An expedition in Ethiopia just turned up a huge, hidden population of lions

Africa has new lions to be excited about
Africa has new lions to be excited about
Image: Reuters/Marko Djurica
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In the last 20 years, the lion population in Africa has declined by around 42% and recently there have been growing fears lions could be going extinct more rapidly than previously thought. But for the first time in months, there is some positive news about the fate of lions.

A conservationist group has discovered a previously unknown population of up to 200 lions in the Atalash National Park on Ethiopia’s border with Sudan. The expedition was led by Hans Bauer, a known lion conservationist and supported by Born Free Foundation, a D.C.-based charity. Evidence of the lions’ presence in the park was confirmed, for the first time ever, by camera trap photographs.

The expedition report (pdf) says the discovery of new lions in the Atalash National Park also raises the possibility of more undiscovered lions in Dinder National Park, a much larger park across the border in Sudan. Last month, researchers, also using camera traps, discovered the existence of a critically endangered species of elephant, the forest elephant, in South Sudan.

Having found the lions, the Foundation is now working to protect them from the threat of poaching. “The next step is to communicate with the governments of Ethiopia and Sudan and look at the needs for conservation in the area so that this previously undiscovered lion stronghold can be protected.” Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free Foundation, has said. Trophy hunting has become a global topic after the killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe last year by an American dentist.

In response, American authorities classified lions as an endangered species, making it extremely difficult to import lion trophies into the United States. France followed suit as it banned the import of lion trophies.