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Lost Population of Lions Discovered in East Africa: Good News for Conservation

First Posted: Feb 02, 2016 08:25 AM EST

A hidden population of lions has been discovered in East Africa. This is good news for the species, whose numbers have plunged in many parts of Africa in recent years.

The researchers made the confirmation after an expedition into the Alatash National Park in northwest Ethiopia, on the Ethiopia-Sudan border. This is when the researchers found original and unmistakable evidence of lions in the area, including pictures from camera traps and the discovery of lion tracks in the region.

"During my professional career I have had to revise the lion distribution map many times," said Hans Bauer, who led the expedition, in an interview with New Scientist. "I have deleted one population after the other. This is the first and probably the last time that I'm putting a new one up there."

Lions are currently in danger. In fact, Africa's lion population has declined from up to 500,000 early in the 1900s to less than 200,000 by the middle of the century down to as few as 20,000 in the wild today, according to the New York Times. This means that finding a new population of lions is good news, though conservation efforts for the species are still sorely needed.

"The confirmation that lions persist in this area is exciting news," said Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA and Born Free Foundation, in an interview with National Geographic. "Now that the expedition is complete, 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."

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