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Male lions translocated to Liuwa Plain National Park

27/05/2009 10:16:40

Two male lions being transported by boat from Kafue to Liuwa. Credit African Parks

Lady of Liuwa

This lonesome 8 year old lioness is the only member of er pride left alive after the rest were killed by poachers or died due to lack of food. With the restocking of the wildlife underway at Liuwa, it is again capable oof sustaining a lion population.

First translocation ended in the death of the lion
May 2009. In 2008 there was an unsuccessful attempt at the translocation of an adult male lion to Liuwa Plain National Park. The aim was to introduce the male to the, now famous, lonely lioness; Lady Liuwa in the hope of her breeding and saving the unique genetic line of Liuwa lions .The operation which included three days searching in Kafue National Park and a road transfer of the animal for over 450km (in 10 hours) ended in tragedy when the animal died after suffocating on a partially regurgitated piece of meat during recovery from anaesthesia. This event caused a great deal of anguish amongst all of the Liuwa staff that worked so hard on such an important project. This set the scene for the second attempt in May 2009.

Lions captured in Kafue
May was chosen as a good time for the translocation due to the presence of good numbers of animals on the plains, plenty of water and flooded plains surrounding the Park that should curtail any "wanderlust" that the new arrivals might have had. All preparations were made well in advance and the pressure began to mount as "D Day" approached. The possibility of failure had to be excluded!

The release enclosure in the Park was secured, an aircraft booked and all personnel arranged. As is normal in a rural environment there were the last minute hitches which included waterlogged airstrips and unclear veterinary requirements. These were quickly dealt with, alternative plans made and the team set off for Kafue on a mission to secure the two males to join Lady Liuwa. After only two days we managed to lure a group of four young males to a clear capture site near the Kafue River.

The release enclosure in liuwa Plains. One of the lions is sheltering in the bush. Credit African Parks.

The release enclosure in liuwa Plains. One of the lions is sheltering in the bush. Credit African Parks.

Lions lured to capture site

The animals arrived at the old quarry just after nightfall after responding to playback calls of a lioness roaring. The veterinary team successfully darted the two selected animals and they were ferried back to the capture truck where they were woken up using the antidote to the anaesthetic at 22h00. The animals were given 3 hours to fully recover before we set off at 01h00 for Mongu. The plan was to arrive in Mongu at daybreak for the speedboat transfer across the Barotse Floodplain to Kalabo.

Release enclosure
The lions were darted in the back of the capture truck as dawn broke and they were efficiently transferred to the speedboat at the Mongu harbour. As anticipated there were many curious onlookers, lions in Mongu are a rare sight indeed! The trip across the floodplain took a record one hour fifteen minutes to Kalabo. There, the lions were loaded onto a Land Cruiser and transferred to the release enclosure near Matiamanene in the Park. This area was selected due to its location in the centre of Lady Liuwa's home range. The entire capture and transportation phase of the operation was a resounding success with seamless transfers between the various modes of transportation. The question of everyone's minds was now "what will the reaction of Lady Liuwa be"?

Female lioness on the scene
Dawn broke to the good news that Lady Liuwa had arrived at the enclosure and was interacting with the males! The following days were filled excitement and plenty of anxiety. The males were not thrilled at being enclosed in a boma which was not surprising given that they had never seen a fence, never mind have their movements restricted! In their attempts to escape the confines of the boma they broke some of the electric wires on the inside of the fence, a repair job was required.

Fence repair
The female lioness, the 'Lady of Liuwa'. was soon prowling around the enclosure. Credit African Parks.

The female lioness, the 'Lady of Liuwa'. was soon prowling around the enclosure. Credit African Parks.

A tall order indeed with two angry wild lions just meters away! We moved slowly and deliberately with the vehicle as cover and tried to get the damaged wires replaced. The lions reacted with a great deal of aggression; this is when one of the most remarkable things happened. As the males charged and growled the lioness ran up to the fence roaring at full volume as if to say "keep calm, these guys are trying to help!" It is always difficult to interpret such behaviours but it was uncanny how the situation calmed after she "intervened". Remarkably, this happened on a few occasions over the following days!

Such operations require a calm head and good logic and it was decided not to repair the electric component of the fence due to the great deal of stress that was being caused to the animals. We had partially achieved our objective - the lioness and the males had met and were interacting. An electrical barrier between them could have undone the progress so far.

Lions break free from enclosure - Tracked by radio
On day six the males managed to free themselves from the boma and spent the first day in the company of the lioness. Thereafter they started on a journey of discovery, patrolling their new home of 3600km2. For the first few days they moved from woodland to woodland, avoiding the grasslands that are so unfamiliar to them. The radio collar on one of the males allowed us to keep track of them as they moved. With a range of only a few kilometres this was difficult from the ground and our aircraft was called into service with good effect.

