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."
Animals in decline
Animals in decline
1/8 Harbour seal (Phoca vitulina)
Where: Orkney Islands. What: Between 2001-2006, numbers in Orkney declined by 40 per cent. Why: epidemics of the phocine distemper virus are thought to have caused major declines, but the killing of seals in the Moray Firth to protect salmon farms may have an impact.
2/8 African lion (Panthera leo)
Where: Ghana. What: In Ghana’s Mole National Park, lion numbers have declined by more than 90 per cent in 40 years. Why: local conflicts are thought to have contributed to the slaughter of lions and are a worrying example of the status of the animal in Western and Central Africa.
3/8 Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)
Where: Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Costa Rica. What: Numbers are down in both the Atlantic and Pacific. It declined by 95 per cent between 1989-2002 in Costa Rica. Why: mainly due to them being caught as bycatch, but they’ve also been affected by local developments.
4/8 Wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans)
Where: South Atlantic. What: A rapid decline. One population, from Bird Island, South Georgia, declined by 50 per cent between 1972-2010, according to the British Antarctic Survey. Why: being caught in various commercial longline fisheries.
5/8 Saiga Antelope (Saiga tatarica)
Where: Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan. What: fall in populations has been dramatic. In the early 1990s numbers were over a million, but are now estimated to be around 50,000. Why: the break up of the former USSR led to uncontrolled hunting. Increased rural poverty means the species is hunted for its meat
6/8 Swordfish (Xiphias gladius)
Where: found worldwide in tropical, subtropical and temperate seas. Why: at risk from overfishing and as a target in recreational fishing. A significant number of swordfish are also caught by illegal driftnet fisheries in the Mediterranean
7/8 Argali Sheep (Ovis mammon)
Where: Central and Southern Asian mountains,usually at 3,000-5,000 metres altitude. Why: domesticated herds of sheep competing for grazing grounds. Over-hunting and poaching.
8/8 Humphead Wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus)
Where: the Indo-Pacific, from the Red Sea to South Africa and to the Tuamoto Islands (Polynesia), north to the Ryukyu Islands (south-west Japan), and south to New Caledonia. Why: Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing and trading of the species
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.