Lion conservation, new research

This 2018 video is called Unbelievable! Male lion rescue his lioness from lions and hyenas.

From Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution:

Lion conservation research can be bolstered by input from a wide-range of professionals

June 19, 2018

Summary: To tackle the sharp decline in lion numbers, conservation research should consider wild prey, livestock and the environment, not just human-lion interaction, a new review suggests.

The conservation of lions, while maintaining the well-being of people that live around them, is a complex problem that should be addressed by a wide range of professionals working together, suggests a new review published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. Rather than focusing solely on human-lion interaction, factors such as the environment, wild prey and domesticated livestock should be considered to get a full evaluation of the problem. This approach can generate effective policies to address the dramatic decrease in lion populations seen in recent years.

“We reviewed lion conservation research and found that most of this work was completed by experts from three highly-related disciplines: biology, wildlife conservation and environmental science”, says Professor Robert A. Montgomery, lead-author of this study, based at the Michigan State University, USA and affiliated with Oxford University, UK. “Human-lion conflict is a multi-dimensional issue involving not only people and lions, but also livestock, wild prey, and the environment. Thereby, we recommend that researchers studying human-lion conflict work together with colleagues from ecology, conservation, economics, sociology, and the humanities, among others, to fully evaluate this issue to develop sustainable solutions.”

“Since the lamentable death of Cecil, a lion we were studying, lion biologists have been energized to make quantum leaps towards a comprehensive conservation plan that benefits lions and the people that live alongside them. The need is really urgent, so the time for action is now”, adds Professor David Macdonald, co-author of the study and Director of Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit.

Once common across all of Africa and parts of Europe and Asia, lion populations have declined sharply in recent decades, inhabiting just 8% of their historic range. This decline can be attributed to several factors including habitat loss, climate change, disease, hunting and human conflict.

“We recognize that conservation of lions and the well-being of people that share landscapes with them is a very complex problem, which will be best assessed via interdisciplinary research teams — teams of professionals with a wide-range of expertise,” explains Montgomery. “Thus, we decided to examine the extent to which human-lion conflict research has been interdisciplinary to date.”

Montgomery and his co-authors, — international experts in conservation, wildlife ecology, environmental science, sociology and ethics — rigorously examined human-lion conflict research from between 1990 and 2015. They found a rapid increase in human-lion conflict research over this period, with most scientists having a biological, wildlife management or environmental science background.

“The lack of interdisciplinarity could not be blamed on researchers failing to reach out to experts in human behavior, environmental science, or policy-making. In many cases, lion biologists were making these inquiries but receiving declined invitations for collaboration”, says Montgomery. “However, the lion research community has recently made great strides to become more interdisciplinary.”

The analysis also revealed that most research focused on the human and lion dimensions of the human-lion conflict problem, where in fact there are other factors to consider. The environment (weather, seasonality and land cover), as well as the distribution, abundance and behavior of wild prey and domesticated livestock will also influence the extent of human-lion conflict.

Montgomery concludes with some recommendations for future research.

“The wild prey of lions deserves more study, as their ecology, movement and depletion are particularly relevant to human-lion conflict. We show there is space for the evolution of a new pride of lion researchers, bringing together a wide-range of expertise to examine the different dimensions of human-lion conflict. Genuine interdisciplinary research, driven by experts in anthropology, sociology, law and public policy, is more likely to address the missing link between research and policy enactment.”

The research is part of a special article collection on lion researchers.


Hyenas save baby from lions

This video from Kenya says about itself:

Lions mess with the wrong hyena clan

11 June 2018

Because lions and hyenas both consume the same prey, they are each others’ most common competitors. Lions are three to four times larger than hyenas and hunt larger animals. A group of hyenas, however, can often use teamwork to intimidate a lion away from its meal. Both lions and hyenas frequently steal from each other. Lions have learned to recognize the feeding calls of hyenas after a recent hunt. They follow the calls to the source and chase the hyenas from their prey. Although it would seem abundant prey would lessen the hostility, the opposite has been observed.

In this sighting the lioness was trying to catch a young hyena and the hyena clan would have none of it, this lioness was very lucky to survive this ordeal.

Filmed in Masai Mara.

