“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

“Matusadona National Park (MNP) once supported Africa’s second highest density of lions. The plentiful grasslands on the foreshore of Lake Kariba provided for swelling herds of buffalo and consequently the lions thrived. Yet, following fluctuations in lake levels and increases in poaching, the buffalo herds disappeared, quickly followed by the lions. The last census of lions in 2005 suggested just 28 individuals (down from nearly 90 individuals in 1998) remained on the valley floor and concerns have since been raised as to the populations long term viability.” An extract from the ALERT (African Lion & Environmental Research Trust) website.

The beauty in a lifetime is to live your passion and the reward is in that passion having a purpose : Rae Kokes embodies this.  Her work as Principal Researcher on the Matusadona Lion Project sees her collaring, tracking and monitoring these magnificent creatures and her intimate knowledge of each pride member located within this vast national park is phenomenal.  When she speaks of the lions her connectivity to them is almost palpable.

With the return of the buffalo and more plains game, the lions are growing in number with two new litters being recently sighted this month. There have also been sightings of lone male lions that are moving into the area which will add to the gene pool if breeding takes place.

A network has grown among the camps, lodges, MAPP (Matusadona Anti-Poaching Unit) and the National Parks Authority.  All are collectively reporting the sightings of the lions, their spoor or recent kills to the centralised Matusadona Lion Project.  The Project also aims to work on a community driven conservation strategy for all of the area’s wildlife and not just the lions.

The combined efforts of all involved are a definitive and positive step which works towards the understanding of lions, the impact of the changing environments they live in, both natural and human, and our ability to ensure that their existence is a given for the next generation to enjoy on an African safari.

There is an expression in Shona (Zimbabwe’s main local language) – tiri tose – meaning “we are together”.  Witnessing the synergy, commitment and passion of all involved in the Matusadona Lion Project I believe that the lions of Matusadona National Park will have a tomorrow.

Written by Mel Mostert



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