Paul Steyn reports How the world’s largest lion relocation was pulled off:
When he [Jorge Thozo, chief of the Thozo community] was a child, numerous prides of lions roamed the game-rich wetlands of the Zambezi Delta. But their numbers were decimated when their prey was overhunted during the drawn-out Mozambican civil wars, which raged from 1977 to 1992. Across Africa, a similar decline is occurring, with wild lion numbers dropping 42 percent in the last two decades, mostly as a result of habitat loss.
In 2018, conservationists, landowners, donors, and the Mozambican government came up with an ambitious plan to add some two million acres to African lions’ range. They identified 24 healthy lions from reserves in South Africa and planned to relocate them to central Mozambique—the largest lion reintroduction ever attempted.
The lions’ proposed new home was the Marromeu Game Reserve—Chief Thozo’s backyard—where the local community subsists in the thick forests that fringe the Zambezi Delta floodplains.
With all the permits signed, partners on board, and the lions ready to go, all pieces were in place to make the ambitious project happen.
“You get so inspired when you do something that really matters,” he [Thozo] says. “I hope that one day this place will be a stronghold for the wild African lion. I hope they will be here long after I am gone.”