Marking a breakthrough in lion conservation, scientists can now age African lions with a significant degree of certainty. Researchers with the Zambia Lion Project recently released two scientific publications outlining an innovative method for estimating lion age within six months using teeth.
“Accurate age estimation of African lions is urgently needed to address conservation issues,” said Joseph Hosmer, president of SCI Foundation. “This groundbreaking research will improve the management of lions and promote sustainable hunting.”
“While several monitoring programs consult tooth X-rays when estimating lion age, how those X-ray images correlate to actual age had not previously been quantified,” stated Dr. Paula A. White, principal investigator with the Zambia Lion Project. In collaboration with Dr. Roberto Cameriere, inventor of the dental X-ray aging technique, this pioneering study is the first to apply quantified tooth measures to age African lions.
This knowledge will assist national and international wildlife authorities in evaluating hunter compliance with regulatory measures involving age.
“Hunting of African lions is important to the species’ conservation in many countries,” continued Dr. White, and “estimating lion age is essential to many aspects of management programs including harvest and problem animal control.”
The project has already provided recommendations to Zambia’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) on the country’s newly established age-based lion hunting program. The ability to accurately age lions post mortem will facilitate best hunting practices across lion range in Africa.
“SCI Foundation has been instrumental in supporting the Zambia Lion Project’s research. These two publications demonstrate the commitment of SCI Foundation to gathering scientific information that can be used to better wildlife management and promote sustainable utilization,” said Dr. White.
“Directly applying science to sustainable use is fundamental to our mission,” said Hosmer. “Building on this research, we can learn what physical characteristics of a lion are the best indicators of age and improve our ability to visually age live lions in the field.”