Image of the Day: Lion Cam
Image of the Day: Lion Cam

Image of the Day: Lion Cam

A wildlife camera trap survey of critically endangered West African lions finds they have no preference for parks over trophy-hunting areas, possibly because of poor habitat quality in the no-hunting zones.

Amy Schleunes
Amy Schleunes

A former intern at The Scientist, Amy studied neurobiology at Cornell University and later earned her MFA in creative writing from the University of Iowa. She is a Los...

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Apr 2, 2020

ABOVE: A female West African lion roams Park W-Burkina Faso, which is part of the 10,200-square-mile W-Arly-Pendjari Complex that spans Burkina Faso, Niger, and Benin.

Ecologist Nyeema Harris of the University of Michigan and colleagues deployed 238 motion-activated cameras across 5,000 square miles of national parks and hunting concessions in West Africa to track the habitat preferences of West African lions, which the IUCN Red List categorizes as a critically endangered subpopulation that is currently in decline. The lions showed no statistically significant preference between the parks and trophy-hunting areas, the authors report in a study published on March 30 in the Journal of Applied Ecology, despite the fact that more humans are present in the hunting areas. 

Because lions tend to avoid humans, the results indicate that lower habitat quality in the national parks, including limited access to water and prey, is to blame for the lack of preference, according to a press release. In contrast, proceeds from trophy hunting have funded irrigation systems and solar-powered pumps at watering holes in the hunting zones.

“We recommend prioritizing the reduction of habitat degradation in the parks and increasing water availability to increase suitable habitat for lions and their prey,” says coauthor Kirby Mills in the statement.

See “Streakers, Pooper, and Performers: The Wilder Side of Wildlife Cameras

Out of roughly 1.7 million images captured, lions triggered the cameras just 96 times, according to the statement.

A young male West African lion approaches a wildlife camera.
University of Michigan Applied Wildlife Ecology Lab

K.L. Mills et al., “Comparable space use by lions between hunting concessions and national parks in West Africa,” Journal of Applied Ecology, doi:10.1111/1365-2664.13601, 2020.