Fruit flies fear lion feces

This 2016 video says about itself:

How To Humanely Get Rid / Remove Fruit Flies! The Ultimate Guide (Well, one way to do it) #vegan

18 October 2016

Obviously we need to look after our little bug friends as well as the big animals in the world, so when they decide to take over our kitchen to feast on a left out piece of fruit, the least we can do is kick them out nicely. Here is my guide to how I removed a fruit fly infestation from my kitchen. Be nice to the fruit flies people!

From Lund University in Sweden:

Fruit flies fear lion feces

May 29, 2018

A new doctoral thesis from Lund University in Sweden shows how fruit flies use their sense of smell and humidity to find food, avoid dehydration and discover the best place to lay their eggs — in overripe marula fruits. Faeces from herbivores are also suitable, but the flies reject carnivore excrement.

Summer is high season for tiny fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster). Overripe fruit is their favourite haunt, and if the fruit is in a relatively humid location, the fruit flies like it even more.

On Friday 1 June, Suzan Mansourian will publicly defend her thesis Drosophila sensory neuroethology, in which she examined fruit fly behaviour and the nerves and neural pathways that govern this seemingly simple organism.

Together with colleagues, Suzan Mansourian investigated and mapped the receptors on the fruit fly’s antennae, which it uses to locate food, humidity, reproductive partners, and a good place to lay its eggs. Some receptors detect fragrance molecules from the fermentation process in rotting fruit — a fragrance that signifies food for the fruit fly.

Other receptors react to the smell of phenol, which is released by the pathogenic bacteria in the excrement of predators. When the fruit fly identifies the smell of phenol, it avoids laying its eggs in the location, as it is a dangerous place for the larvae.

Mansourian made the discovery in connection with fieldwork in Africa. Her results show that fruit flies shun the excrement of lions but have no objections to laying their eggs in giraffe faeces.

In her thesis, she also describes the fruit fly’s humidity receptors, located behind the antennae. These receptors function like a sixth sense for the fruit fly, helping it to find environments where it can avoid dehydration. These humidity receptors enable the fruit fly to find its way into kitchens, for example, where the humidity in the air is usually relatively high, around 70 per cent.

Although the fruit fly is a generalist and manages to survive well in widely diverse environments, Suzan Mansourian reveals that it thrives best of all in the vicinity of overripe marula fruits, which are plentiful for parts of the year in the whole of southern Africa. Her conclusion is that marula is the original host plant of the fruit fly.

The findings in the thesis increase knowledge of the fruit fly’s senses of smell and humidity, as well as their underlying mechanisms.

“These results could lead to new approaches and strategies in combating mosquitoes and insect pests”, says Suzan Mansourian.

Repeated exposure to large quantities of alcohol may lead to tolerance by reducing the activity of a protein that regulates communication between neurons, according to a study of fruit flies published in eNeuro: here.

Buffalo saves lizard from lion

This video from South Africa says about itself:

Buffalo Launches Lion into Air to Save Lizard

29 May 2018

Have you ever seen a lion being thrown into the air by a buffalo, do 3 flips and then land on its feet? Now you have.

Business System Manager, Sune Eloff (32), was out for a drive on the H4-1, just west of Lower Sabie, in the Kruger National Park, when she came upon an almost funny interaction between a buffalo and a young lion who was trying to catch a monitor lizard. Interesting events soon started to unfold…

Sune tells “We spent some time at Sunset dam watching impala coming down for a drink. We decided to move on and saw some lions sleeping in the riverbed. They were so calm and peaceful and then suddenly we saw all of them get up and move into the reeds. At this point I took out my camera as they were watching something that we could not see. Suddenly a young lion came out of the reeds with a water monitor lizard that he had just caught. This is when the entire scene started to unfold…

Some buffalo in the vicinity had noticed that the lion had captured a lizard and one of them came storming in as if he knew this lizard needed protecting. To our absolute astonishment, the buffalo proceeded to get his head right under the puzzled lion and somersault him through the air.

It was crazy! I had mixed feelings… the excitement of everything happening was overwhelming. I felt bad for the young lion, but luckily he had enough brains to know that he needed to get out of there, and fast, so off he ran. The three dagga boys (male buffaloes) still charged into the reeds every now and again but the lions scampered off.

I have never seen anything like this in my life and I’ve been a Kruger visitor since the age of 2, definitely a first for me!”

Lions near Kenya’s capital

This 2016 video from Kenya is called A Free Walk Day For The Lions In Nairobi.

