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Lions Rediscovered in Remote Ethiopian Park

Dozens of African lions have been newly surveyed in Ethiopia and Sudan.

A newly discovered population of African lions has been found at a remote national park in Ethiopia, according to a press release jointly issued by the organization Born Free USA and the Born Free Foundation.

The discovery of up to 54 lions at Ethiopia's Alatash National Park (also sometimes spelled Alatish) coincides with the 50th anniversary of the movie "Born Free," which featured the real-life rescue of an orphaned lion cub in Kenya.

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"The confirmation that lions persist in this area is exciting news," said Adam Roberts, CEO of the organization and foundation. "With lion numbers in steep decline across most of the African continent, the discovery of previously unconfirmed populations is hugely important - especially in Ethiopia, whose government is a significant conservation ally."

He continued, "We need to do all we can to protect these animals and the ecosystem on which they depend, along with all the other remaining lions across Africa, so we can reverse the declines and secure their future."

Camera trap images as well as lion tracks provided the evidence that dozens of lions are in Alatash, located in northwest Ethiopia on the Ethiopia-Sudan border. The researchers also believe that the lions are likely in Sudan's Dinder National Park, which runs adjacent to Alatash.

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Anecdotal evidence previously suggested the lion's presence, yet until the recent survey, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) only considered Alatash a "possible range" for the species. The IUCN lists African lions as being "vulnerable" on the organization's Red List of Endangered Species.

African lion populations have been declining throughout most of their range over recent decades. Total numbers have plummeted up to 75 percent since 1980, so the new discovery is reason for hope that these big cats, which now only occupy 8 percent of their historic range across the continent, can make a comeback with strong conservation measures.

"Lions were thought to be locally extinct in Sudan, so the new findings are encouraging," Roberts said. "Now that the expedition is complete, the next step is to communicate with the governments of Ethiopia and Sudan and look at the needs for conservation in the area so that this previously undiscovered lion stronghold can be protected."

Roberts and his colleagues also have announced a Year of the Lion initiative to further support protection of African lions.

The full report documenting the recent finds is available online.

A camera trap image shows a lion at Alatash National Park in Ethiopia.

This week the world learned of the needless killing of a lion dubbed Cecil who lived, protected, in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park until he was lured by hunters off the park grounds. In his honor, we take a look at some of the other creatures inhabiting Cecil's former home turf, using the latest available census data (fall 2013) from the park.

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As of September 2013, the Hwange site had counted just 11 leopards -- three female and 11 unclassified. Here one looks on from the side of a park road. It looks like it's been busy.

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Hippos dot the park, to the tune of 118 total, including 8 juveniles. Definitively four males and 12 females were counted.

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These zebras would probably not be sad about Cecil's absence. The Hwange National Park census showed 1,828 of them on the site's grounds.

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At 202 total, giraffes are in shorter supply in the park than, say, the zebras.

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Here's something that would be much harder to see in the park than even a giraffe. The Hwange 2013 census showed just seven cheetahs on its grounds. Sadly, their populations are declining rapidly in all of their habitats.

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You'd probably have a decent chance of seeing a baboon on a visit to Hwange National Park, though. There were 2,757 of them at last count.

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The park's population of trunked, lumbering giants stood at 20,373 elephants. More than 10 percent were juveniles, and some 5,600 were females (2,169 males and 9,139 unclassified rounded out the elephant count).

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More than 250 spotted hyenas roam the park, with only 4 males and five females definitively noted, as were six juveniles.

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This little Hwange Park resident is a banded mongoose, the most populous of the site's five mongoose species at 22.

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And finally ... of course, as we know, Hwange National Park has lions -- 112 total, at the late-2013 census. Among those were, definitively, 41 males and 40 females. Here one of those lionesses shields her eyes from the high sun. Or perhaps she is remembering poor Cecil.

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