On Monday 30 July, after spending over a month in quarantine in South Africa, four lions destined for Majete Wildlife Reserve in Malawi, were ready for their translocation journey.

During the early hours of the morning, the lions who originated from the Pilanesberg National Park and Madikwe Game Reserve were sedated in preparation for their long flight. The two aircraft, a Grand Caravan and a Quest Kodiak, had their interior cabins specially tailored to accommodate the large predators for their long journey. With the crew onboard, pilots, veterinarians, ecologist, journalists, and not to forget the lions - Sapitwa, Chimwala, Shire and Nakamba, it was time to depart and head towards the lower Shire Valley in Malawi.

The lions received consistent supervision throughout the five-hour flight from both the veterinarian and ecologist. Unfortunately, one of the lionesses died during the flight having gone into cardiac arrest. This was, however, a ground-breaking translocation as it delivered a potentially breeding pride of lions to Malawi.

Around 15h00, the staff and management of African Parks and government dignitaries witnessed the arrival of the two aircraft carrying the Majete lions, at the Nchalo airfield. There was an air of excitement as the lions were transferred from the aircraft and securely placed into the vehicles before being transported to their purpose-built boma.

The two males and the remaining female lion will be kept in quarantine until their release at the end of August, during which time their condition will be regularly monitored. We can confirm that the lions are settling in well and are regularly seen exploring and feeding.

African Parks recognises the efforts of all involved with this momentous occasion and we are grateful to those who contributed in South Africa and Malawi to making this a reality. This operation was made possible by Robin Pope Safaris, operators of the Mkulumadzi lodge in Majete and was facilitated by the South African based charter company, Flitecare.

The release of the lions is expected to boost Majete’s attraction as a wildlife destination and is receiving widespread publicity in the travel trade. Dozens of community meetings have been held over the past few months to ensure that people around the park are sensitised to the introduction of the lions.

After a 30-year absence, the introduction of lions to Majete represents the final step in the transformation of this once depleted park into a thriving ‘Big Five’ reserve.