Lion Project

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Latest Activity: Mar 11, 2013



The Northern Tuli Predator Project was started in 2007 and focuses mainly on the study of lions and leopards. Additional large carnivore species have also since been selected for further studies, as part of the greater carnivore assemblage in the reserve. These include spotted hyaenas and cheetah.


Populations of large carnivores are becoming increasingly threatened throughout Africa, especially when not afforded protection by large conservation areas (Woodroffe and Ginsberg, 1998). Humans frequently limit carnivore numbers living outside protected areas and legal and illegal hunting, road accidents, and snaring cause most deaths that occur outside of reserve borders (Woodroffe and Ginsberg, 1998). Furthermore, humans also form the preponderance of mortality amongst large carnivores, especially wide ranging species such as wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) and cheetah (Acinonyx jabatus) (Woodroffe and Ginsberg, 1999). Lions (Panthera leo) are also exposed to population disturbances inside protected areas due to harvesting (Whitman and Packer, 1997; Loveridge et al., 2007). Lions are highly social animals that live in fission–fusion groups (Van Orsdol, 1984; Packer et al., 1990; Whitman and Packer, 1997), and are thus susceptible to population disturbances from humans. Infanticide also plays an important role in the level of disturbances within a lion population (Packer, 2001).


Here we investigate the spatial-and temporal movements of lions from the Northern Tuli Game Reserve (Notugre), Botswana. Lions moved across international boundaries and through local farmland regardless of fences and land use type, but spent most of their time inside their home ranges located within protected areas (90% KDE ( = 86.3% ± 10.2) and 50% KDE ( = 42.8% ± 10.5)). When lions moved out of these protected areas the probability of them being killed was high. In at least two instances this included males responding to the placement of baits set to lure lions out. Edge effects had a severe impact on the Notugre lion population, with 82% of adult mortality found outside the borders of the reserve. There were various reasons why males left their normal home ranges and went on excursions that took them outside protected areas, one of the reasons being females. Each radio-collared lion had a unique set of characteristics that characterized the size and location of their home ranges, resulting in wide variability in size and shape. Average 90% KDE for males were 69.0 km² (range: 3.0 to 151.6, n = 4) for females it was 41 km² (range 2.2 – 78.9, n = 2). There was much less variability in the 50% KDE of both males (mean = 13.2 km², range 0.7 to 34.6) and females (mean = 8 km², range 0.3 – 15.7). The presence of human activities, in the form of cattle-posts, agricultural lands and villages also appeared to influence home range selection with lions tending to avoid these areas. With increasing human populations and the destruction of natural habitat, human-wildlife conflict will continue and requires urgent attention in order to mitigate the issue.


Aims of the project:

• Determine lion numbers and population structures of the Northern Tuli Game Reserve
• Compare current population status with that of historical records
• Determine lion movements - especially male lions via GPS-radio collars
• Identify factors influencing the lion population


