In recent weeks we have seen a strong response to our community outreach programs. We have successfully built 8 lion-proof corrals, trained members of the community to build their own, with the support of our field staff, and the early-warning system for approaching lions has not only helped members of the community know when their livestock are in increased danger, but it helps engender trust between our program and the locals.
Members of the community have named our study lions. They often ask, "how is Mayenga and her 6 cubs?" "Is Mutlawakanda still with those two females?" We are finding that people are showing an interest in the lives of these lions. It is in this spirit that we will conserve lions!
However, as is the way of nature, we have recorded two cases of cub mortality in our area. First, Mayenga's pride has lost 4 of her 6 cubs in the last month. Second, Maleherehere's pride has lost 2 of her 4. We do not suspect that villagers are at fault at this stage because of the locations of these prides.
As the rivers rise and the Okavango begins its flood, our ability to track the lions is significantly hampered and causes of these losses will remain unknown. Lion cub mortality in general is often high. Even in protected ecosystems, lion cub mortality can reach above 50% depending on stability of the prides and rate of male take-over. In our area many of the prides see new males intruding from the south, causing upheaval and potentially high cub mortality.
As we continue our study and gather long term data on lion population dynamics, we will learn more about the root causes of lion mortality and direct our study to addressing them wherever possible.
We will keep you posted as new developments come in!