Houston Zoo staff are currently in Mozambique assisting our partners at the Niassa Lion Project (NLP) with their annual Lion Fun Days. This blog was written by Renee Bumpus, our Conservation Programs Manager. Read on to find out more about their experiences!
 

Niassa Lion Project and Houston Zoo staff in Mozambique.

Ultimately, local villages in the Niassa Reserve in Mozambique will decide the fate of wildlife here.   There is a lot of poverty in these villages and there was a time when wildlife seemed to work against them.  We must remember lions and elephants have been the cause of many deaths in these villages in the past.  The villages need to be reminded of the benefits of wildlife and that is what the Niassa Lion Project works tirelessly to do.

 
Lion Fun Days is held in Mbamba village, it is located in the Niassa Reserve with a population of around 2,000 people.  The purpose of Lion Fun Days are for the whole village to experience a couple of days of fun with the understanding that it is made possible by wildlife.
 
We drove to the village early in the morning, I sat in the back of the land rover with all of the staff. On the way I could sense the pride and excitement from the staff.  We sang ( I don’t speak the language, so I hummed along) and danced along the way.  As we entered the village we played the national song on the loud speaker attached to the land rover.  We all danced and clapped and people began to spill out.  Children ran after the truck in delight.  We stopped at the center of the village and continued to dance as we began the setup for the event.

Pin the tail on the lion

The NLP hires 70 local staff and many of them come from Mbamba. The staff run the event, and remind the village that the joy they feel from this event only comes from the wildlife.  The NLP staff are very proud of their positions.  They have become heroes in the village and are an example of how one can become successful without poaching.  Poaching is a very tempting activity in a village with such poverty.  It is a quick way to make a lot of money. NLP is offering a stable alternative.
 
It is impossible to measure the entire scope of success from this event, but having a time where everyone can forget the tensions of wildlife conflict and have fun together is of immeasurable level for both parties.  Last year a radio collar from a lion was turned in the day after and valuable data was retrieved from it.  The lion may or may not have been poached but regardless the event created enough of a sense of collaboration that the village felt like they could come forward with it .This year a declaration that the village will not allow poaching was signed on the last day after the event.  Both of these are significant positive contributions to conservation as a result of Lion Fun Days.
 
More to come from our staff working with our conservation partners in Mozambique!

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