Project manager - Andrei Snyman

News Letters
Lion relocation.pdf
Tuli Lion Conservation Project.pdf

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Comment by Andrei Snyman on September 19, 2009 at 5:58am
Hi all. With regards to the discussion about the outreach program and fences. It is a good idea to get word out to people about the current state of lions, but for locals living around the reserve trying to protect their livestock, they just don't care about lion numbers. For them, the less the better. Lions are known to have a larger impact on people's fears, since lions are large, strong and nocturnal predators. They also have the ability to bring down larger pray than wild dogs, thus larger more valuable livestock can be lost (larger risk for locals). Even with farmers on the South African side of the Limpopo River, the biggest challenge for researchers & wildlife managers are to change the perceptions of people. All across Africa there exists this conflict between large carnivores & livestock (and people), and sometimes good fences can be the solution, and other times fencing is just not feasible. I wish we had a simple solution to fix the problem, but that's not the reality we're dealing with. Whatever the solution is, like Fred mentioned, funding is required to deal with these issues. At least things are on the table now and change is on it's way...
Comment by Alex du Plessis on September 14, 2009 at 11:10pm
Mark, I would imagine that a fence, even if technically and legally feasible, would be prohibitively expensive. I support Fred's comment that we should take a view from Andrei and Craig. Steve Wigg, Pete le Roux and others may also have relevant input. I would imagine that we don't really need to spend a tremendous amount of money to achieve greater awareness. Simply visiting landowners on the South African side of the border, the Police, etc may be enough to make an impact. We do however need to tell people what to do about lions on their properties and this will require the assistance of the experts to dart the lions and to transport them back to the NTGR. I will be in Mashatu next week and I will try to have a word with the locals and canvas their views.
Comment by Fred van der Neut on September 14, 2009 at 6:12pm
Donna, I think a community outreach program is a great idea. I would like to hear what the experts - Andrei and Craig - think about it....but in my view any positive message we can relay to the local communities would be positive for the lion. If anything, it would make them think twice before offhandedly shooting a lion. A big stumbling block is funding - in order to put a program in place we will need to hire an individual to canvas and reach out to the community. Plus there would be PR materials and such like. We are always looking for ideas on how to raise money to address these issues.
Comment by Donna Barker on September 9, 2009 at 1:48pm
I just was reading your comments about the lion population and was wondering if a community outreach program (much like was done when the wild dogs were reintroduced to the area) was a feasible option. This would be a start to help with the problem of farmers shooting the lions. The lion is a key species to gain tourism dollars and if lions can be advertised along with the elephant population to attract tourists, this would help to raise money for the research as well with the increase in requests for predator drives.

Just a thought.
Comment by Alex du Plessis on September 9, 2009 at 10:03am
Fred, I am not a landowner (except in a small way). I am a shareholder in the Eagles Nest Syndicate in Mashatu. Regards, Alex
Comment by Fred van der Neut on September 9, 2009 at 7:20am
Unfortunately not enough is being done to address any of these issues which is why our lion population is being hammered. We need to rally all the land owners and commercial operators to pony up and contribute towards resolving these issue. Money and people. Andrei and Craig have done a great job exposing the problems it is up to us to put programs in place to solve them.

I understand Mashatu is in the process of putting together a anti-poaching team. They will need our support to help fund the program. We also need to raise money to continue to support the lion/leopard research in the area. Then there is the issue of the farmers shooting the lion as they wonder into their farms - this too is critical and needs an action plan. So as you can see there is much work to be done.

I take it from your comments that you are land owner in the area. Where are you located?
Comment by Alex du Plessis on September 8, 2009 at 11:35pm
You make a good point about the poaching and shooting. I presume that we are doing whatever we can in this regard? I was up at Pilanesberg last week and saw a big group of about 14 lion. Apparently they have a population of 40 lion in what seems to me to be quite a small area. I seem to remember reading that Kalagadi Park has only about 50 lion, so 60 lion in the NTGR seems a reasonable number - wouldn't that be great!!
Comment by Fred van der Neut on September 8, 2009 at 8:41pm
Alex, you make a good point - there is an abundance of lion in South Africa on breeding farms. I understand that this population is growing and probably "for sale". However, the problem is that irrespective of how many lion are in our area they will always be threatened by hunters, farmers and poaching. We need to get programs in place to address the shooting of underage males; put programs in place to address the problem of farmers shooting lion moving onto their farms and put anti-poaching teams in place to mitigate the indiscriminate killing of predators. Once these items are addressed our lion population will grow and if needed importing lions becomes a feasible option.

Based on the number of "prey" animals I understand that the Tuli Game Reserve can support a lion population of 60 lion, so your assessment that out ecosystem can support substantially more lion is right on.
Comment by Alex du Plessis on September 7, 2009 at 2:26pm
Why don't we import lions from the "canned hunting" breeding farms in South Africa, now that canned hunting has effectively been banned? Surely our ecosystem could support substantially more lions?
Comment by Craig Tambling on June 10, 2009 at 8:28am
Yo Andrei, don't you know that lions are filthy... where are your gloves?

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