October 2013 – Wilderness Safaris and the Wilderness Wildlife Trust have facilitated the generous funding of USD360 000 from global sports lifestyle brand PUMA to the world’s leading wild cat conservation organisation, Panthera. A small portion of this funding has already been used to survey the status of lions in the more than two million hectare Kafue National Park. An expanded initiative, resulting from this initial investigation, will now focus on renewing the anti-poaching programme in the park.
Together with financial and logistical support from PUMA and Wilderness Safaris, Panthera will work with the Zambia Wildlife Authority and a local NGO, Game Rangers International, to help support, and expand law enforcement activities by the local wildlife authorities in Kafue National Park – Zambia’s largest protected area and one of the most important national parks in Africa for the protection of large carnivores like lion, wild dog, cheetah and spotted hyaena. Outfitting and expanding anti-poaching units will be the priority, alongside improving law enforcement monitoring to allow tracking of illegal activities, evaluation of the success of enforcement efforts and optimal deployment of resources for conservation.
"PUMA is inspired by the agility and speed of all big cats”, said Justin DeKoszmovszky, PUMA Global Sustainability Strategy Manager. "We are happy to support this new initiative by Panthera to help protect local biodiversity in Kafue National Park as part of our ongoing commitment to environmental protection."
Zambia is one of just nine countries in Africa home to more than 1 000 lions. However, research by Panthera Kaplan Graduate Awards Scholar and University of Cape Town PhD student, Neil Midlane, has confirmed that illegal bushmeat hunting is pervasive in Kafue. Widespread and indiscriminate snaring of lions and their prey has potentially devastating effects on the region’s wildlife. Due to their extensive home ranges and habit of scavenging carcasses from snare lines, lions are extremely susceptible to bushmeat poaching. In the dry seasons of 2010-2012 alone, Midlane and his team observed at least 15 lions carrying snares. Fortunately, many of these were immobilised and successfully treated by the Zambia Wildlife Authority and local NGOs, although at least one lioness lost dependent cubs as a result of her injuries.
“We are deeply committed to supporting Panthera’s anti-poaching initiative to ensure the ongoing biodiversity and protection of all species within Kafue National Park. It is a vital part of our ecotourism operation in Kafue’s Busanga Plains Concession to ensure that our conservation efforts work hand in hand with the long-term engagement of the communities surrounding the Park. Understanding the bushmeat trade and offering sustainable alternatives to the local people, as well as ensuring that the benefits of ecotourism extend to local communities, is imperative to ensure the park’s sustainability”, said Russel Friedman of the Wilderness Wildlife Trust.
Panthera’s President and one of Midlane’s PhD advisors, Dr. Luke Hunter, highlighted the challenges facing lions across the continent, “To the many visitors of Africa’s great game parks, it is unthinkable that the lion is in trouble. But lions have vanished from 80% of their historic range in Africa alone, and many of the remaining populations are verging on extinction. Thanks to the support of PUMA, we can invest the resources to begin stamping out the poaching of lions and their prey in Kafue. True to its big cat logo, PUMA is a model for turning global business success into conservation outcomes.”