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Panthera Senegal contacted us early in 2022 and requested veterinary assistance with the immobilisation and collaring of the most western population of West African Lions in Niokolo Koba Reserve in Senegal. The reserve is a stronghold for West African lion and holds about 40 of the 240 remaining West African left on the continent.


Niokolo Koba National Park was originally started to Protect the Western Roan antelope in 1954, aptly named “koba”, which were seemingly abundant throughout the reserve. The reserve is 913 000 Ha in extant and comprises typical Sudano-Guinea savanna and houses some unique ecosystems, such as gallery forest, floodplains, dry forest, and volcanic plains. River systems include the Niokolo and the Gambia, which forms the southern boundary. This wealth of different ecosystems homes 70 species of mammals, such as western chimpanzee, red river hog, patas monkeys, forest buffalo, roan, oribi, kob and waterbuck.


Panthera has been involved in providing much needed financial and technical support for the park management, the National Parks Directorate (Direction de Parcs Nationaux) of Senegal to support conservation and anti-poaching efforts in the park. Main threats have been subsistence poaching, illegal gold mining, encroachment of cattle and drying up of much needed pans during the dry season because of climate change. These factors are critical to address and Panthera is doing fantastic work at supporting conservation efforts in the park.


The lion population is localized to the central, touristic area of the park, where there are two established prides and several coalitions and lone males. Reports of other lions in other sections of the park are prevalent although numbers are low. We spent some time in both areas, as 5 individuals of the “tourist” lions have been collared already, we focused our efforts on the fringes. Each collaring operation started with us driving around looking for suitable lion habitat and good prey densities, which was difficult to find as a lot of the non-permanent and surface water sources dried up at this time of year. Once we found a good area, we would set up base for a few days, and hand 2 – 3 baits in the local area, 5 to 10kms apart, with a good drag. We would then call at the best suited site till late at night, shut down close to midnight for a few hours rest and return before dawn for a another calling session. The collaring team managed to collar three new individuals and do a collar adjustment on one of the younger males, a young female lion was also immobilized and treated after having an altercation with a porcupine and having several quills still in her head!


Overall, it was a successful project, and we look forward to more success stories from the Panthera team on conservation progress from their support to the reserve.

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