Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Spirit of Elsa lives on in Meru National Park

9 December 2016

Categories: Homepage News, Big Cats Campaign News

The results of a vitally important large carnivore census in Meru National Park, Kenya, along with an exciting short video, were released today by international wildlife charity Born Free Foundation, revealing that the lion population there is holding its own.

The census, conducted earlier this year as part of a long-term lion monitoring project undertaken by Kenya Wildlife Service in collaboration with Born Free, and sponsored by the charity’s global partner, Land Rover, estimated as many as 79 lions* may be living in and around the park.

Meru is the historic homeland of the world-famous lioness, Elsa, who was raised and returned to the wild by legendary conservationists Joy and George Adamson, and whose story was told in the best-selling book and Oscar-winning film Born Free. The findings of the census are therefore of significant historical importance.

Will Travers OBE, President and CEO of Born Free Foundation, who was part of the team in Meru, said: “My mother, Virginia McKenna, and I were recently in Meru, one of the most striking and under-appreciated parks in Kenya. To see the dedication of Kenya Wildlife Service, our Born Free team, our colleagues from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, and the members of the local community, was inspiring. Africa’s lions are in trouble but we are all working hard to make sure that in Meru their future can be secured.”

Scientists believe that the estimate is encouraging as Meru, which is located below the North Eastern foothills of Mount Kenya, is considered an important and viable lion stronghold which, if well-managed and conserved, could see wild lions thrive for decades to come. Although Meru is considered a key and secure habitat for lions, the status of its population was previously not well-known. The park is currently being restored after much of its wildlife was almost wiped out in the 1970s and 1980s by heavy poaching.

Lions across West, Central, and East Africa have declined by 60% or more over the past 21 years. More than a dozen African countries are already thought to have lost their lion populations entirely, and the international demand for lion bones and body parts, combined with unsustainable lion trophy hunting operations and growing evidence of lion poaching, are further exacerbating this downward spiral. There are currently thought to be as few as 20,000 lions remaining across Africa.

Tim Oloo, Country Manager for Born Free Kenya, added: “The data we have obtained from the census will allow Born Free Foundation, working with KWS, to build informed programmes to help conserve and protect lions. We’re going to save the Meru lions!”

As Born Free’s Year of the Lion 2016 draws to a close, Born Free has today launched an exciting short video following the team as they conduct the important census.

Born Free’s Year of the Lion 2016 saw the Foundation celebrate the 50th anniversary of the premiere of the Born Free film through a year-long series of events and activities. Events included the release of the Channel 4 documentary Virginia McKenna’s Born Free, in October; a Born Free delegation attending the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), in Johannesburg, to stand up for lions and all wildlife, in September; and the release of ground-breaking research that confirmed the existence of a previously forgotten population of lions in Ethiopia, in February.

Born Free will host a Tweetstorm on 9th December (1pm-2pm UK time) to draw to a close Born Free’s Year of the Lion 2016, using the hashtag #TheFinalRoar. Born Free will be tweeting questions and lion facts, supported by Celebrity Patrons and Corporate Partners.

*Census results: 58 ± 21 lions; 98 ± 21 spotted hyenas; 18 ± 9 leopards; 12 ± 6 black-backed jackals; 9 ± 5 striped hyenas; 4 ± 2 caracals; 2 ± 2 aardwolfs.

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906


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