From Leiden University in the Netherlands:

Lions in the queue for food

25 May 2018

The number of lions in Kenya is decreasing alarmingly, due partly to the encroaching cities and the development of the countryside. Together with local scientists and inhabitants, Leiden biologists are studying how this decline can be halted. ‘Lions are cleverer than we thought.’

Inhabitants of the suburbs of Nairobi often get the shock of their lives: every year between the streams of cars a huge lion will make its appearance. And, given the resulting commotion, these 3200-kilo

Very doubtful. Wikipedia estimates male lions are 150-250 kilo.

lions find themselves hemmed in by the cars. In Kenya’s capital Nairobi, this is a more frequent occurrence than it may seem, Leiden Professor of Environmental Biology Hans de Iongh, who also has an appointment in Antwerp, explains. With its rapidly increasing population, the capital city is spreading out towards the borders of Nairobi National Park; at just 117 sq.m.,

117.21 square kilometres (28,963 acres), according to Wikipedia.

the par[k] is relatively small. As a comparison, the Veluwe Park in the Netherlands is around 1,000 sq.m.

The partly enclosed Kenyan park is open on the south side so that the wild animals, such as zebras and giraffes are not completely restricted in their search for food. But the same also applies to the 35 to 40 adult lions that regularly go hunting outside the park – with all the consequences this entails. Last year park rangers shot an aggressive lion dead outside the park because it was fighting with another lion, and causing some concern. Neighbouring cattle farmers sometimes kill lions if they attack their cattle or sheep. And the lions in the traffic? They often return to the park of their own accord, but there are also occasions when they have to be anaesthetised before they can be removed, or they are even killed.

Restricting lions’ freedom

The Kenyan lion population has declined alarmingly over the past twenty years: from around 2,700 lions at the turn of the century that number now stands at around 2,000. The Kenya Wildlife Service is applying compensation measures and issuing advice to the local population to stop the lions running completely free. This Kenyan government organisation has also called on the help of Leiden researchers. PhD candidates and students have been conducting research here for over ten years, supervised by Professors of Environmental Biology Geert de Snoo and Hans de Iongh. De Iongh works at the Institute of Environmental Sciences, part of Leiden’s Faculty of Science, and De Snoo is dean of the same faculty. The researchers are studying the behaviour of the lions and whether their feeding patterns are changing under the influence of climate change.

One of the Leiden PhD candidates is Kenyan Francis Lesilau, Head of Security at Nairobi National Park. He is researching how farmers can protect their animals against lions, and conversely, how lions can be protected against people. The conflicts between humans and lions are unfortunately increasing, Lesilau explains by phone from Nairobi. Beside population growth, climate change also plays a role: the increasing drought is drawing the animals further away in their search for food, which means that animals of prey, like lions, have to travel many kilometres. ‘For them, the bomas, the enclosures where the cattle are kept overnight, are rather like attractive shopping centres where they can do some food shopping’, De Iongh explains. Lesilau understands the fear and anger of the cattle farmers. ‘The cattle are their only asset as well as their food.’ But he also wants to protect the lions so that they don’t become extinct in the region.

As Head of Security, Lesilau patrols Nairobi National Park almost every day. By chance, he often witnesses interesting incidents. He has twice seen a lioness pull a tranquiliser dart out of her rear paw.

Disco lights

Lesilau’s PhD research further builds on an inventive discovery dating from 2013 by the then 13-year-old cattle hand Richard Turere. As the son of a Masai cattle farmer, it was his job to protect the family’s cattle. After a lion had forced its way into the enclosure and killed a cow, Richard devised a deterrent system made up of flashing lights on the boma. It worked extremely well; the lions no longer ventured onto their land. De Iongh: ‘They’re a bit like disco lights placed at different intervals along the fence that flash intermittently, which makes the lions think that the cattle are being guarded by a number of people with lanterns.’ Richard’s clever invention was so successful, other cattle farmers also installed flashing lights.

Over the past three years Lesilau has been studying whether this deterrent really does work as well as it seems. He tracks the trail of lions using a transmitter in a collar around the lion’s neck. Via a satellite connection he can see where the lions have been, whether using his smartphone while driving around the park, or at his computer in Leiden. (It’s not yet possible to do this in real time, but with a delay of three hours). Over the past three years, he has monitored 80 cattle farmers in the region, 43 of whom were using the flashing lights. His study showed that those bomas with flashing lights were hardly ever attacked. The lions travelled further away from the borders of the park and went ‘shopping’ at enclosures without the lights. Lesilau: ‘This is an important discovery. Lions are able to adapt their behaviour if the environment changes. This means they are cleverer than we thought. They do sometimes attack cattle in the bomas in daylight hours. Fewer cows or sheep fall victim because the cattle are much more spread out in the daytime.’

