Expedition finds lost lion population in Ethiopia

By Shawn Price  |  Feb. 3, 2016 at 3:43 AM
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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- A population of as many as 200 rare Central African lions have been discovered in a remote national park in Ethiopia by conservationists.

A team from Oxford University in England used tracking and sensor-triggered remote cameras to confirm the stories of a lion population they were told of by staff at Alatash National Park in North West Ethiopia, near the Sudan border.

Threatened by habitat loss and poaching across Africa, the discovery is good news to those trying to protect the predator from extinction. And because of the abundance of tracks, scat and remote camera sightings, the team didn't have to get in close proximity to the lions to prove they existed.

"Considering the relative ease with which lion signs were observed, it is likely that they are resident throughout Alatash and Dinder [National Park]," said expedition leader Hans Bauer.

He estimated between 100 and 200 rare Central African sub-species lions live in the park, despite the dry savannah not being dense with potential prey.

"Gathering this evidence was easier than anticipated, thanks to the experience of scouts who regularly observe tracks and hear roars; it is locally common knowledge that lions are present," the expedition report read.

The lion population in Africa has continued to drop to about 20,000 in recent years and deemed "vulnerable," by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. There were an estimated 400,000 lions in Africa in the early 20th Century.

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