We have provided collars and tracking for 20 African lions while engaging over 1000 local community members in events and outreach.
The iconic African lion symbolizes the beauty and majesty of the animal kingdom, but lions are in serious trouble. Worldwide lion population has plummeted by 43% over the last 20 years, and lions now occupy only 8% of their historical range in Africa. This tragic decline is mainly the result of habitat loss due to an increase in human settlers, more agriculture development, and deadly retaliation against lions after they prey upon livestock. Oakland Zoo firmly believes the success of lion conservation hinges on the involvement and leadership of people who live among predators. The long-term survival of African lions depends on programs that allow people and lions to thrive in their shared habitat.
Conflict between wildlife and humans over diminishing resources is a problem throughout the African continent. Lion prides require a large home range, which means they live and travel across a variety of areas -- not only protected land like national parks and reserves, but also public land and private ranches. In some parks like Queen Elizabeth Park in Uganda, there are villages within a protected park, leading to many challenges around coexistence. An increasing human population and expanding ranches have forced lions to compete with local communities and their animals for space and food. Scarcer wild plant options also have a detrimental effect, leading lions to prey on livestock instead of local plants to survive.
In African regions where humans and lions live close together, lions are highly vulnerable when they come into regular contact with people. Conflict occurs when lions attack livestock, because families rely upon those animals for food and income. People who have lost livestock often retaliate by shooting, poisoning, or spearing lions, or setting snares to trap or injure lions and other large carnivores that prey on their livestock.
Oakland Zoo’s docent volunteers raised funds to help establish Leopard Village, a community-run center that supports cultural and wildlife conservation through ecotourism. The center includes traditional huts, a library for village children, and a meeting space for community members to gather and discuss resolutions to human-wildlife conflict. The villagers share knowledge about their pastoral and agricultural livelihoods, perform traditional songs and dances, and sell locally-made crafts.
Oakland Zoo offers eco-trips to Uganda, where travelers spend time with the Uganda Carnivore Program (UCP). Travelers gain invaluable insight into the challenges facing both the human and wildlife populations in the region. Eco-trips to Kenya visit the Ewaso Lion Project as well. Both expeditions support lion conservation and awareness, and bring much needed supplies to the conservation teams in the field.
Oakland Zoo shares lion conservation issues and solutions through docents and volunteers, Teen Wild Guides, Education programs, events, habitat signage, campaigns, virtual programs and media. Oakland Zoo celebrates lions and the conservation work continuously being done to ensure their survival with special events at the zoo.
Oakland Zoo provides yearly professional development training for field partners, offering them a myriad of staff skills and resources to enhance conservation efforts. Zoo staff members have also provided training in human-wildlife conflict to other lion conservation leaders. The Zoo continues to provide guidance and support for Uganda Carnivore Program's conservation, education, and outreach work with the local communities. A first-ever Lion Festival at UCP was co-created by Oakland Zoo!
The Uganda Carnivore Program is dedicated to the research and conservation of lions, leopards and hyenas while working closely with the local communities to improve human-wildlife coexistence.
Ewaso Lions' strategy for the success of lion conservation is to promote coexistence between people and wildlife. The project provides education and helps build local capacity for wildlife rangers and community leaders.
The Lion Recovery Fund was created by the Wildlife Conservation Network, in partnership with the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation to double the number of lions in Africa, regaining those lions lost over the past 25 years. Oakland Zoo partners with this project on their Lion Alliance for Queen Elizabeth Park, Uganda.