LOOK: Samara first lion cubs ‘a victory for wild lion conservation’
Just a year after welcoming its founder pride of lions, Samara Private Game Reserve celebrated the birth of its first litter of cubs.
Born to the first wild lion and lioness to roam the Plains of Camdeboo near Graaff-Reinet in over 180 years, these cubs represent “a victory for wild lion conservation”, a statement from the reserve revealed.
“We are ecstatic about this birth,” said Sarah Tompkins, the founder of Samara. “It’s a sign that our move to rewild the landscape to create the conditions for new lion populations has been successful.”
Tompkins said the birth of the first wild lion cubs in the region in almost two centuries was an incredible milestone for the reserve.
“It serves as a great incentive to continue our commitment to the preservation of this fantastically biodiverse region,” she said.
The birth of the lion cubs is significant for its contribution to wild lion conservation in a region from which lions had gone locally extinct. Lions have come under threat globally for many reasons, including habitat loss, conflict with humans and the illegal trade in lion bones as substitutes for tiger bones in Eastern medicine. According to the statement, within South Africa, the canned lion trade, in which lions are bred and hunted in captivity, threatens the survival of the species in the wild. There are now estimated to be just 3,000 wild lions in the country.
Professor Graham Kerley, Director of the Centre for African Conservation Ecology at Nelson Mandela University said lions were the sentinels of wildness in Africa.
“The success of these apex predators in our protected areas is a key indicator of the effectiveness of conservation measures.” The latest additions to Samara’s lion population are thought to have been born in September, after a typical gestation period of 105-120 days.
The introduction of the lion into Samara at the beginning of 2019 represents one of several initiatives by Samara to restore the Great Karoo’s rich biodiversity. Over the past 22 years, thousands of wild animals have been reintroduced into the private reserve, including antelope, zebra, buffalo, cheetah and the elephant. The team has worked hard to improve vegetation communities by rehabilitating eroded land, planting Spekboom and managing water catchments in this semi-arid region.