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Research uncovers surprising lion stronghold in war-torn central Africa
Date:1/29/2009

MADISON Times are tough for wildlife living at the frontier between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Armies are reportedly encamped in a national park and wildlife preserve on the Congolese side, while displaced herders and their cattle have settled in an adjoining Ugandan park.

And yet, the profusion of prey in the region could potentially support more than 900 individuals of the emblematic African lion, according to new research but only if immediate conservation steps are taken.

"Those two protected areas that straddle the frontier could be the stronghold for lions in central Africa the largest population," says University of Wisconsin-Madison environmental studies professor Adrian Treves, the study's lead author. "Therefore, (the population) is critically important, because the lion is now considered threatened throughout Africa."

He and fellow researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Panthera Foundation report their findings in the January issue of the journal Oryx, which published online today (Jan. 29).

While the conflict raging in D.R. Congo makes conservation efforts in that country's Parque National Virungas (PNVi) nearly impossible right now, says Treves, action can be taken in Uganda's Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP). In an attempt to protect their livestock, cattlemen there have reportedly poisoned and shot predators in large numbers, stirring fears that the king of beasts may be driven to extinction in Uganda.

But these pastoralists haven't traditionally killed lions, and Treves believes they can be convinced to coexist with the cats once more if given the appropriate incentives. News of the sizeable lion population that QENP might sustain should also be brought to the Ugandan government, he adds.

"We're providing a vision of what could be," he says. "Uganda could maybe have a third of those 900-plus lions, and they're an incredible source of t
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Contact: Adrian Treves
atreves@wisc.edu
608-890-1450
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Source:Eurekalert

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