A recent video capturing a West African lioness named Florence, affectionately known as “Flo”, and her three cubs in Senegal’s Niokolo-Koba National Park (NKNP) has ignited hope among conservationists. West African lions, distinct in size and genetics and critically endangered, have been on the brink of extinction.
Florence holds a special place in the conservation community. She was the first lion in Senegal to be equipped with a tracking collar by Panthera, a leading wild cat conservation group, in collaboration with Senegal’s Department of National Parks (DPN). As the 10-year-old matriarch of NKNP, she’s played a significant role in the park’s lion population.
When her GPS collar malfunctioned, it raised alarms about her safety, considering the risks from poachers and natural predators. In a bid to trace her, conservationists set up camera traps around her last recorded location. To their relief and delight, the cameras revealed that Flo was not only alive but had also become a mother to three vibrant cubs in the shelter of the thick forest. Remarkably, she’s believed to have birthed around nine cubs in total, including the park’s first males.
The heartening discovery has rekindled hope for the conservation of West African lions, with only about 120 to 374 believed to be left in the wild. Reflecting on this significant moment, Philipp Henschel from Panthera commented, “Florence is likely to be hailed as the pivotal force behind the resurgence of West African lions in one of their last bastions.”