A recent video featuring Florence, a West African lioness affectionately named “Flo”, and her trio of cubs within Senegal’s Niokolo-Koba National Park (NKNP) has sparked a ray of hope in the hearts of conservationists. West African lions, marked by their unique size and genetics, have been teetering on the brink of extinction and are critically endangered.
Florence holds a special and revered status within the conservation community. She made history as the first lion in Senegal to be equipped with a tracking collar, a collaborative effort between Panthera, a leading organization dedicated to wild cat conservation, and Senegal’s Department of National Parks (DPN). At the age of ten, she serves as the matriarch of NKNP and has played a pivotal role in bolstering the lion population within the park.
When her GPS collar encountered a malfunction, concerns mounted regarding her safety, considering the lurking threats posed by poachers and natural predators. Conservationists took swift action to locate her, deploying camera traps near her last known position.
Their joy and relief knew no bounds when the cameras unveiled the heartwarming revelation that Flo was not only alive but had also assumed the role of a nurturing mother to three lively cubs within the sanctuary of the dense forest. Remarkably, she is believed to have given birth to approximately nine cubs in total, a milestone that includes the birth of the park’s first male lion offspring.
This uplifting discovery has rekindled the flame of hope for the conservation of West African lions, whose population in the wild hovers between a mere 120 to 374 individuals. Reflecting on the monumental significance of this moment, Philipp Henschel from Panthera remarked: “Florence is likely to be celebrated as the driving force behind the resurgence of West African lions in one of their last remaining strongholds”.