Lion Recovery Fund's Latest Initiatives to Recover Lions

Jon McCormack

Lions once roamed across the savannahs and woodlands of the African continent in large, healthy prides. But in the last 25 years, we have lost half of all lions. The Lion Recovery Fund (LRF) aims to support the best efforts to stop this decline and recover the lions we have lost. Fortunately, lions are a resilient species and with sufficient investment to protect them, their prey and their habitats, they can rebound quickly. There is no doubt that the species can be saved.

Though the situation varies from country to country, in a number of regions we are starting to see signs of hope, thanks to the impressive conservation work of our partners in the field. To date, the LRF has invested $4 million to 42 projects with 29 different organizations across 18 countries, for the benefit of lion conservation. 

Today, we’re proud to announce our newest round of grantees:

The Lower Zambezi Valley spans multiple countries and is a wilderness area with enormous potential for lion recovery. An LRF grant to Zambezi Society is helping them support Zimbabwe’s wildlife authority in their efforts to enhance anti-poaching enforcement. This is an important component of a broader effort to reduce threats to lions and critical habitat.

In Tanzania, the LRF is working with WildAid to launch one of their renowned campaigns that is engaging national celebrities and local champions to promote conservation and foster pride for lions at both the public and political level.

An LRF grant to  Conservation Lower Zambezi is enabling them to expand their protections of Rufunsa Game Management Area, which neighbors Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park, and was previously not receiving management support. Funding will add anti-poaching efforts aimed at reducing bushmeat poaching and helping lions and prey recover.

The LRF is working with Honeyguide in Makame Wildlife Management Area, a 1,407mi2 community area in northern Tanzania. The project will build good governance and management of the Wildlife Management Area and strengthen conservation practices. Additionally, the challenge posed by human-lion conflict will be assessed to design interventions that help communities and wildlife coexist in the long-term.

Lions were considered to be locally extinct in Gabon—that is, until 2014, when a lone male lion was sighted in Batéké National Park. Since his arrival, the lion has acted as an ambassador and catalyst for increased conservation action in the region. The LRF is helping Panthera start a recovery of Gabon’s lion population by translocating two female lions from Botswana to Gabon in the hopes of successful breeding with the existing male (genetic testing showed these to be most closely related to Batéké lions). The reintroduction of lions will involve local communities to make sure that they are aware of, and benefit from, lions coming back to the region.

Last year, the LRF gave a seed grant to help Conservation Wildlife Fund  (CWF) in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park create a more protected buffer around the park by securing the adjacent forestry, communal, and private wildlife areas through anti-poaching efforts. LRF’s additional support to CWF will help them expand their activities and establish new anti-poaching teams. A part of our grant has been issued as a matching grant that will be unlocked when CWF successfully raises other funding–thus encouraging the participation of additional funders.