It was hard not to feel excited when the video footage landed in my inbox a few weeks ago. Researchers studying chimpanzees in the forests of Gabon’s Batéké Plateau National Park had captured footage of a solitary male lion on a remote camera – the first lion spotted in Gabon in 20 years. The national park was fairly young, established in 2002 as one of 13 new parks designated in Gabon that year. Hunting had decimated wildlife on the plateau in previous decades, and when biologist Philip Henschel trekked the area in 2001 searching for signs of life, he found little beyond poachers.
But does one lion sighting signal success? As I write in my recent article for Pacific Standard, this particular lion would have had to travel hundreds of kilometers from neighboring countries to get to the plateau. And females – a necessity for any viable population – typically don’t roam long distances as males in search of territory do. So what does the lonely forest lion of Gabon mean for conservation? Read more and see the video here.