It’s well past midnight, but still before dawn in Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park. Most people have been asleep for hours, but Peter Lindsey is wide awake, acutely aware of the primeval sounds of lions roaring nearby.
The rumblings are so loud and deep that his tent seems to shake, goose-bumps begin forming on his arms. These lions are commanding their ownership of this part of the African bush, demonstrating their place amongst nature’s most powerful animals. Peter lies there with eyes closed, listening to these sounds that are both exhilarating and chilling, each roar the embodiment of the African wilderness itself.
Gonarezhou literally means “place of the elephants”, but Peter, WCN’s Conservation Initiatives Director, was there because of its lions. Across Africa, lions are in trouble. In just 25 years, half the lion population has been lost, disappearing from over 90% of the wilderness where they once reigned as King of Beasts. It’s a quiet crisis, but one with high stakes. The loss of lions is a dagger to the heart of Africa’s ecological and economic wellbeing. There are many reasons for this decline—including human-lion conflict and habitat loss—but in particular, Africa’s parks and reserves lack the resources to effectively manage their wildlife populations. Thankfully, this problem has a solution; if we help provide park authorities with the support needed for effective management, we can see lions return. This is a primary strategy of the Lion Recovery Fund (LRF), a new funding initiative created by WCN and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. The LRF aims to raise and invest millions of dollars, and foster collaboration among funders and conservationists, to support the best efforts across Africa to bring lions and their landscapes back.
In Gonarezhou, after years of massive population declines, largely as a result of inadequate resources, lions are fortunately rebounding. Yet many of Africa’s other parks and reserves are being emptied of the magnificent animals for which they are so famous. The LRF is supporting efforts to tackle and reverse this loss, knowing that with proper resources and effective management, these landscapes can be suitable for lions and other wildlife again. LRF funding will also support a variety of efforts to thwart the biggest threats to lions, including the bushmeat (wild game meat) trade that is devastating wildlife across Africa. In fact, it was the pervasive destruction caused by the bushmeat trade that inspired Peter Lindsey to focus on lion conservation over a decade ago.
Based in Zimbabwe, Peter now vets the projects that the Lion Recovery Fund supports, collaborating with conservationists, governments, scientists, nonprofits, and local communities to identify and bolster the best ideas to recover lions. Working with local people is especially critical; lions can be difficult neighbors, so solutions to lion recovery must work for lions and people alike. The LRF commits that through deeper engagement of philanthropists of all sizes, we will see lions recover and their landscapes restored. As time goes on, with this support, more people throughout Africa can lie awake listening to the sounds of lions roaring in the bush—a sign that the King of Beasts has returned.
Lion Recovery Fund
The Lion Recovery Fund was created by the Wildlife Conservation Network and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation to catalyze recovery of lions in critical landscapes across Africa, while fostering a philanthropic movement to restore lions and their vast landscapes. Visit lionrecoveryfund.org to learn more.