Realistic and responsible conservation involves some difficult choices, and when we negotiated the permit to protect lions on Limpopo-Lipadi Game Reserve, the permit included the tacit agreement that breeding by females would be slowed as much as humanly possible. In November 2018 we completed a hemi-spay on the adult lioness – which involves removing one of the two ovaries. The operation was a complete success and she is still looking very healthy and happy. This operation means that the other arm of the uterus is still viable and that she can only have 1-2 cubs at a time, instead of up to 4.
All female lions on Limpopo-Lipadi will have to undergo this operation, which will allow Limpopo-Lipadi to limit their lion population growth. Botswana is home to plenty of lions, with around about 10% of the remaining wild lion population of Africa, and responsible management techniques like this are a good way to show the local community that dangerous predators that can threaten their livestock can be kept under control, and accepted.
Lions do not need breeding programs to help their population (they breed very fast) – they need space, space to live and be accepted, and Limpopo-Lipadi is proud to count themselves amongst a very tiny proportion of private African land where lions can roam freely. If we can show ourselves to be responsible, and be a working model for conservation on private land, we hope that this model can spread.