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What is different about this release program?


David Youldon

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Several reasons have been put forward as the main causes for the limited success of past predator release programs;
1. that the animals were given no pre-release training,
2. that their reliance on humans was not curtailed,
3. that lions were released as individuals with no natural pride social organization,
4. and that they had no experience of competitive and predatory species.

Our program seeks to rectify these problems by using a staged rehabilitation program during which the lions are given every opportunity to build their confidence in a natural environment and to practice and perfect their natural hunting skills in stage one. Once the lions are too big for commercial lion walks in stage one, during which vital funding is raised towards the cost of the later stages of the program, the human contact the lions experience is reduced until they can become self-sustaining hunters in stage two.

Further, lions are released into stage three as breeding groups that have already been given the chance to form a pride social system in stage two.

Finally, stage three release sites will be stocked with a variety of game species that form a sustainable prey base, as well as competitive species such as cheetah and hyena.

It is the cubs born in stage three that will be released into the wild in stage four. These lions will have been born and raised by the pride in a near-natural environment, free of human contact and are effectively wild lions.

We believe that through the introduction of this staged program that we will be able to avoid the problems faced by past release programs. Since it’s inception we have received a lot of support from influential conservationists and ecologists, who, having seen the program working first hand, have come to appreciate that this is a workable solution to the problems faced by the African Lion;

“Through years of self-funded and determined effort, [the African Encounter Lion Rehabilitation & Release into the Wild program has] developed a program of re-introduction that has a very good chance of success. Predators of any description are notoriously difficult to reintroduce, but now we have at least a workable plan….the future of African lions is in African hands. Let us salute those who have been steadfast to ensure this future, and recognize that any action is better than the currently looming extinction of an African icon if we do nothing.” Ecologist Dr Pieter Kat

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