatic species, which as a top predator can be considered a keystone species.

The ALWG also suggested that the lion conservation community needs to find the most effective ways to both make and spend money for lion conservation. It is realised that the finance of lion conservation and habitat conservation is a crucial factor of success Although, non-monetary motivations are sometimes at least equally important.  The ALWG emphasised the importance of increasing lion-related benefits and mitigation/compensation in case of land conversion. Considering that habitat encroachment is still a primary threat to lions, attention was given to land use planning as an instrument to mitigate this threat by increasing transparency and by explicitly looking for synergies where possible and making sensible trade-offs between all legitimate forms of land use, including wildlife, agro-industry, subsistence and mining. Translocation of large carnivores is often based on good intentions, but with little or no idea of the impact on translocated animals or source populations. Simply moving the problem along with the animal to another area is not sufficient argument for translocation.

While captive breeding can be potentially useful for preserving a species’ genetic diversity, it was felt by the ALWG members that the captive breeding that South African breeders are presently undertaking is not conducive to deliver that goal.  Delegates agreed that canned lion hunting has direct and indirect relevance to conservation of wild lions; consensus was that it is unattractive no matter how it is regulated and it should actively be discouraged.

The majority of delegates felt that well-regulated hunting could potentially contribute to lion and habitat conservation, but at present such a contribution is thought to be insufficiently substantiated. The ALWG suggested that the IUCN lion conservation strategies have also been insufficiently implemented and, short of a formal evaluation, consensus was that goals are not being met at all. In order to offer effective lion conservation the W&C Africa regional strategy needs to move forward, and national action plans put in place, possibly in conjunction with current efforts on African wild dog and cheetah in the region.

For reading the entire communiqué click here

An invitation for the course in International Wildlife Conservation Practice held on the Oxford University

The Recanati-Kaplan Centre of the Wildcru department of theUniversity of Oxford invites candidates to apply for the Postgraduate Diploma in International Wildlife Conservation Practice. This eight month full-time course is designed to enhance the skills of conservation practitioners by teaching field, analytical and reporting techniques necessary for effective conservation research and action. It will be very useful for large carnivore researchers, since Wildcru is as recognised centre of expertise of large carnivores.

The course focuses on methods commonly used in the study of large mammals, and especially carnivores, in the developing world. The curriculum consists of modules on wildlife ecology and behaviour, monitoring and survey techniques, GIS and habitat assessment, population management, and statistics. Unifying threads running through the course are the global and human dimensions of biodiversity conservation. Students will learn both the theory and practical aspects of field techniques, so that they can confidently adopt them in the future, as well as critically evaluate other projects. Up to 10 students will be accepted in 2013, and applications are particularly welcomed from conservationists working in less-developed parts of the world, for whom partial or full sponsorship is possible. Suitable candidates are early-career field conservationists, working with government agencies or NGOs, who will implement and disseminate their skills to their home countries. Candidates without field experience or those interested in a career change will not be considered priority candidates.

The application deadline for the 2013 course (running Feb-Sep 2013) is Friday, 15th June 2012. For more information on the course, including the curriculum and how to apply, please visit

 If you have any questions once consulting the website, please contact the course coordinator at .

Elephant slaughter in Bouda Ndjijda National Park

Although we normally do not report developments of other mammals, we are obliged to inform you of the elephant slaughter in Bouba Ndjijda National Park, Cameroon, which is an important park in West- and Central Africa for carnivore conservation. 

Elephant slaughter in Bouba Ndjijda National Park, Cameroon 
Heavily armed poachers, supposedly originating from Southern Darfur in Sudan, have crossed the border into Cameroon. At least 200 elephants were killed for their tusks. However, no exact numbers are known, because the park is 2200 km² and is severely under-staffed. The tusks are smuggled out of the country and sold on foreign markets, mainly Asia. The ministers of Defence and MINFOF have decided to send the army to the border with Chad to prevent any more raiding. We are still waiting for reports of other carnivores and /or herbivores killed by poachers.
For the original press release click here.

“Lion kills 2 persons and 30 animals in Yobe, Nigeria” confirmed to be a hoax.

The LCI received recently information that a lion is presumed to have killed 2 persons and 30 livestock animals in Yobe Nigeria. The article stated that ” the local government assumed the lion has escaped from Yankari Game reserve in Bauchi, Nigeria, which is the closest park to the area where the killings have taken place”. However, after we received more detailed information from Wildlife Conservation Society, the University of Lund and local Nigerian researchers, we can confirm that the article and its information is entirely false.
The article claims a lion has killed several persons and a lot of livestock. Our local source confirms no persons were killed and  no carcasses of cattle were found. They only saw one carcass of a cow, which was killed more than a month ago. The whole story is probably a rumor which was spread falsely.
It is a dangerous development that reporters do not verify the information before they publish their article. To read the falsified article click here.

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