Doesn’t this different form of predatory behaviour mean a greater danger for humans? Not necessarily, according to the two researchers. De Iongh: ‘Obviously, lions can be very dangerous, but in this area they seldom attack people. In principle, they don’t eat humans; they prefer wild animals or livestock.’ Lesilau does advocate a better system of enclosures for the park on the city side. A few years ago a man was injured when a lion attacked him in a suburb of Nairobi. This was mainly the result of human provocation, he explained. ‘More research is needed on the long-term effects and what the consequences are if the flashing lights are installed over a wider area.’

The research is having an effect elsewhere in Kenya. Four other national parks are going to be working with Leiden researchers, examining such issues as biodiversity. As well as a Dutch PhD candidate, two new Kenyan PhD candidates have been recruited and eight Dutch and Belgian students will be taking part in the research. The Kenyan researchers will also make frequent visits to Leiden to follow courses and share knowledge. ‘It is quite remarkable that a country that doesn’t have any lions is willing to help us’, Lesilau commented. ‘It’s really useful having scientists work together when there is a lack of knowledge in the local environment.’

Francis Lesilau says that in one sense his career is thanks to a lion. When he was 11 he had to protect his family’s last two camels. One day, a lion suddenly appeared and bit one of the camels in the neck. For a moment, Lesilau stood helpless, eye to eye with the lion. ‘I will never forget the piercing yellow eyes of that lion.’ The lion stared at him intensely, dropped the camel and trailed off. The camel did not survive. Lesilau’s father then decided to quit keeping camels, and Francis was able to go to school. After secondary school, he studied Sustainable Management at Leicester University in England. Afterwards, he became a ranger before becoming Security Manager at Kenya Wildlife Service, where he met Hans de Iongh. This is where their collaboration started.

African porcupine outwits seven lions

This video from Kruger National Park South Africa says about itself:

10 April 2018

If I told you 7 male lions were after prey, you’d think that the prey is long gone… This porcupine definitely has luck and experience on its side to be able to teach 7 male lions a lesson!

Hennie Bekker (36), Director at Private Kruger Safaris, caught this action on camera. He told “We headed out in a South Easterly direction from Lower Sabie and at first there was only general game. We spotted a jackal hanging around close to the vehicle and then suddenly heard a rattling sound. We looked around to see where the sound was coming from and noticed 7 young lions trying to corner a porcupine.

I was very eager to see what was going on as I have spent a lot of time in the Kruger Park and rarely ever encountered a porcupine, so to see the lions interacting with the porcupine was definitely exciting. It was astounding to see how all these lions were unable to get the upper hand on the porcupine, as the porcupine cleverly kept his back towards them at all times. After a few good minutes, the lions gave up as they realised they were not getting anywhere and the game was over! The lions then moved on to drink water and walked off into the darkness and the porcupine lived to see another amazing day in Kruger”.

Kenyan mongoose escapes from lions

This 13 March 2018 video says about itself:

Mahendra Jain captured this beautiful moment of fun and games in Kenya and told how it all played out: “It was a stunning drive. We were ready to go out and do some game viewing, I was admiring the splendor of the vast landscape surrounding me.”

“I happened to notice that there was a pride of very young lion cubs hanging around a bushy mound and wondered what they were up to…” “Seconds later, shrill screams could be heard filling the air and I could see that one of the cubs had managed to capture a mongoose.”

“The mongoose was most distraught and decided to put up the fight of its life. This little one was determined not to become anyone’s dinner, never mind chew-toy. Whilst warding off its enemy, the mongoose managed to get his lucky break and ran over to another mound giving himself an opportunity to half fly into one of the burrow openings.”

“It was very funny to watch as the cubs were most perplexed as to where their newfound toy had just disappeared off to. I can only imagine their disappointment of having a game ended before it ever really began.”

Mongeese are commonly known to be vicious fighters and extremely fast. They have no fear in standing up to any potential danger, no matter what the size. Many a hyena, leopard, lion or even snakes have been sent fleeing from the sight when they try and take on this little beast. Mongeese are incredibly clever animals, hence why their crazy David vs Goliath tactics always seem to put them in the winning seat. Dynamite, most definitely, does come in small packages here.