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Project information

Saving Ethiopia's Unique Lion Heritage

This is a plan to protect Ethiopia's unique lion heritage, a culturally important and highly endangered species. The Ethiopian lion is very likely to be an as yet unidentified and highly important sub-species of lion and at the present time has probably less than five years before extinction.

Initially two years

Charity information: LionAid

LionAid logo
  • Need


    Ethiopia’s highly endangered lion populations are likely composed of individuals with unique genetic profiles. Relatively little international conservation attention and funding has been afforded to Ethiopia. LionAid was requested by prominent Ethiopian partners to engage in a scientifically verifiable lion population count in a number of protected areas as an initial data-provision necessity for the Ethiopian Government to evaluate ways forward for informed lion conservation programmes.


    This project initially is composed of four sections which would ideally run simultaneously over a two-year period.
    1) New database to establish scientific lion population counts.
    2) Formation of a dedicated biological sample storage facility to allow analysis of genetic diversity and disease threats.
    3) New database from recovered data to identify past human/lion conflict levels.
    4) New database to assess the risks and trends of illegal trade in lions.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    A scientifically verifiable lion population count in a number of protected areas


    » Lion population count in a number of protected areas, together with informal observations, as an initial data-provision
    » To provide this data to the Ethiopian Government to enable them to evaluate ways forward for informed lion conservation programmes.

    What success will look like

    By establishing and publishing the first scientifically verifiable lion population count in Ethiopia.

    Aim 2

    A dedicated biological sample storage facility


    » A comprehensive conservation programme is urgently needed, and would involve wildlife authorities and universities in Ethiopia
    » A central sample storage facility will be established to allow national and international organisations to access data from a diversity of species
    » To use the data gathered to establish the as yet unidentified sub –species of Ethiopian lion.

    What success will look like

    The cryopreservation facility will allow determination of the geographic range of the new lion subspecies in Ethiopia.

    Aim 3

    Identify past human/lion conflict levels.


    » Considerable information needs to be gathered about the actual risk factors. Such data can be gathered from national and provincial data in Ethiopia
    » Create accessible database rather than what is now no more than handwritten records.
    » Risk factors need to be enumerated and specific risk aversion programmes put in place.

    What success will look like

    Transcription of all currently handwritten records into a readily accessible system of digital files. Definition of hotspot HWC areas and recommendations to reduce conflict.

    Aim 4

    Assess the risks and trends of illegal trade in lions.


    » Establish the scale of the illegal trade of large cats like lions and cheetahs to the Middle East.
    » Establish the methods used, and perhaps even identification of the players.
    » With appropriate information, Ethiopia could revisit the outdated lax penalties applying to illegal wildlife traders.
    » Ethiopia has been listed by CITES as mainly a transit country in the illegal trade. Establish the accuracy of this claim and work towards a solution.

    What success will look like

    A decline in the number of arrests and interceptions of live animals by using Ethiopian police and customs records as is universally accepted by organisations like TRAFFIC

  • Impact


    The project lays the foundations for a new conservation strategy to allow the future survival of lions in Ethiopia. Additionally it will focus the attention of the international community to further recognise the unique nature of Ethiopia's wildlife and encourage further development investment in ensuring better conservation priorities.
    Demonstrated by specific legislation to enhance the survival of Ethiopia's lions and greater tourism investment potential.


    Ethiopia is currently threatened once again by drought. These droughts have historically affected rate of poaching of wildlife populations in protected areas. Ethiopia is bordered to the West by South Sudan, a nation currently experiencing civil war. To the East, Somalia is a failed State.
    Therefore the initial focus of the project should be on lion populations in central and northern areas, less affected by drought and neighbouring State instability.


    Reports will consist of regular communications of progress by way of newsletters and eventual scientific publications. Reports will also be sent to development departments of western Governments to encourage and leverage participation following this pilot project.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £455,000

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £260,000 Lion population count Establish a scientifically verifiable lion population count in a number of areas
      £65,000 Sample storage facility Establishment of a dedicated biological sample storage facility
      £65,000 Human/lion conflict database Establishment of a database to record human/lion conflict levels
      £65,000 Illegal trade database Establishment of a database to assess the risks and trends of the illegal trade in lions
  • Background


    The project will be located in northern and central areas of Ethiopia, in partnership with the Ethiopian Wildlife Department, Provincial Governments and a prominent Ethiopian wildlife conservation NGO. The United Nations lists Ethiopia as a developing economy with a low gross national income and also as a least developed country with a significant foreign debt. It also is home to a unique culture, fauna and flora and currently has an outstanding but vastly underutilised unique natural beauty.


    The Ethiopian Government is currently dealing with a underinvestment of their considerable tourist potential despite the unique nature to be found in this country.
    This project will alert development agencies to focus more intensively on wildlife conservation in Ethiopia.
    Beneficiaries will include Ethiopia National Parks, community conservancies and renewed interest in studying wildlife conservation at University faculties. Tourism potential provides tens of thousands of jobs for local people

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    LionAid was requested by prominent Ethiopian partners and members of the Wildlife Authority to engage in this project. This follows on from the LionAid African lion conservation conference held in Johannesburg where Ethiopia was a significant partner.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Dr Pieter Kat

    Project leader based on over 20 years wildlife conservation and research experience on carnivores in Africa. PhD in genetics and ecology.

    Christine Macsween FCMA

    Business administration project leader. Fellow of Institute of Chartered Management Accountants. 20 years business experience and founder of LionAid

    Carlo Tortora Brayda

    CEO Gorilla Corp.,Founder of Alchemy World NGO. Prominent Ethiopian living in the USA. Coordinator of all Ethiopian Govt contacts and active partner

    H/H Joel Makonnen

    Corporate attorney and member of the Ethiopian Royal family. Legal counsellor and active partner in the project.