The Bubye Valley Conservancy Research Project

The African Lion

Since African lions were re-introduced to Bubye Valley Conservancy (BVC) in 1999 the population has grown rapidly. Today B.V.C is home to approximately 20% of Zimbabwe’s lions. This is not just the largest continuous population of lion in Zimbabwe, but also the densest. It is one of most significant lion conservation success stories in recent times. Due to the importance of this population for the conservation of the species, and the unique management challenges associated with a large fenced population of African lion, a long-term lion research project has been established on the conservancy.

The goals of the project are diverse, but the focus is on describing and understanding the general ecology and conservation of African lions in a large fenced reserve. The unique pattern of resource dispersion – a legacy of the conservancy’s origins as a cattle ranch – is currently giving us the opportunity to gain experimental insight into the origins of group living of this large gregarious carnivore. Intensively studying a portion of the population, whilst monitoring management-driven changes, is allowing us to understand how population dynamics, dispersal mechanisms (and avoidance behaviour), stress (both chronic and acute), and hunting strategies, are all affected by resource availability.

B.V.C provides a unique opportunity to study African lions within a large trophy hunting area that is relatively free from other factors associated with lion population decline, such as poaching, retaliatory killing, and habitat loss. The lion population dynamics are also monitored and modeled to assess sustainable trophy hunting with minimal confounding variables. This aspect of the research has become increasingly relevant with on going reviews of the status of African lions by CITES and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service; the results of which may have far reaching consequences for the strategies employed in conserving this ecological keystone species.

You can learn more about the B.V.C Lion Research Project by visiting the Bubye Valley Conservancy website.