A few years ago I visited Antelope Park in Zimbabwe through a company called Africa Impact. One of the things they are trying to do there is a lion rehabilitation and release into the wild program.

The rehabilitation and reintroduction program uses a four-stage process to introduce lions into the wild in a way that sets them up for survival.

lion cub yawn

Stage 1: Rehabilitation and Captive Breeding

Through stage one, the lions are bred to allow for genetic diversity. Cubs in this stage are raised with human contact.  The cubs are taken on walks, and it is through this process  that the cubs are able to experience their natural surroundings, which is necessary for their pre-release training, and to help develop a natural instinct for hunting.

Africa Impact Zimbabwe

Stage 2: Release Into Small Managed Environment

This state is the first step to becoming a socially stable and self-sustaining pride. Here, the lions are formed into a pride with a dominant male. These lions are released into a controlled environment with no natural competition for prey. Live animals are also released in this environment, so the lions must hunt for food. These lions no longer have direct human contact. The cubs from these lions will be raised with a more natural instinct for hunting.

two lions fighting

Stage 3: Larger Area With a Variety of Game and Competitive Species

Once the pride from stage two has matured to the point of being self-sustaining, they are released into a near-wild environment and fully free from any human contact.  Here, they will gain survival skills and the human avoidance behaviors necessary for successful introduction to the wild in stage four.

zebra

Stage 4: Unfenced Natural Wild Environment

As the cubs from stage three age and develop prides of their own, they will be moved to a fully wild environment.

zimbabwe

It was a great experience overall. But, I’m not sure how successful the project as a whole will be. Like I said, it has been a few years, and from looking the Facebook page and website it doesn’t look like anything has changed since my visit. The pessimist in me says the real problem is population. How can we reintroduce animals into areas where they have been wiped out, when the people in those areas will continue to eradicate them. Too many people on the planet, and not enough space for all. But, I do commend them on what they are doing and would recommend the experience to anyone thinking about doing it.

www.lionalert.org
www.africanimpact.com