As we speak, the lions remain in the Park, patrolling their new territory closely followed 24/7 by our tracking team. When do we claim success? We certainly achieved our initial objectives of getting the animals to Liuwa and introduced to Lady Liuwa. It is now largely up to the lions to play their role - as the saying goes "you can take a horse to water....". Management will monitor the animals closely and sound decisions will be made on the basis of good information collected.

We are yet another step forward in our process of rehabilitating this unique African Park. We are all hoping that the lions respond to our matchmaking and breed, returning the lions of Liuwa back from the brink of extinction.

Comment on the location and tell us what you saw there

The Two Translocated Males.

DR. Reid:
Why doesn't somebody take a couple of HD photos of the two mature male lions & post them on the Internet?.

Posted by: SOL WARDA | 26 May 2011 23:11:07

latest news from Liuwa

Just returned from Liuwa plains and we were lucky enough to spend some time watching Lady and the two males. All look well and the males have grown into very large, impressive animals with full manes. Lady looked very content and they are mating, although no sign of cubs yet. A couple of days later we saw Lady on her own with not one, but two wilderbeast kills and she valiantly fought the vultures for both. Finally giving up and choosing one, she proceeded to drag the whole animal across water into the long grass and was totally hidden from view.
Another day we watched a pack of wild dogs all day (7 adults and 9 pups) and finally they took off on a successful hunt. What followed was an amazing standoff between the dogs and 8 hyena and to our surprise the dogs teamwork won the day. We stayed a little too long and got caught in what has to be the worst storm I've ever seen, but well worth it. What a magical place Liuwa is and our second visit was as good as the first.

Posted by: Matt Letts | 23 Dec 2010 19:44:17

We are lucky enough to be heading back to Liuwa on Wednesday to spend 5 days in that magical place. Of course high on our list is to see how lady and the two boys are getting on as we were there the week they were introduced. Will post an update for all of you when we return later in December.

Posted by: Matt Letts | 24 Nov 2010 18:25:15

Lady Liuwa

This is one of the best documenetary that i have seen, on animal planet. i perfer tigers, but this lady of Liuwa was the best i felt sorry for her when it can time to eat on how the hyenas take her food. I pray that she breeds and bring back the lions of Liuwa, she just look so lonely.

Posted by: r. martinez | 19 Nov 2010 17:59:00

Lady Liuwa

I saw the special tv program on Lady, and it broke me heart--I cried the entire time, first for sadness at her situation, then joy when the new young males were successfully introduced!! I cannot wait to hear of cubs arriving next! What a great group of people that made all of this possible for her, too. There is goodness in this crazy world. Thank you for being there.

Posted by: Donna Evans | 13 Sep 2010 21:44:55

Update as of May 7th, 2010

Lady Liuwa, the last remaining lioness on the Liuwa Plain has captured the hearts of many people around the world. We have had enquiries as to progress from literally all around the globe! The good news is that the males introduced in May 2009 have stayed with her and they are a solid pride unit now. They range in the home range of the lioness and she has taught them the ways of survival in the Liuwa environment. There has been repeated mating but no successful conception - yet. We are still optimistic as it is normal for a lioness to hold off on conceiving for some time after new males arrive (to make sure they do not invest energy in cubs from wandering males that could be killed by other males that move in later). The story of Lady Liuwa has been brilliantly captured in a documentary being circulated on National Geographic called "The Last Lioness".

The translocation of the two males is part of a strategy formulated by African Parks management to restore a viable population on lions in Liuwa, once renowned for its large prides of big bodies lions. This is a vital programme for the rehabilitation of the ecological processes that have operated on the plain for millennia as well as improving Liuwa as a destination where tourists can experience these and other predators in their natural environment. A fully functioning and ecologically healthy park is critical to the future development of this remote corner of Western Zambia.

As soon as there is more news on progress with the lion translocation programme (and hopefully cubs) we will update this website!

Craig Reid
Project Coordinator - Liuwa Plain National Park
May 7th, 2010

Posted by: susan126 | 12 Sep 2010 19:19:41

last lioness

can you please tell if there is a follow up documentary after the introduction of the male lions

Posted by: ross | 25 Jul 2010 12:31:50

lady luwa

hey jo russ, the lioness is doing fine. Just hopefully soon she will begin to mate with one of the males.

Posted by: horso | 12 Jul 2010 18:42:28

Lady Liuwa

I watched the story of the lonely lioness of Liuwa on July 6, 2010. I had the TV on mute was was reading the words. At the end - the there was something written - I am not sure if it said that Lady Liuwa had died? Can someone please let me know - I have researched online for hours - but haven't found any new of her passing. If true - what a shame after all this time - she deserved to be with companions and happy to be a mother. Hope that what I think I saw is very untrue. It is a wonderful documentary - than you Mr. Brauer.

