Until recently, lions were not known in and around MDNP. Although they were present historically, the last record/sightings date from 1970’s. There are no reliable records of their historical distribution in the region. Communities in the buffer zone have since lost animal husbandry techniques suitable to mitigate livestock depredation by wild carnivores, and at least seven different attacks on dozens of cattle have been reported, leading to attempts to kill the lions.
PROJECT ACTIVITIES / RESPONSE TO CONSERVATION PROBLEM
Human lion conflict mitigation is common practice throughout Africa and across the lion range and it can be implemented in our project area too. Therefore, the following activities will be carried out:
- Translocate lions into MDNP;
- Collaring at least one lion for monitoring;
- Line transect implemented for density assessment;
- Prey data combined with scat data to assess prey preference;
- Line transect implemented for threats assessment in MDNP;
- Camera trap grid maintained to monitor lion populations;
- Lion scat collected and analysed for lion DNA and for prey remains (hairs and bones);
- Ranger patrols trained on the use of smartphone application (CyberTaker, SMART) for lions and prey monitoring;
- Community consultation to raise awareness;
- Build bomas to raise community awareness.
- Movement pattern of lion is known in MDNP landscape;
- Genetic status is known;
Prey abundance and distribution is established;
- A database of geo-tagged photos of lions is established and updated;
- Livestock depredation is reduced;
- Natural prey densities are better protected and/or increased.
In general, large carnivores including lions contribute to the maintenance of healthy ecosystems by regulating numbers and fitness of prey populations, but also by controlling other (meso-) predators’ populations (Terborgh et al., 1999; Kissui and Packer 2004). Lions are regarded as a keystone species, and a decline of this top predator would be in most cases indicative of ecosystem degradation. As umbrella species, large carnivores are also good indicators for many other species, particularly those that are their natural prey. The lion may also be considered as a flagship species, due to its unquestionable symbolic and ritual role in traditional and modern cultures (Simberloff 1998). Lions have also economic importance because of tourism and sport hunting (Nowell and Jackson 1996).
Cameroon hosts one of only two potential strongholds left for the West and Central African lion subspecies; the Bénoué Complex comprising three National Parks and 32 Hunting Zones in North Cameroon, with an estimated population of 250 lions (Bauer et al., 2015).
This amazing species is also a symbol of the Cameroon National football team although most players have never observed lion in the wild. This could be used as an opportunity for advocacy towards indomitable lions (players) to raise fund to conserve lion.