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Conservation Update
Look out for our regular feature here - an exciting and interesting conservation update from the visionary Gorongosa National Park restoration project...

Gorongosa to Study Lion Population with Zoo Boise Conservation Funding

On January 21, 2009, the Gorongosa Restoration Project was awarded a conservation fund grant from Zoo Boise, the city zoo of Boise, Idaho, in Western United States. The grant will provide funding to research and protect the lions of Gorongosa National Park.

The $17, 280 grant will be used to learn why Gorongosa’s lion population is not increasing. It will fund scientific research to determine if disease or inbreeding is the reason and it will provide for additional park rangers to help curb poaching and remove snares that are injuring and killing the lions.

Gorongosa National Park was once home to the highest density of wildlife in Africa and the largest number of lions anywhere in the world. Yet, twenty years of wars decreased the wildlife population by 95 percent by the 1990s. Today, only 35 lions live in the 4,000 square kilometer park. While that number is holding steady, it should be increasing as the number of prey continue to grow. Park managers and scientists suspect disease, inbreeding and illegal animal snares as possible causes. Park staff have had to amputate lion toes to remove them from the snares.

The research will help answer a number of critical questions about the numbers of lions, their distribution, and their home range. Park staff will “call” the lions using special calling equipment, photograph them, immobilize one of them for in-depth study, and put transmitters on some to track their movements. We also plan to consult with colleagues in Kruger National Park in South Africa to benefit from their expertise.

In 2006, Zoo Boise began expanding its focus towards conservation—from not only caring for the animals within zoo grounds, but towards helping animals in their natural environments. This is in response to the growing extinction crisis that threatens some of the world's most famous inhabitants within the next 50 years. This includes such species as rhinos, tigers, gorillas, pandas, Asian elephants, chimps and countless others. 

To do this, Zoo Boise created the Zoo Boise Conservation Fund. Designed to support conservation programs in Idaho and around the globe, the fund focuses on projects that help protect animals found at Zoo Boise or in their Master Plan. Revenue for the fund comes from a 35˘ fee included in admission prices and a $3.00 fee included in membership prices. Zoo Boise was the first zoo in the country to create such a program.

Each October, the Zoo Boise Conservation Fund Advisory Board announces a slate of five to six project finalists. The general public is then given the opportunity to vote for the projects they would most like to see funded. The projects with the most votes each receive a grant up to $25,000.

The symbol of Gorongosa National Park is the lion. As we work to restore Gorongosa, the lion will help maintain the delicate balance between predator and prey needed to keep the ecosystem healthy. The lions in Gorongosa serve as a source of pride for both the people of Mozambique and park supporters who are transforming a place of a human tragedy back into one of the most special parks on earth.

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