The demographic study of lion populations within the Kruger National Park represents one of the most extensive lion research studies undertaken to date. This flagship project is the result of increasing concern over the prevalence of Bovine Tuberculosis (BTb) in lion populations within the reserve.
The 6 year study will investigate the intrinsic and extrinsic factors influencing carnivore dynamics – the extrinsic factors will focus on artificially introduced diseases to lion populations and which have the potential to lead to localized extinction. It is now commonly believed that BTb was first introduced into the reserve in the 1950’s by domestic cattle that, in turn, infected regional buffalo populations. Interestingly, buffalo herd dynamics do not appear to have been significantly affected and are regarded as BTb hosts. Lion predation on buffalo has spread the disease into prides predominantly in the south of the Park and to date, 10 prides have been darted and GPS radio tracking collars fitted to representative females in each pride.
Phase II of the project will involve a 5-6 year monitoring period during which time, focal sampling will be undertaken across all study zones of varying BTb prevalence in prey and prey biomass. The final phase of the project will focus on a survey or focal sampling to re-estimate lion populations and structure within the defined study zones.
This study will allow scientists to evaluate how lion dynamics have changed across varying areas of BTb prevalence and to introduce appropriate management plans accordingly.
This project is quite vital to the greater ecology of the Kruger National Park and your support in both observation and funding will go a long way in ensuring the future preservation of the African lion within the greater Kruger National Park.