Lonely Planet Writer

Lions have been reintroduced to Liwonde National Park in Malawi after a four-year absence

The first of several wild lions have been reintroduced to Liwonde National Park in Malawi, four years after the last lion was seen there.

A lion is released to Liwonde National Park in Malawi. Image: Sean Viljoen

Two mature males were released into secure enclosures after being safely translocated from Majete Wildlife Reserve, which is 200km away, and two lionesses will be translocated from South Africa this month. They will remain in the enclosures for several weeks to allow close monitoring of their well-being, adjustment and bonding, before they are all released in to the wider park.

A tranquillised lion is moved by truck to Liwonde National Park in Malawi. Image: Sean Viljoen

“The reintroduction of lions is fundamentally enriching for Liwonde,” says Craig Reid, park manager of African Parks’ Liwonde. “It restores a key species that is critical to the healthy functioning of the natural system, contributes to the establishment of an important local predator population, and will significantly benefit tourism as a mechanism for socioeconomic growth.”

Monitoring a tranquillised lion being moved to Liwonde National Park in Malawi. Image: Sean Viljoen

This translocation is a tribute to Majete’s extraordinary restoration. It’s pride was entirely poached out decades ago, but since the reintroduction of lions there in 2012, the population has grown to the extent that it can assist in repopulating Liwonde. African Parks will further supplement the populations in both parks over the coming months, with the translocation of up to 12 additional lions from South Africa.

A tranquillised lion is moved to Liwonde National Park in Malawi. Image: Sean Viljoen

The translocation is being carried out by African Parks in partnership with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, with support from the Dutch Government and the Lion Recovery Fund. It is considered to be an important milestone for lion conservation in Malawi, where populations of the vulnerable species are being revitalised as part of an effort to restore the country’s parks, rehabilitate wildlife populations and encourage tourism for the benefit of local communities.