Where 1000 lions roam
Where 1000 lions roam
By : Colleen M. Begg (PhD), Project Leader / Trustee, Niassa Carnivore Project / The Ratel Trust
Facebook: Niassa Lion Project
There is a place in northern Mozambique where 1,000 lions still roam free in an incredible wilderness of 42,000km2 called the Niassa National Reserve (NNR). For the past 13 years, the Niassa Carnivore Project (NCP) has been working here to secure the lion, leopard, wild dog and spotted hyaena in collaboration with the Reserve Management Team, local communities and tourism operators.
This is the largest protected area in Mozambique and one of the largest and wildest protected areas in the world. There are also more than 40,000 people spread across more than 40 remote villages living in Niassa. Herein lies the challenge and in some ways the solution.
Habitat conversion, bushmeat snaring and alluvial gold mining with mercury are the biggest threats to carnivores and all wildlife in Niassa. Secondary threats of attacks on livestock and people and diseases spread from domestic dogs to wild animals can be solved. We don’t have a community programme - we are a community programme!
Our 12 conservation programmes range from the NNR community wildlife guardians (25 local men) across more than 30 villages in Niassa, who monitor human wildlife conflict, fishing and special species sightings, to our community programmes that reach more than 100 households, to increase food security and provide alternative livelihoods ie: small livestock breeding, conservation agriculture and elephant beehive fences with elephant friendly honey.
People cannot have a conversation about conservation when they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Our three long-term (+25 years) goals are to secure the large carnivore populations by directly reducing threats, providing locally relevant environmental education and outreach to share what we have learned, and to develop a model of community engagement that works.
All our 28 anti-poaching scouts come from the local communities in the area we manage. Forming a thread through it all are our environmental education programmes that range from our lion scholarship programme to the annual lion fun days, and the Mariri Environmental and Skills Training Centre that hosts children and adults from local villages for four night bush visits and training workshops.
Today NCP consists of a committed, passionate team of 45 Mozambican conservationists, primarily from local communities inside Niassa Reserve. Our vision is a unique wilderness where lion and other carnivores continue to persist with the full participation and support of Niassa’s local people - and support from all those global citizens who believe that wilderness areas like Niassa must be protected as a world heritage.