Posted by: Jo Russ | 08 Jul 2010 17:02:59

Lady Liuwa Whole Story

This is a great article in the Daily Mail that talks about how Lady Liuwa was discovered and thus why the doc was made on her behalf and consequently the effort to bring her some male lions. I loved the Doc but the back story really is touching, sad, and insightful. The natural order in the Liuwa Plains was definitely affected but what amazes me is learning just how social lions need to be naturally and how Lady Liuwa, against her natural behaviors was so isolated that she reached out to humans for interaction. I was really saddened at imagining the isolation of this lion for years but am grateful she has a happy ending.

Posted by: LA | 07 Jul 2010 09:11:37

I just watched the story of lady liuwa on animal planet for the first time. Shock and anger don't begin to describe the emotions that any normal person would have after learning of this story. How can someone massacre an entire pride of lions that clearly were not a threat to any humans and were just living their lives? What kind of human monsters are capable of carrying out this murderous rampage? Who did this and why aren't these brought to justice? Was there any investigation as to who is to blame? I thought that the program left too many questions unanswered...and if we are to prevent this from happening again, these questions need answering.

Posted by: giselle | 07 Jul 2010 06:37:38

Lady Luiwa

I watched a documentary about Lady Luiwa a couple of hours ago on Animal Planet. It really captured my mind. It was really remarkable that she lost her entire pride and has still been able to live. I am very glad that she is NOT the last lion in Luiwa anymore.

Posted by: Konner Kirkwood | 07 Jul 2010 04:31:35

Lady Liuwa

What an amazing lady and an amazing story. The documentary really blow me away as did the unbelievable Lady Liuwa, the bond between animal and man was so touching. The sight of the two males and her together was fabulous to see. A huge thanks for a great program, hope you can keep us updated.

Posted by: guyad | 13 May 2010 16:53:02

Lovely Lady Liuwa

I watched the programme last night, I haven't cried that much at a show for years! I was so gutted that the first male lion died, I can't imagine how upset the guys were. Lady Liuwa's life was so tragic and I'm relieved to hear that the male lions stuck around. Can we take it from the African Parks website that she is definitely pregnant now? I haven't been able to stop thinking about her all day and I, like many others have spread the word of her life story. Quite unbelievable that she took it upon herself to befriend a group of humans, certainly as her former pride were all brutally killed by poachers.

PLEASE PLEASE can we have an update on her life, I would definitely watch that over and over again! I look forward to it ...

Posted by: Lorien Stiegler | 12 May 2010 16:56:39


What an inspiring story........ I am truly moved. This amazing, but lonely lioness no longer alone.
Please, please we need an updated documentary. What is the news of Lady and her new mates?

Posted by: Sue Filacouridis | 26 Apr 2010 11:08:45


The link provided says that they're expecting cubs in September! So awesome. :)

Posted by: Nicola | 21 Apr 2010 08:05:23

Lady Liuwa

Tonite I watched her story on Anomal Planet- for the 3rd time since the April 11th premiere here., I am totally mesmerized by her story- Herbert Brauer did such an amazing job as a photographer and doing what was best for our Lady - I fell in love with her-and the story- I must know what happened to her! Did she mate? any cubs of her own to care for? Will the bloodline continue?? Ladys' story both warmed and broke my heart- the musical score had me in tears- Herb Brauer is just the tops in my book- I have been watching lion documentaries ( and many other endangered species) for many years and this story touched me in so many ways-what a beautiful and majestic lion-her loneliness broke my heart- as it must have done the same to Herb- he did such an amzing job bringing us this story- I found some beautiful photos of Lady Liuwa on the Nat Geo Wild website - and I saw above a link to a site with updated info on our Lady- I hope! I feel like she is family to me now- and lots of gratitude to Herbert Brauer for bringing her story into my home

Posted by: Catherine Healey | 21 Apr 2010 04:57:41

Lady Liuwa

Just watched theprogramme last night on Sky 3 and was truly moved by it. Does anyone have any up to date information on lady and the two other lions that joined her. She so deserves a happy ending. I only learned how to use a computer a few days ago so this is the first comment i have ever wrote but have not been able to stop thinking about the programme all night.

Posted by: gail mcgill | 19 Apr 2010 12:02:14

Status update

Hi All, thought some of you might be interested in the below link as it has an update on the lions...

Posted by: Brett | 18 Apr 2010 20:13:25

beautiful lady Liuwa

I am absolutely in love with animals, specially lions. they are my true passion, and everytime I see a show like this, I get thrilled... I need to know the sequence of this story. I can imagine they got along very well, but I need to know for sure... lady Liuwa has been in my mind since then, I have shared her story with my friends and, even the ones don't care about animals, got very touched that she was looking for companion on the camp site. that was amazing. I just don't know if I could resist the temptation to make closer contact with her. she's absolutely gorgeous... good job, guys...

