Niassa Lion Project

To seek sustainable resolutions to lion conservation challenges in Mozambique


The African lion (Panthera leo) is Vulnerable, with less than 40,000 lions remaining in the world and populations continue to decline. Niassa National Reserve is an area of critical conservation importance for the lion. Located in northern Mozambique along the border with Tanzania, Niassa National Reserve is one of Africa's largest wilderness areas (42,000 km²) and is home to 800–1,000 lions, one of only six areas currently supporting more than 1,000 lions.


Niassa National Reserve has been identified as a priority area for lion conservation by the Southern and East African Regional Conservation Strategies and in the Lion Conservation Strategy and Action Plan for Mozambique. However, Niassa and its lions are far from secure as there is a growing population of 35,000 people spread across 40 villages living inside the protected area, and community engagement is essential.


There are four major threats to lions from people in Niassa National Reserve: the killing of lions in wire snares set for bushmeat (wild meat), retaliatory killing in response to attacks on people and livestock, sport hunting and disease (canine distemper and rabies). 


The Niassa Lion Project, led by Colleen and Keith Begg, has worked in the Niassa National Reserve since 2003. With a small local team, they collaborate with the Mozambican Management Authority of Niassa, the Niassa communities, Mecula District Administration and tourism operators as well as village leaders and teachers. The Niassa Lion Project continually seeks sustainable resolutions to conservation challenges through a four-pronged approach:


  • Targeted monitoring and pragmatic research.
  • Community involvement, outreach and education.
  • Direct mitigation of threats of human–wildlife conflict.
  • Mentorship and training of local conservationists.


WAZA Conservation Project 12007 is implemented by The Ratel Trust, with support provided by Houston Zoo, Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and Disney Coins for Change (Canada). Other stakeholders involved in the project include local communities (40 villages) and the Mozambique Minister of Tourism (Directorate of National Protected Areas).




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