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SCI Foundation Supported Research Improves African Lion Survey Methods

August 13, 2019

The most recent issue of the academic journal Global Ecology and Conservation highlights the latest information from SCIF’s African lion research in Tanzania.  In a research effort led by Dr. Jerrold Belant at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, this project examines methods used to survey lion abundance in the Serengeti National Park and surrounding game reserves.

Lion density surveys are used in making lion management decisions such as determination of harvest quotas, human-lion conflict mitigation actions, and global conservation status.  Traditionally, lion density in many areas has been estimated using track surveys in which managers conducted counts of the number of lion tracks crossing designated road sections.  “Our results suggest that previous lion population estimates based on track surveys did not reflect actual abundance, which in turn would influence recent reported trends in lion abundance,” said Dr. Belant.

Dr. Belant and his team found that estimates from track counts varied considerably from one week to the next and that numerous external factors such as prey abundance and habitat conditions could influence the number of tracks observed.  Furthermore, the density estimates differed from independent estimates over several years in the study area.  The research recommends the use of repeated call-in surveys as an alternative and more accurate method.

By improving the reliability of lion surveys in Tanzania and elsewhere, the SCIF-supported research will allow for better lion management decisions by local managers and for more scientifically based sustainable lion harvest.  Dr. Belant added, “This work would not have been possible without the generous support provided by Safari Club International Foundation.”

Better data about critical parameters like density also improve non-detriment findings and the ability of range countries to maintain sustainable use as a critical component of lion management.