Lion Cubs Born in Liuwa Plain National Park in Zambia - A Major Milestone in Lion Restoration Programme
African Parks is delighted to announce that two lion cubs have been born in Liuwa Plain National Park in Zambia - the first birth of lion cubs in the park for well over 10 years. They were born three to four weeks ago to the protégé of the park’s famous lioness, Lady Liuwa. The lioness has hidden her new cubs in thick bush making it difficult to take photographs, however park management has managed to view them.
The birth of the cubs marks a major milestone in the reestablishment of Liuwa’s once-famous lion population and is the result of direct conservation interventions by African Parks. There have been nail-biting moments in the past five years with three separate lion introductions undertaken in a bid to re-establish a viable lion population in the park.
For more than nine years Lady Liuwa was a solitary lioness roaming the plains of Liuwa in search of fellow felines - the sole survivor after poaching and illegal trophy hunting wiped out the species in the park in the 1990s. The extraordinary story of how she turned to humans for companionship and how African Parks helped to find her a family became one of the most moving wildlife films ever to screen on National Geographic TV.
Efforts to re-establish Liuwa’s lions began in 2008 with the introduction of a male lion from Kafue National Park, but he unfortunately died during translocation. In 2009 another two males were introduced from Kafue and successfully bonded with Lady Liuwa. However, despite repeated matings, Lady Liuwa was never able to conceive, thwarting the plan of developing a lion population that retained the famed lioness’s genes. Then in 2011 African Parks took the decision to introduce two sub-adult females from Kafue in the hope that they would bond with Lady Liuwa, learn her successful hunting techniques and form the nucleus of a pride.
These efforts suffered a double setback however. In 2012 one of the young females was killed by a poacher’s snare and her surviving sister fled towards the Angolan boundary. In a dramatic rescue mission, the lioness was darted, airlifted by helicopter back to the park and placed in a fenced boma for safety. African Parks took the difficult decision to place Lady Liuwa with her in the boma to encourage the two lionesses to bond, which was imperative for the young lioness’ survival. After two months they were released back into the wilds and have been inseparable since. However, whilst the two lionesses were in the boma, another tragedy occurred. The two males wandered out of the park and into Angola where one was shot dead by villagers. After a period of great anxiety, the second male lion made it safely back to Liuwa and has become the resident male in the pride; and also father of the two new cubs.
The birth of cubs is a major step towards safeguarding the future of lions in Liuwa and will strengthen the park’s tourism offering. It is an event in which African Parks and our Liuwa partners - the Zambia Wildlife Authority, Barotse Royal Establishment and local communities - can take great pride.