About the African Lion Working Group (ALWG)
The African Lion Working Group (ALWG) is an organisation that works for conservation of lions in Africa.
ALWG is working for lion conservation. Our main aim is to be a central point where all the world’s latest information about African lions is collated for access by members of the organisation. This includes research, scientific findings, discussions and other communications on the subject of conservation of lions in Africa.
The African Lion Working Group was founded in October 1999 by Sarel van der Merwe and a group of dedicated conservation experts. At that time, Sarel was the curator of the Mangaung Zoo in Bloemfontein, and head of Nature Conservation Services. He started realising that the numbers of the African Lion were drastically declining. The media published a growing number of global media reports on lion conservation. TV channels showed increasing documentaries on the subjects of lions and concern about their numbers. In addition, trophy hunting came under the spotlight, and was identified as an important factor in the decline of lion populations in Africa. Everything pointed to the same thing: The king of the African bush was in serious trouble.
The beginnings of ALWG
Sarel started asking questions and looking into avenues for lion conservation. He couldn’t find answers easily because no comparative, accurate statistics and information were available. Sarel’s search led him to the Cat Specialist Group, headed by Peter Jackson. Peter shared his concerns about lion conservation as well as the urgent need to look into the decline of Africa’s wild lions. Consequently, the two put their heads together to define the problem and find solutions.
The Cat Specialist Group took the concerns seriously. Peter advised that the issue should be on the agenda of an upcoming meeting of the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Natural Resources, (IUCN,)
As a result, the lion of sub-Saharan Africa became a discussion point for 3 days at the meeting in Bela-Bela.
During this meeting, the 15 attendees formed the Lion Working Group.
This organisation is now called the African Lion Working Group and grew from 5 members to over 100 members. These members are the world’s leading experts on predator and lion conservation. The basic aim of ALWG is to communicate while we share the latest research information between members.
The ALWG identifies the main challenges in conservation of lions in Africa:
- The natural habitat of lions is in decline due to larger human populations.
- The habitat of species lions prey on, is lost, hence the availability of food is affected.
- Lions are indiscriminately killed by livestock owners to retaliate for lost animals.
- It is difficult for humans and lions to coexist.
- Unsustainable trophy hunting is rife, while “canned lion” hunting practices is still a major problem.
- Another problem is the export market for lion body parts, such as bones and skins.
- Poaching and illegal killing is a huge problem.
ALWG is trying to find solutions by studying the latest research of experts from all over the world. In some cases, factors that relate to other predators are also applicable to African lions. The members meet and attend events like the Kasane Workshop of March 2016. Members share and discuss scientific theories, data and implementation plans about saving the African Lion. Discussions mainly focus on field implementation of lion conservation where there is uncertainty about the best solutions.
Other challenges include:
- There is always a need for general funding, and more specifically for population management research. ALWG is addressing this issue internationally by applying for relevant sponsorships, grants and financial programs.
- Inclusive and holistic approaches to lion conservation in Sub-Saharan Africa.
- Education about conservation.
Members of the ALWG are currently involved in:
- Guiding postgraduate students, therefore aiding in education.
- Implementing and managing conservation strategies and programs.
- Effectively incorporating local communities .
The ALWG and our members act as a mouthpiece on recognised international conservation forums. Ultimately, the organisation also works as a forum where scientists can collaborate. We establish contact between conservationists and researchers in order to exchange information. Furthermore, ALWG takes note of the latest research results, projects and all other aspects concerning the conservation of Africa’s lion population.
The organisation is an important conservation mouthpiece to express scientifically based opinions on all conservation and associated matters. In conclusion, the main aim is ultimately to formulate national and international lion conservation strategies. We work today to save the African Lion for tomorrow.