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Where lions roam: West African big cats show no preference between national parks, hunting zones


West African lions are a critically endangered subpopulation, with an estimated 400 remaining and strong evidence of ongoing declines.

About 90% of these lions live in West Africa’s largest protected area complex, the W-Arly-Pendjari. The WAP Complex includes five national parks and 14 hunting concessions across roughly 10,200 square miles in Burkina Faso, Niger and Benin.

Given that wildlife protection is one of the main purposes of a national park, you might expect West African lions to favor life inside park boundaries, rather than within the privately managed hunting concessions that surround the parks. After all, lions tend to shun people, and human pressures are higher in hunting areas than in the parks.

But a new University of Michigan-led camera survey of West African lions—believed to be the largest wildlife camera survey ever undertaken in West Africa and the first carried out within WAP Complex national parks and hunting concessions—found that West African lions show no statistically significant preference between the parks and trophy-hunting areas. MORE

Header image: A young male West African lion photographed in a WAP Complex hunting concession during the University of Michigan wildlife camera survey. The study — West Africa’s largest wildlife camera survey — found that lions showed no clear preference between WAP Complex national parks and hunting concessions. Credit: University of Michigan Applied Wildlife Ecology Lab.

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