Today, I have even more reason to keep my promise. Recent camera trap images revealed that not only did this “tripod lioness” survive against tremendous odds—the snare had taken her rear left foot, leaving her with a noticeable limp and uncertain long-term support from her pride—but she has had a cub!
Between six and 10 months old, the cub is female and seems healthy, playful, and inquisitive. Indeed, the pictures of Mom and daughter playfully taking turns climbing a tree were the best end-of-year holiday present to my team, who hadn’t seen her for a year prior.
What a joy to see the lioness raising and doting on a cub, whom we have called “Lushomo,” the word for “hope” in the local Ila and Tonga languages.
But with joy comes responsibility. Now we need to ensure that Lushomo doesn’t fall victim to the same fate as her mother—or worse.
Snares are an all-too-common occurrence in Africa. Known as “the silent killer,” they maim or kill too many lions across Africa’s protected areas to count. Between 2014 and 2016 in the Greater Kafue Ecosystem alone, we and our partners recorded 13 lions, one leopard, four hyenas, four wild dogs, and one cheetah carrying snares and/or nursing injuries caused by snares. And these survivors likely represent just a small proportion of snare victims, the majority of whom aren’t even collected by the bushmeat poachers who set the snares, but left to die and rot.
Sadly, snaring is not the only challenge for big cats. They also must persist in the face of poachers depleting their prey, and being directly targeted for the illegal trade in their body parts. Worryingly, our recent research revealed that lion eyes and teeth can fetch $100 each; bones just as much depending on size; and 2.5 liters of lion fat, $150.
But today I am hopeful we can turn the tide on poaching. We are partnering with Zambia’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife to create large safe zones in Kafue. In 2018, we will support DNPW to establish the first of these zones in central Kafue by establishing an anti-poaching unit to patrol, remove snares, and catch and deter poachers from this area.
In this effort, we will support wildlife police officers and scouts by providing training, uniforms, equipment, rations and supplies, a vehicle, a deployment base, and an operations center for these brave men and women and their important law enforcement work.
As I look to 2018, I am excited about the future for this tripod lioness and her young cub. She must live for more than herself now—and we must fight for a wilderness for her to raise her cub where poachers and their snares remain forever unknown to Lushomo and her own cubs who will follow.
To learn more about the threats facing wild lions and Panthera's efforts to turn the tide, click here.
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