In 2018, 24 lions from eight different reserves throughout South Africa were reintroduced to the Zambezi Delta of Mozambique. In a collaboration between the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and the Zambezi Delta Conservation Foundation, I am leading a project to add genomic approaches to the ongoing monitoring of these lions, with the intention of including genetic monitoring as an integral part of an anticipated 20+ year study.
Having an in-depth understanding of the genetics of a founding population is a luxury not often available. We will assess the genetic health and relatedness of the founding lions and start the curation of a genomic dataset for ongoing monitoring, allowing us to track the genetic consequences of social behavior and explore the evolution of the lion social system and its implications for conservation. This project will serve as a springboard for a long-term genomic dataset, allowing us to answer questions that may arise as on-the-ground efforts continue. Data will also support future studies that comprise behavioral and ecological investigations along with genetics, giving a robust, population-level picture of the success of Mozambique’s reintroduced lions.
I went to Mozambique for the first time in October 2022 and I received the first batch of biological samples in February 2023. Stay tuned for exciting results about this unique population!