Simon Naylor, Conservation Manager for &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, is an appointed trustee on the Lion Management Forum of South Africa. &Beyond Phinda has spearheaded and been involved in several critical lion translocations, all aimed at strengthening and diversifying the genetic makeup of current lion populations, not only in South Africa, but across borders too.
Though the statistics may be disheartening, lots is being done to help save the lion and &Beyond remains an integral player in the field of lion conservation. Recent DNA results have proven that &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve is home to the country’s second most genetically diverse lion population in South Africa, second only to the Kruger National Park. &Beyond Phinda also helped to successfully reverse a 15-year local extinction of lions in Rwanda, and more recently, donated three healthy lions to the nearby Somkhanda Community Game Reserve in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
&Beyond Phinda has a long history of successful lion conservation. It was one of the first private game reserves in South Africa and the first in the province of KwaZulu-Natal to introduce lions, thereby extending the species’ historical range. Since the first 13 lions were introduced in 1992 and 1993, an impressive 70 litters of close to 250 lion cubs have been born on the reserve. &Beyond Phinda has also helped establish other lion populations in private game reserves in the Eastern Cape, Zululand, Mpumalanga, North West and the Limpopo Province, as well as neighbouring Mozambique, and now Rwanda too.
Post the initial introduction in 1992, the first male lions to be introduced to &Beyond Phinda were two brothers from Pilansberg National Park in 2003. Both contributed to the injection of new blood. Since then, male lions have been introduced from Tswalu (two in 2009), Madikwe (two in 2010), Tembe Elephant Park (two in 2014 and two in 2017) and Shamwari (one in 2014). The result of simulating new pride male takeovers and injecting new blood into the small population of lions has resulted in a very genetically diverse and healthy population. The fact that the &Beyond Phinda lions are the second most genetically diverse populations in South Africa is testament to the wise introduction of many unrelated lions in the beginning and regular introduction of new males over the years.
&Beyond Phinda is also proud to have been home to one of the oldest lions known outside of a zoo, the beloved Old North Pride Female. Born in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve around December 1990, she was introduced to &Beyond Phinda as an 18-month old with her sisters in May 1992. She became one of the longest-living free-roaming lions on record at the age of 18 years and 3 months. Sadly, she died in February, 2009. Discovered by guides at Fossil Dam, she had been gravely injured by three young males and the difficult, yet humane, decision was made to euthanise her. She left a legacy on the reserve, and indeed around the world among guests and wildlife lovers alike.
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