LADY LIUWA NO LONGER THE LAST LIONESS: TWO YOUNG FEMALE LIONS TRANSLOCATED TO LIUWA PLAIN
There is great news for Lady Liuwa. On October 18th, 2011 two young lionesses were captured in Kafue National Park and translocated to Liuwa Plain.
As documented in Aquavision’s “The Last Lioness”, Lady Liuwa was the last lioness on the Liuwa Plain. Trophy hunting and poachers exterminated all the lions; leaving but one. For years Lady Liuwa lived alone, a condition traumatic and unnatural to a social animal.
While on assignment documenting spotted hyenas in 2005, Herbert Brauer developed a touching relationship with the isolated lioness.The bond was so strong that the Lonely Lioness would greet Herbert with a roll, even following him into camp. With the help of The African Parks Network and Craig Reed, it was determined that outside lions should be brought to Liuwa Plain to re-establish the lion population and bring an end to Lady Liuwa’s solitude.
Relocating lions is always a complicated endeavor. The stress and dangers of tranquilizing and transporting pose a significant threat to the lions’ health. Unfortunately, the first attempt to bring a single male lion from nearby Kafue National Park to Liuwa Plain resulted in tragedy, with the male dying. Courageously, the team continued their quest. A coalition of two young male brothers without a pride were located. On May 11, 2009 the two brothers were successfully relocated from Kafue National Park to Liuwa Plain.
Lady and the two young male brothers quickly developed a close and amorous relationship. For two years the trio were inseparable and routinely observed mating. The Lonely Lioness was no longer alone. Despite the frequent mating, no cubs were produced. It was initially suspected that Lady was holding off on becoming pregnant until she was certain the males were there to stay. As time passed it became clear that Lady Liuwa was likely sterile and unable to produce offspring. It is unknown if Lady ever had a litter of cubs prior to her pride
In October of 2011 the African Parks Network made the bold decision to introduce two young females to Liuwa Plain. This objective posed several risks: Lady, though a fierce and strong lioness, is aging. It is unknown how she would react to two young lionesses on her territory and encroaching on her two males. It was also unclear how the two new females would react to the translocation and Lady Liuwa. But greater than these risks was the fear that Lady might die of natural causes, without the opportunity to further establish a functioning pride and lion population in Liuwa Plain.
After a diligent search, the African Parks Network, with the help of the Zambian Carnivore Programme and Matt Becker, located two females under the age of two along the western bank of the Kafue River. The translocation was successful and on October 18th, 2011 the two new lions arrived at a holding pen in Liuwa Plain.
On October 28, 2011, The African Parks Network reported that Lady Liuwa and her two male companions visited the enclosure holding the two new lionesses. Lion tracks and signs of rolling were noted around the fence, reminiscent of Lady Liuwa rolling in greeting to Herbert Brauer.
We have yet to hear whether the two females have been released from their enclosure and their official introduction to Lady Liuwa and the males. According to Liuwa Plain Park Manager Raquel Seybert, the females will remain in the enclosure for at least two months.
As for Herbert Brauer? He has been kind enough to update us on his status. He is back with Lady Liuwa, making a film documentary for Aquavision about the translocation of the two females and their introduction to Liuwa Plain.
We are all hoping that this story will have a happy ending. Though unlikely that Lady Liuwa will ever bear offspring, the next best scenario is that she becomes a proud aunt and nanny, guiding the successful re-introduction and re-establishment of lions in the Liuwa Plain.
Special thanks to Herbert Brauer, Aquavison Wildlife Documentary Filmmakers, African Parks Network, Zambian Carnivore Programme, Shaun Embury and as always, Stephen Cunliffe for allowing us to use his wonderful photo of Lady Liuwa.
For Further Information:
Aquavision Wildlife Films – www.aquavision.co.za
African Parks Network – www.african-parks.org
Zambian Carnivore Programme –www.zambiacarnivores.org
Stephen Cunliffe Photography – www.stevecunliffe.com
Audley Blog – www.audleyblog.com