Posted by: Patricia Brito | 15 Apr 2010 22:27:21

More Please

It appears that I'm not the only one interested in knowing the plight of this beautiful Lady and her new beaus. Please let us know something or at least tell us if there will be a follow up program about them. Thank You very much for bringing this story to those of us who live far away from Africa and it's beautiful wildlife! I for one love it and watch Animal Planet and Discovery Channel with enthusiasm for these stories.

Posted by: Tina Murphey | 14 Apr 2010 22:59:08

Lady Liuwa

I had to record the awsome show about the lady liuwa, so foregive the late response. People could learn a heck of alot from Miss liuwa, well I guess it's Mrs. Liuwa now hu. LOL I've heard where people have gone off alone for a short time period and about lost their minds. Mrs. Liuwa deserves a happy life after all she's been through. I can't wait to see her cubs, and pray for her and the males to make a pride that will last forever. Thank you Wildlife Kingdom for bringing Lady Liuwa's life to everyone's attention. Herbert you ROCK!

Posted by: Tim S. | 13 Apr 2010 10:06:26

Lady Liuwa

I just saw this story on Mutual of Omaha the other day and I am completely moved by Lady Liuwa. This story broke and warmed my heart and I have not been able to stop thinking about her since. Thank you for everyone who became involved to help in this heartbreaking and tragic story. Does anyone have any updates? How is she doing now? I would definitely love to hear more about the progress of this huge effort.

Posted by: Renee | 13 Apr 2010 08:35:11

Lady Liuwa

Great Job! At last Lady has her mates after such long time of lonliness, she certainly deserved the life that she should be having. Really anxious to hear any lastest news about them. Once again, GREAT JOB WELL DONE!!!!!!

Posted by: Calista | 15 Mar 2010 15:39:15

Lady Liuwa

Posted by: Calista | 15 Mar 2010 15:29:57

how great was that

what a brill film well done all..having been to the KNP a number of times and been close to cats through the glass..not admitting to having the window open of course.. how great to see Herbert's seemingly natural actions when so close to Lady Liuwa on foot!!
5 METRES ON FOOT!!!!..please please somewhere there must be an update on the progress of her and her males..

also as a visitor to SA parks from the uk where can we get info on travel to africa parks their web page not very informative on tourisum..
well done again Herbert ..ON FOOT.. lol man awesome
simon uk

Posted by: simon | 28 Feb 2010 12:36:10

Kudos to Herbert

Today I watched the "Last Lioness" for the first time. What stood out most was the distance maintained by Herbert, vis a vis the lioness. It is this distance which in Herbert's words "avoids the accidents". I have seen praise for people who have tried to reintroduce animals or have gone so close to the animals that it seems like a circus. The irony is they may just be signing the death knell for the animal. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: Deep Belwal | 24 Feb 2010 17:06:39

Lady Liuwa ....Lonely no longer

I waited avidly to see the film about Lady Liuwa after reading about her in the weekend Daily Mail. The wait was far from disappointing. It held me in suspense and I found the story extremely emotional. How anyone could turn their back on a lioness in the dark and calmly walk away, was utterly spell-binding. What trust! I will be anxious to hear any further developments and it would be great to see a sequel to the 'Last Lioness' at some stage if that's possible. Wonderful! thank you. Maggie

Posted by: Margaret Randall | 26 Jan 2010 23:45:38

Lady Liuwa

We were lucky enough to have been in Liuwa the week that the two males were introduced and also escaped the enclosure. We were first on the scene to find them and actually witnessed them lying together with the film crew. It still makes my girlfried cry when watching Lady. We have fantastic pictures of Lady rolling with joy - something we will never forget. The males did wander off into the night shortly after that, but returned a few days later. They have been mating but no sign off cubs yet although all are still hopeful.

Posted by: Matt Letts | 16 Jan 2010 21:46:41

Lady Liuwa

I have now watched the the "Last Lioness" programme for the 3rd time and each time I wonder at her strength and resilience of being a lone female lioness. For Herbert to form a distant bond was moving and awe inspiring. But is there any update as to how Lady and the 2 males are now? Have they remained together? Is she healthy?

Posted by: shirley coverley | 16 Jan 2010 21:11:44

Lady Liuwa

I am SO HAPPY to read this. I saw a documentary last night on Animal Planet about her and remembered how upset I was about her solitude when I spent about 5 days camping on the Liuwa Plains and she was often around our camp just observing us and probably for our company. She look healthy but so lonely. This is absolutely WONDERFUL news. I wondered why she was alone and what her story could be.

Posted by: Mary Heys | 02 Jul 2009 12:53:50

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