Friday, May 11, 2007

Livingstone lion project scoping meeting...


Dear all
As Secretary of the Livingstone Branch of the Wildlife and Environmental Conservation Society of Zambia I received this letter to attend a Scoping Meeting for the Lion Encounter and Dambwa Forest Lion Rehabilitation Project, to be held on 17th March at 09:00 hours at Zambezi Sun Hotel.
The letter:
ENVSOL CONSULT; Environmental Solutions Consultants, POSTNET BOX5, E891 Lusaka Tel: 096 450218
Invitation to a scoping meeting for the Lion Encounter and Dambwa Forest Lion Rehabilitation Project

The African Lion & Environmental Research Trust (ALERT), supported by African Encounter, under the trading name of Lion Encounter (Zambia) Limited is bringing a lion rehabilitation & release into the wild program to Zambia.  The program has been operating in Gweru, in Zimbabwe, since 1999 and in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, since 2005.  We are now planning to extend our operations to Livingstone, Zambia.

ALERT has secured a Forest Concession Agreement (FCA) on a section of the Dambwa Forest from the Zambian Government.  Lion Encounter (Zambia) Limited has secured a Tourism Concession Agreement (TCA) with the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA).
The operation will be run from a site within the Mosi O Tunya National Park for stage one (see attached information sheet) and within the Dambwa Forest for stages two and three. Envsol Consult has been engaged as consultants to undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).  An important part of this assessment is stakeholder consultations.  A scoping meeting will be held prior to commencing the environmental studies in line with the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation of 1997.  The purpose of this meeting is to get views and concerns of stakeholders so that they can be taken into account within the EIA. As one of the key stakeholders your views over this project and support would be valuable to the successful implementation of this lion rehabilitation program.  In this regard, you are cordially invited to attend a scoping meeting on 17th May 2007 at 09:00hrs at Zambezi Sun, Livingstone. Your presence at this meeting is highly valued. Please indicate by return email your participation and names of participants to facilitate travel and accommodation arrangements for those traveling from outside Livingstone. Please address all correspondence to
Thank you and regards
Kenneth Nyundu
Envsol Consult

 This is a project whereby lions are to be bred in captivity in cages within the Mosi-o-tunya National Park, just south of Livingstone.  The young will then be taken from their mothers at the age of 3 weeks to provide tourism in the form of "walking with lions".  When the lions are too old to be safe to walk with tourists, they will be released into an enclosure in a leased part of Dambwa Forest Reserve, on the north edge of Livingstone City.  They will then be allowed to breed again and the next generation are to be transported elsewhere and released into the wild.

In order to provide food, the young lions within Mosi-o-tunya National Park will be allowed to hunt antelope.  When they are released into Dambwa Forest Reserve prey animals and competitors such as hyaenas will be added to give them a more natural environment.

For more information on the project from the consultants, please see attached Information Sheet.

The Society has been aware of this project for some time and correspondence has been passed around among some members and other concerned individuals.  It is quite a controversial project in terms of lion ethics, as well as human safety around Livingstone and elsewhere.  Some of the questions raised include:

i)    How ethical is it to breed lions in captivity, separate them from their mothers at a very early age, and train them to walk with humans in order to provide tourism income?
ii)    How safe will it be to release them into Dambwa Forest Reserve, which is so close to Livingstone City and surrounding villages?
iii)    Will it be possible for these lions to be released into the wild successfully, without the risk of them becoming man-eaters?
iv)    Is there a possibility that some of them will eventually be used for canned hunting, an activity which has recently been banned in South Africa for ethical reasons?
For more information on the controversies and issues involved please look up
I need your comments, proposals, suggestions, opinions, professional advice, on this issue for whoever is to attend this meeting on behalf of the Society. Please keep in mind that this is a Scoping Meeting in preparation for an Environmental Impact Assessment.  As is mentioned in the letter, the main purpose of the meeting is to get views and concerns of the stakeholders so they can be taken into account within the EIA.  We need to consider all the possible environmental concerns and issues that should be looked into and alert the consultants who are carrying out the EIA. As can be seen below, the letter is addressed to the Society and we are to confirm the names of participants (number not stated).  If you are a member of the Society and would like to attend this meeting, please let me know as soon as possible (agenda attached).

