Exploregorongosa Home
Our Camps
Getting There
The Park
Bush Blog
Guest Book
Through the Lens
About Us
Special Deals
Contact Us
January 2011 Bush Blog

January 2011
Off-season Offerings 1: Big Cats in Trouble

In a slight deviation from previous Bush Blogs, and since we have had a little break from the bush this month, I wanted to share with you something that is causing me sleepless nights, and much wailing and gnashing of teeth...  And I am not talking about my obvious cold-turkey from my being away from  the wilds of Gorongosa.  No, this month something else has got under my shirt, and the sad thing is the content of this month's blog, despite coming as a shock to most of us I am sure, is not secretly guarded information that no-one has ever heard before.  However, when seen through un-tinted goggles, the facts astound... let me tell you what I'm talking about:

- 50 years ago there were approximately 450,000 lions in the wild, today they estimate just over 20,000...
- 50 years ago there were around 50,000 cheetah, today they guess around 12,000...
- 50 years ago they guessed there were 700,000 leopards, today that number is closer to 50,000...

I could go on quoting similar numbers for tigers, jaguars and the rest, but that would be all too sad and depressing for the start of a new year.  Besides, it's not all bad news - there is good news coming out of the Mara Predator Project where local Maasai are working together with conservation officials to protect both their cultural heritage and the obviously lagging lion population in the region.  And in India, the Asiatic lion has made an incredible turn-around and from less than 50 individuals a decade ago, up now to over 400 and counting...  This is great news, yes, although it does come with a splash of reality: for a population to drop to such low numbers and then start increasing again does suggest concerns with genetic inbreeding and the like.  Not to mention the political hot-potato that has one state authority refusing to trans-locate any lions to another state in order to set up a geographically exclusive population... (but of course - how often are the efforts of conservation on the ground reduced to a battle of conversation on a higher level?)


And this is why one initiative recently pulled me in and got me thinking... Dereck and Beverly Joubert are great film-makers.  They have been documenting some incredible scenes over the past two decades including their award-winning lion and buffalo interaction at Duba Plains in Botswana, not to mention a great series on the life of the leopard Lakadema on Chief's Island in the Okavango.   They have recently taken up the mantle of the Big Cat Initiative, in partnership with the National Geographic Society.  Jos and I were lucky enough to enjoy a breakfast talk of theirs at the Explorers Club in New York last year and must say, the combination of their passion, incredible film footage, and the plain bare facts, makes for chilling viewing... They recently did a similar talk for the TED series which you can link to here to watch...  Just make sure you don't just watch their presentation and leave it at that.  Get involved, get informed, or - if you can - get out to the wilderness areas where these big cats are fighting for their lives and support any of the real and meaningful projects involved in big cat conservation (and here I speak mainly of those involved with wild animal conservation, not captive-bred varieties). 


A good place to start is with the Big Cat Initiative, or contact the well-respected international big cat conservation group Panthera for more information.  Alternatively you could come out to Gorongosa and see the whole fragile scene playing out in real-life in front of your eyes.  You may also choose to get involved and help re-establish Gorongosa National Park as the most densely populated lion reserve in the world, as it was in the 1960s and early 70s.  (You might also get excited by the potentially very cool cheetah re-introduction project under planning now...)  The lion population in Gorongosa faces the same threats and concerns of all those the world round: genetics, hunting (legal and poaching), disease, habitat encroachment by man, politics, and more.  However, there is a minor difference... and, much like the Jouberts' initiative, it is one of hope.  You see, the Gorongosa Restoration Project is working very hard to bring this biodiversity hot-spot to life again - and with the help of tourism operators and their visiting guests, it looks like they may just succeed.  And we all know that the ecological system needs to be balanced from the top and the bottom, meaning the fate of the apex predators in Gorongosa is hopefully in good hands..


All lion pics featured here were taken on safari with Explore Gorongosa over the past couple of seasons  (Photo credits: Reefs to Rockies, A Kaschula, G Reis, R Janisch)

Post Note:
For those who are interested, the Jouberts have also recently released the trailer for their latest National Geographic big cat film titled: The Last Lions, narrated by Jeremy Irons.

Subscribe to our Newsletter
Special Deals
Explore Gorongosa
Special Interest Expeditions
The Mozambique Collection

An exciting new online publication
from Africa Geographic
is out featuring Gorongosa...
check out more by clicking the link below