A Day in the Life of a Lion Tracker

By Mouhamadou Mody Ndiaye
Technical Assistant, Panthera Senegal

Lion in Senegal

In this blog, learn from Panthera Senegal lion tracker Mouhamadou Mody Ndiaye about a day in his daily life. Find out what it takes to work to protect Senegal’s Critically Endangered lions as you walk through the brush with him. 

My eyes scan the brush, searching for the elusive manes and paws of the largest felid in West Africa. Finally, a shaggy brown coat comes into view. Click! I take a photograph — one critical to helping the lions of this landscape.

Lion 3

Niokolo-Koba National Park in Senegal harbors one of the only four known West African lion populations, the northernmost lion population on the continent. These lions face the dual threat of habitat loss and illegal wildlife hunting. In order to better understand this Critically Endangered subpopulation, Panthera recently GPS collared six lions, along with Senegal’s Department of National Parks. Our goal is to learn more about their livelihoods and population structure, which will greatly aid our conservation efforts. To do this, we need people on the ground monitoring these lions. So, every month, I follow the lions. 

I start the day by checking the collared lions’ GPS points on my phone (which I have to hold in the air with a long wooden pole to get enough height for an adequate signal). Then, I put these into my GPS device and go off in my truck to try to find the lions, standing on the roof of the truck with a VHF antenna scanning for the beeps that reveal when a collared lion is close. Finally, I hear the beep! There’s that mane I’ve been waiting to see. I get a visual on a lion and photograph them, focusing especially on their unique whisker patterns, which will be used for identification. I record the group composition — males, females and young — then later head to investigate GPS clusters (a number of GPS positions which are close to one another, indicating that the lion stayed in one spot for some time).

Lion 2

A ranger and I then hike many miles through the bush to get to these GPS clusters. Once there, we search around through the grass for forensic evidence of a kill. I look for evidence — hair, bone fragments, dried blood — and from these, we decipher the story of the lion’s meal.

Lion 1

After a long, hot day of collecting data, my companion and I head back to the closest ranger camp. I get cleaned up and eat a big dinner with the rangers, telling them all about what the lions were up to. I go to bed, looking forward to another day of lion tracking. Before drifting off to sleep, I hope that, some day soon, the density, population structure and the food habits of the different lion prides in Niokolo-Koba will be better understood.

Learn more about lions.