Lions are Coming Back to Southern Malawi, Where they Haven't Been Seen in Decades

This article appeared on on August 23, 2018. To read the article on Smithsonian Magazine's website, click here.

For the first time in decades, breeding lions can be seen in Malawi’s Liwonde National Park. On Wednesday, the park’s resident conservationists opened the gates of Liwonde’s temporary enclosures— where nine lions spent the last few weeks acclimating—sending them into new lives in the park.

“Their time in bomas, or enclosures, helped these lions bond and begin forming cohesive prides,” says Liwonde’s park manager, Craig Reid. “Our hope is that they will form two separate prides, which will foster greater diversity and demographic interactions that naturally take place between lion prides.”


All but two of the transplants came from South Africa, where they would have lived out their days had it not been for one NGO’s ambitious plan to revive entire ecosystems.

Johannesburg-based African Parks is best known for moving 500 elephants from southern Malawi to the country’s north in 2016, but the aptly named 500 Elephants initiative extends beyond pachyderms. The NGO has been working in Malawi since 2003, when it took over management of the Majete Wildlife Reserve, then a wildlife wasteland. Majete has morphed into a destination that boasts 12,000+ animals, including the “big five:” lions, elephants, Cape buffalo, leopards, and rhinos. It now serves as a model for other African parks that need a boost.


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