The consultants would also like to meet some members of the Society on the 15th or 16th of May (before the meeting) while they are in Livingstone.  Is anyone available? Please let me know when, so I can get back to the consultants.

Yours in conservation

Clare Mateke
Wildlife and Environmental Conservation Society of Zambia (WECSZ)
Livingstone Branch

Information Sheet for the
Lion Encounter and Dambwa Forest Lion Rehabilitation Project

Historically, lions were widespread throughout Africa however their range has been severely reduced in recent years.

Over 200,000 lions roamed the continent as recently as 1975 but in 2002 two surveys provided evidence of a dramatic decline estimating that only 23 to 39,000 remain with the lowest estimate being just 16,500. This represents an extremely worrying 80 to 90% population drop in less than 30 years, and it is widely accepted that the population has continued to decline.

The African lion has been placed on the list of “vulnerable” species, but the alarming speed of the crash in lion populations has led many to call for the species to be upgraded to “endangered”.

The Lion Rehabilitation & Release into the Wild Program.

The reintroduction of lions into their natural habitat is very difficult, and previous attempts have had limited success. The reasons for this are suggested that:

 firstly the lions had no experience of their natural environment
 that their reliance on humans wasn’t sufficiently removed
 thirdly, they were released as individuals with very little social organization,
 and finally they had no experience of predatory and competitive species.

The program was developed in 1999 at Antelope Park in Zimbabwe. We are seeking to solve those previous problems by using a four stage rehabilitation program.

In stage one, lions born in our breeding centres, are removed from their mothers at three weeks old. This allows us to train them only to the point that they’re safe for us to walk with them in the African Bush. When the cubs are six weeks old they’re taken out into their natural environment on walks. They’re accompanied by experienced handlers and volunteer workers who act as dominant members of the lions’ pride. As their experience grows over the following months they’re introduced to the game species in the Park, and by 18 months they’re quite capable of stalking and taking down some of the smaller prey here in the Park. By 2 years old they’re seasoned hunters, and we give them every opportunity to hone their hunting skills.

In stage two the lions have the opportunity to develop a natural pride social system in a minimum 500 acre enclosure. They have plenty of game to hunt, and are monitored closely. Importantly, all human contact is removed. The lions will remain in stage 2 until we’re happy that they have a fully self-sustaining and socially stable pride.

In stage three the lions will be radio collared and translocated as a pride into a managed ecosystem of around 10,000 acres or more,
• There will be no other lions, no resident human beings
• They’ll have a broad range of prey species to hunt
• but they’ll also have competitive species such as hyena

The lions in Stage 3 will give birth to cubs that will be raised by the pride in the managed ecosystem, very close to their natural environment. These cubs will develop skills that will enable their re-introduction into appropriate National Parks and reserves across the African continent.

In stage four the lions born in stage three can be released into the wild where their numbers have been most diminished. We‘re able to provide complete, self-sustaining prides; or female only groups that can be integrated with existing wild prides. We can also provide male only coalitions which can add a natural gene flow to an existing population.

All four stages of the rehabilitation & release into the wild program have the potential to generate much needed income for the lion project as well as funding research, conservation and community programs. Hence, the lions themselves are also a fundraising ambassador for Africa’s wildlife and its people.

The Conservation Centre for Wild Africa (CCWA) conducts research & conservation activities, not only for lions, but for a diversity of Africa’s wildlife that will provide a comprehensive body of work to assist in the preparation of sound management plans in order to conserve a Wild Africa for future generations.

The ALERT Communities Trust (ACT) is our way of giving back to the communities bordering conservation areas so that they receive benefits for supporting those conservation programs. A primary element of this is our community education and awareness program to further understanding of the importance and relevance of sound conservation practice. Local communities are involved in eco-tourism ventures related to the programs, and money generated goes back into community development schemes agreed as priorities with the local community, such as building schools or providing medical supplies.


1. Registration
2. Introductions
3. Opening remarks
4. Outline of scoping meeting objectives
5. Developer presentation
6. Plenary discussion
7. EIA consultant presentation
8. Plenary discussion
9. Concluding remarks