Dissertation: Lion Conservation in West and Central Africa

Integrating social and natural science for wildlife conflict resolution around Waza National Park, Cameroon

Hans Bauer (2003)


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On 17 September 2003, Hans Bauer of the Institute of Environmental Sciences, Leiden University (The Netherlands), has defended his dissertation: Lion Conservation in West and Central Africa, Integrating social and natural science for wildlife conflict resolution around Waza National Park, Cameroon. This book fills an important gap in conservation science: hardly any research had been done on lions in West or Central Africa, in contrast to the hundreds of publications on lions in Tanzania, Botswana, South Africa, etc.

Bauer joined the African Lion Working Group in compiling available census information on lions throughout Africa, leading to a conservative estimate of 23.000 lions. Ninety-two percent is found in the well-documented south-eastern half of the continent. The other 8% live in small fragmented protected areas in West and Central Africa; more lion populations than expected, and some populations could well be viable in the long term, but the low numbers make the species regionally endangered which stresses the need for good management based on sound information.

The book focuses on Waza National Park and surroundings, where Bauer did fieldwork from 1995 to 2001, and uses additional data from other areas in the region. The book shows important differences in ecology and management between the two halves of Africa. For instance, lions live at lower densities and live in smaller groups than generally known elsewhere. In Waza, most lions were actually solitary and individual ranges were extremely large. This has to do with lower prey availability, but there is another important factor: livestock depredation. One lion carrying a radio collar appeared to kill 66 cows per year, and local people around Waza NP claimed that depredation costs them together $130.000 per year. Still, local people considered depredation a natural phenomenon that is acceptable to some degree, but in the absence of mitigation measures they dosometimes kill or poison lions and other predators.

These management problems on the edges of protected areas are well known, land managers in East and Southern Africa have extensive experience in dealing with it. However, none of the lion-friendly methods have been applied in West and Central Africa yet. The book therefore ends with a discussion of locally suitable methods, for example problem animal control, improved herding, nature based alternative income and, under strict and currently unmet conditions, financial compensation.

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