Male lion filmed roaming in West African nation of Gabon for first time in 20 years

Wildlife experts believe the lion is looking for a mate

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A lion has been spotted in the West African nation of Gabon for the first time in 20 years.

Experts believe the lion travelled up to 250 kilometres from the Democratic Republic of Congo, most likely in search of a mate.

Footage released by the wildlife conservation organisation Panthera shows a male lion wandering along an elephant path in the Gabonese region of the Batéké Plateau. Gabon is a state where the animal had been declared “locally extinct” and lions have not roamed there in large numbers since the 1950s.

Dr. Phillip Henschel, a study coordinator for the Panthera Lion Program, conducted lion surveys in Gabon between 2001 and 2003 that found there had been so much poaching in the Bateke Plateau that there was “almost nothing left”. Camera traps in the area filmed more footage of poachers than wildlife. Mr Henschel said a lion leaving its native area is not unusual - but travelling such a distance is.

"This lion must have walked through quite densely-settled areas, and I'm pretty sure he knows that humans are dangerous, so he would have tried to avoid them at all costs," he told CNN.

"A male lion would usually be pushed out of his pride by the adults and disperse to a different area to get stronger, build up confidence and challenge a resident male and takeover his pride.

"That he left his native area is normal, we would expect that. But we wouldn't expect his to travel such long distances."

The footage was recorded as part of a chimpanzee study in the Batéké Plateau National Park by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology's Pan African Programme.

More footage discovered from camera trap videos last week revealed the lion had entered the national park in November last year – suggesting it had made a home for itself.

The team are now trying to determine if the male lion is solitary or if it is part of a new breeding lion population in Gabon that has not yet been caught on camera.