Environmentalists who worry about Africa’s dwindling lion population can breathe a sigh of relief. An expedition led by the University of Oxford’s Conservation Research Unit recently discovered a hidden group of the big cats in a remote region of northwest Ethiopia, according to New Scientist.
With the help of traps set up to capture the animals on camera, conservationists were able to confirm anecdotal reports of the lions. The pride lives in the savannahs of Alatash National Park—which lies near Ethiopia’s border with Sudan. And their existence is a significant discovery for researchers. According to those involved, the find suggests that the vulnerable species might be more plentiful than they had previously thought.
“During my professional career I have had to revise the lion distribution map many times,” says Hans Bauer, who led the expedition. “I have deleted one population after the other. This is the first and probably the last time that I’m putting a new one up there.”
Alatash is closer to Sudan’s much-larger Dinder National Park and Bauer believes that the two areas might contain a collective number of 100 to 200 lions. This is a promising notion, considering that approximately 20,000 wild lions are left in Africa and populations continue to decline.
“The situation is fairly positive,” Bauer said. “I think the fact that the Ethiopian government recently made [Alatash] a national park is a giant leap forward. Now we have to support them in improving park management, but I think they’re taking it very seriously.”
[h/t New Scientist]