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The Lion Breeding and Rehabillitation Project

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View Zimbabwe (Lion Breeding and Rehabilitation Project) - 19 Jan to 15 Feb 2009 on hilarywh's travel map.

In 1975 the lion population in Africa was a healthy 200,000. Today, just over 30 years later, it is estimated at just 39,000. There are 82 lions at Antelope Park and the breeding and rehabillitation program here is the only one of it's kind in the world. It consists of 4 Stages but only the first 2 stages have been achieved to date.

Stage 1:
Cubs are removed from their mother at 3 weeks old. They are hand reared and at approximately 6 weeks old they are taken out into the bush for 'walks' to get them used to their natural surroundings and to practice their stalking and hunting skills. The cubs are walked by Lion Handlers, Volunteers and paying Clients. This is the only commercial element to the program which provides the vital funds for the upkeep of the program.

Once the cubs reach 18 - 24 months they have usually made their first kill, proof that hand rearing and walking with humans doesn't have an adverse affect on their natural instincts. Around this time they are also 'retired' from walking as they start to become very big, possibly unmanageable and may start to pose a threat to the people they walk with. Daily hands on human interaction ceases at this point and the lions are taken out into the park on night and day hunting encounters by people in a vehicle.

- There are currently only two walking lions at the Park, 15 month old lionesses Sahara and Soriaya. We walk the lions twice a day for a couple of hours each session. Sahara's two siblings have been relocated as walking lions to project's sister facility at Victoria Falls.

- Three cubs, Thulani, Tsavo and Tanaka, born in January were removed from their mother on the 1st Feb. Part of my role as a volunteer is to help hand rear these cubs. When bottle feeding 3 adorable cubs I keep forgetting that these are actually lions and will one day turn into killing machines.

- Etosha and Echo are two 18 month old recently retired male lions and, despite being big softies, they were becoming too big. On their last walk they managed to bring down an adult zebra, their 3rd kill and very unusual for male lions of their age.

- Masai was retired early as he had a tendency to want to 'play' with his walkers. He is currently living with three brothers Luangwa, Lungile and Lozi who were walked together until they were almost two years. We have taken the three L's out night encounters which was an experience for another page!

Stage 2:
The lions at Antelope Park are tested for TB and FIV (Feline HIV) and also genetically tested if they have not been bred here and their bloodline is unknown. If a lion is FIV positive they wont be used for breeding and will either be neutered or joined with an all male or all female FIV pride. If their blood tests are clear they will enter the breeding program and subsequently be released with their new 'man-made' pride into an enclosure fully stocked with game and with no competition from other predators.

Stage 3:
Lions from Stage 2 are successfully hunting, breeding and working together as a pride. They are moved to a bigger enclosure fully stocked with game but with plenty of competition from other predators.

Stage 4:
It is hoped that the cubs from the Stage 3 prides will be reintroduced into the wild. They will have had no human contact and will be used to populate areas where lion numbers have significantly reduced or been completely eradicated.

Posted by hilarywh 10:21 Archived in Zimbabwe Tagged volunteer

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