In Turning Point for Lion Conservation, Panthera and WildCRU Unite Lion Programs with Appointment of Dr. Andrew Loveridge as Panthera Lion Director

African Lion (Panthera leo) three month old cub playing with sleeping nine year old mother, Kafue National Park, Zambia
© Sebastian Kennerknecht

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One of world’s leading lion scientists, Loveridge will spearhead conservation alliance expanding organizations’ reach to 67% of lion range supporting 70% of Africa’s lions

New York, NY - Uniting two of the world’s preeminent lion programs, Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, has appointed Dr. Andrew Loveridge as Lion Program Director, a joint role with Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU). A turning point for lion conservation, the Panthera-WildCRU alliance spearheaded by Dr. Loveridge expands the organizations’ reach: together they have supported work in 12 countries, including landscapes which cover 67% of lion range and around 70% of Africa’s remaining 24,000 lions.

Panthera President and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Frederic Launay, stated, “With lion numbers declining across much of Africa, the need for interconnected and innovative conservation action between two of the world’s most dominant lion conservation players has never been greater. Bringing decades of on-the-ground experience, Andy maintains an exhaustive and real-world knowledge base of what it takes to truly save lions. We are thrilled to have him lead this strategic partnership – one that will undoubtedly strengthen collaboration and advance lion conservation across the continent.”

Born and raised in Zimbabwe, Loveridge has shared that a key priority will be to continue building conservation leadership and capacity across lion landscapes, with a focus on empowering and increasing the number of Africans working in wildlife protection.

WildCRU and Panthera Lion Program Director Dr. Andrew Loveridge stated, “WildCRU and Panthera share the belief that effective conservation requires a deep-seated understanding of the dynamics of each lion population, including ecological and socio-political factors, as well as developing close working relationships with governments, wildlife authorities, and local NGOs and communities. There is no shortcut to lion conservation: it can only be developed from long-term presence and partnership. By joining forces, WildCRU and Panthera will be able to foster a transformative shift in our ability to protect lions.”

WildCRU is a research unit within Oxford University’s Department of Biology – with a focus on wild carnivore research and threat mitigation – and the host of a distinguished early-career conservation training program. Dr. Loveridge has extensive experience in implementing large scale, outcome orientated conservation programs in southern Africa.

WildCRU’s Director, Professor Amy Dickman, said, “Wildlife is under threat today as never before, with even the world’s most iconic species, such as the lion, in increasing peril. Conservation needs to be far more collaborative and effective to meet this challenge, and we believe that this joint position will be a critical step in that direction. Panthera and WildCRU both have strong track records in conservation, but we have never had the capacity to properly align our programs for maximum collective gain. This shared position will allow us to do this for our lion program, using a wealth of practical and academic experience to develop and expand effective conservation strategies, for the benefit of both wildlife and people.”

Panthera and WildCRU have collaborated closely on research and conservation projects for twenty years, including developing the Recanati-Kaplan Centre Postgraduate Diploma in International Wildlife Conservation Practice, which has delivered academic and practical training to over 100 students from traditionally under-represented countries to date. This reinforced partnership will enable Loveridge to pool the vast knowledge gained by both organizations through their decades-long work across lion landscapes and to jointly design, manage and scale up initiatives to increase the reach and impact of conservation efforts.

Under Dr. Loveridge’s leadership, Panthera and WildCRU seek to develop programs which help reverse lion declines in sites with recovery potential; maintain populations’ genetic diversity; and protect and connect priority populations via comprehensive threat mitigation. Efforts include high-tech law enforcement and anti-poaching partnerships; community engagement; conservation education; behavior change campaigns; lion and prey monitoring; and meaningful local incentives for conservation.

The Panthera-WildCRU conservation sites are disproportionately significant for the future of African lions, including some of the world’s largest lion populations, such as those found in the Selous-Nyerere and Rungwa-Ruaha regions. They also include some of the largest connected transboundary landscapes, including the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) and the Kavango Zambezi TFCA (KAZA). Home to one in ten of Africa’s remaining lions, KAZA represents the largest terrestrial conservation landscape in the world spanning five countries and 36 protected areas in a region the size of France.

The lion program will build on recent successes that provide replicable models for recovering lion populations. In a remarkable comeback after enduring half a century of poaching, lion populations are likely rebounding in Zambia’s Kafue National Park thanks to four years of rigorous counter-poaching operations employing game-changing conservation technologies led by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife. In another victory highlighted through breathtaking footage, Panthera and Senegal’s Department of National Parks have helped Critically Endangered West African lions in Niokolo Koba National Park more than double since 2011.

WildCRU has an extensive history of lion conservation work in Africa with several sites (such as the Hwange and Ruaha ecosystems) where long term engagement with conservation authorities and local communities has substantially reduced threats to lions, and improved the conservation outlook for them as well as for other species.

Dr. Loveridge holds a Ph.D. in Zoology from Oxford University. His research on large carnivores has included lion population management, the impacts of trophy hunting, and human-wildlife conflict. Dr. Loveridge’s work has been published in more than 150 peer-reviewed articles. He is a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Cat Specialist Group and African Lion Group, and is also a contributor to the IUCN’s Panthera leo species conservation guidelines and Red List assessment.

In recent decades, wild lion populations in Africa have undergone catastrophic decreases due to poaching for the illegal wildlife trade, habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict. Approximately 24,000 lions remain today, while around 100,000 were estimated to roam Africa in the 1970s, a decline of 75% in the last five decades.

About Panthera
Panthera, founded in 2006, is devoted exclusively to preserving wild cats and their critical role in the world’s ecosystems. Panthera’s team of leading biologists, law enforcement experts and wild cat advocates develop innovative strategies based on the best available science to protect cheetahs, jaguars, leopards, lions, pumas, snow leopards, tigers and the 33 small cat species and their vast landscapes. In 39 countries around the world, Panthera works with a wide variety of stakeholders to reduce or eliminate the most pressing threats to wild cats—securing their future, and ours.

About WildCRU (Wildlife Conservation Research Unit)
Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), founded by Prof. David Macdonald in 1986, is now the foremost university-based center for biodiversity conservation. The mission of the WildCRU is to achieve practical solutions to conservation problems through original research. WildCRU is renowned for its specialisation in behavioural-ecology and conservation of wild carnivores, especially wild cats, for its long-running studies on lion and clouded leopard, and for its training centre, where early-career conservationists, so far from 32 countries, are trained by experts to become leaders in conservation, resulting in a global community of highly skilled and collaborative conservationists.