"Twenty Four Lions" is largest move and release of wild lions across an international border in history, aims to completely balance 2.5 M acre ecosystem
ZAMBEZE DELTA, Mozambique, Aug. 8, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- The Cabela Family Foundation, along with wildlife experts, has released 24 wild lions into the Zambeze Delta of Mozambique, the largest conservation transport of wild lions across an international boundary in history.
The project reintroduces lions to the country, adding 2.5 million acres to lions' habitat in Africa where the species has been endangered. The aim of the "Twenty Four Lions" project is to completely restore the natural ecosystem, not just to restore the lions.
On August 5, a coalition of partners, including the Cabela Family Foundation, Ivan Carter Wildlife Alliance, Zambeze Delta Safaris and Marromeu Safaris, released five lions in remote regions of a 4,500 square kilometer Zambeze Delta area of Mozambique called Coutada 10 and Coutada 11. The remaining 19 lions will be released on August 11 and August 14. Through dedicated anti-poaching efforts and sound conservation practices over the past 24 years many other species of ungulates once again flourish to the incredible numbers the delta holds today.
"A hundred years ago, there were over 200,000 wild lions living in Africa. Today, leading researchers estimate the population to be 20,000 or less, with lions now extinct in 26 African countries," Dan Cabela, director of Twenty Four Lions and chair of the Cabela Family Foundation, said. "It's been a privilege to participate in this effort with our outstanding partners. We look forward to realizing the full potential of the ecosystem becoming balanced again."
Dr. Byron du Preez, Oxford-trained Doctor of Zoology and a member of the Twenty Four Lions team, estimates that this project will increase the number of lions to as many as 500 within 15 years and may even represent a full 10% of the world's wild lion population within 20 years. There are tracking collars on 15 of the lions, which allow for close monitoring following release by a group of on-the-ground experts, including Dr. du Preez and Mozambican Zoologist Carlos Bento, among others.
The Zambeze Delta area has been largely protected from poaching, replenished and prepared by Zambeze Delta Safaris thanks to over a million dollars in hunting revenues. As an example, the buffalo population in the delta has increased from 1,000 to 20,000 in 1994 and where there were 44 sable in Coutada 11, now are more than 3,000. Additionally, the meat yielded from hunting (over 30 tons in 2017) has kept the locals well-fed, mostly eliminating the need for subsistence poaching. Still, these 24 lions will not be hunted.
The two dozen lions were donated from carefully selected game reserves around South Africa. With the transplant successfully completed, the entire team is confident that the massive anti-poaching efforts and ongoing research and follow-up will see these animals thrive. Cabela Family Foundation has committed to funding research for at least six years.
"Reflecting on Cabela's humble beginnings through our family's work over the years and our long-term commitment to conservation and the preservation of wild spaces, this means so very much," Mary Cabela, founder of the Cabela Family Foundation, said. "It's a proud moment." Mary and her son Dan traveled to Mozambique to oversee the move.
Research has shown that primary or 'apex' predators such as lions have been dramatically reduced if not eliminated. In Africa particularly, as the human population and poaching has increased, lions' home habitats have come under threat. While Mozambique's wildlife was decimated by the country's civil war and subsequent poaching in the last 20 years, this ecosystem, in particular, has made a remarkable recovery—except for its lions.
"This bold and strategic move has been a remarkable example of all stakeholders working together for the good of wild lions and the ecosystem," Ivan Carter, a conservationist and professional guide, founder of Ivan Carter Wildlife Conservation Alliance, said. "We believe one cannot do conservation in Africa without including Africans, which have been key partners in building trust and honoring the spiritual elements. We also understand that great conservation comes from great science—and are following the data to ensure this is done right. Lions have fallen into the abyss of extinction in 26 African countries so far and Dan is determined that Mozambique will not be one of them."
The Pride of Partners
Just as a group of lions is known as a "pride," this group effort required partners. The Ivan Carter Wildlife Conservation Alliance and Zambeze Delta Safaris, as well as the local community and government stakeholders, were instrumental in facilitating the Twenty Four Lions project to achieve a greater natural balance within this thriving ecosystem.
While the lions were donated for this project, the move and its associated costs have been supported by the Cabela Family Foundation. The foundation identified this ambitious effort as a fitting legacy project for its conservation work, particularly given Mary Cabela's passion for lions and Africa's wild places.
The Cabela Family Foundation has been joined by Carter's Wildlife Conservation Alliance, with the support of brothers Glen and Mark Haldane as well as Carlos Pacheco Faria who participated in the logistics of the move—building on more than two decades of conservation investment by the groups. The Twenty Four Lions project benefitted tremendously from support of Administração Nacional das Áreas de Conservação, The Bateleurs—a South African nonprofit of pilots, Marromeu Safaris and members of the community led by Chief Tozo—recognized by the Cabela Family Foundation and Ivan Carter as the most important partners in the entire process.
The Cabela Family Foundation, along with its partners, is committed to supporting the project for the duration, as well as challenging individual and corporate donors to support an anti-poaching fund specific to Mozambique. More information—including research and videos, as well as a link to donate—can be found at www.24lions.org and @TwentyFourLions on social media.
About The Cabela Family Foundation
The Cabela Family Foundation supports long-term, high-impact partnerships that fulfill the foundation's mission to create projects that promote conservation, access to wild spaces and charity toward others. The foundation continues the legacy of Dick and Mary Cabela, who founded the outdoor retailer Cabela's in 1961. With a focus on their deep love of the outdoors, the family grew the company to more than 82 stores nationwide before selling the company in 2016. www.cabelafamilyfoundation.org
About the Ivan Carter Wildlife Alliance
This non-profit conservation organization develops and implements holistic wildlife conservation solutions with, and involving, indigenous communities. It provides financial, material and tactical support to counter-poaching groups and actively works to increase the awareness and acceptance of the value of maintaining diverse wildlife populations. No less than 90% of all donations reach the specific destination for which they are intended. www.ivancarterwca.org
About Zambeze Delta Safaris
Zambeze Delta Safaris has been operating in Mozambique for almost three decades. The operation is based on sustainable game utilization through a long-term lease with the government. The organization prides itself on sound management and anti-poaching practices, which have assisted in making its areas of operation some of the finest free-roaming game lands in Africa today. www.zambezedeltasafaris.com
SOURCE Cabela Family Foundation