After a two-decade absence, at least one lion has returned to Chad’s Sena Oura National Park.
An image of a “muscular female lion” in the park was captured by a remote camera in February, according to a news release from the Wildlife Conservation Society, which released the image on Thursday in collaboration with the government of Chad.
Lions haven’t been spotted in the park for almost 20 years, says the news release. The conservationists who released the image described the big cat as “a beautiful lioness, in her prime and clearly in great health” in the release.
Lions are considered extinct in Sena Oura, located near Chad’s border with Cameroon, by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
The border region between Chad and Cameroon “saw a period of ruthless, organized poaching more than a decade ago, but has since benefited from a very strong commitment to conservation by the governments of both Cameroon and Chad,” the Wildlife Conservation Society said in the news release.
“This has produced better protection of the national parks and wildlife populations are now starting to recover,” it added.
Lions are categorized as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, with between 23,000 and 39,000 of the big cats left in the wild. Their populations are especially “small and fragmented” in west and central Africa, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. Killing by humans, habitat loss, and the loss of their prey have all contributed to the population’s decline.