Off They Go!

Yesterday afternoon at 17:26 CAT (GMT +2), surrounded by staff, volunteers, a tribal chief, a cabinet minister, local community members and leaders, a press contingent, and ALERT‘s founder, Andrew Connolly, along with its COO, David Youldon, the Dambwa Pride were released into the Stage 2 forest from which they take their name, officially entering the next phase of their journey amidst much fanfare and celebration.

David Youldon on the day’s events:

I would like to reiterate the warm welcome to you all as you join us here for this landmark day in the history of Lion Encounter and the African Lion and Environmental Research Trust.  We recognise here today the culmination of years of dedication, passion and co-operation, without which, this release would never have been possible.

This programme started from humble beginnings, as one man’s vision.  Over time that vision has evolved and is now a constantly developing reality here in Zambia.

This release exemplifies our continuing commitment to combatting one of the most underexposed and ill-expressed problems in environmental conservation; that of the rapid decline of this continents’ most iconic symbol; the African lion.  The lion is synonymous with Africa; the king of beasts, recognised as one of its most potent emblems, whose history is so richly intertwined with the history of those who have lived before us. It represents centuries of tradition, millennia of culture, and aeons of life on earth.

This regal and powerful animal reflects the values held most dearly by this community, this nation and this continent; strength, pride and courage; and yet its demise continues, unabated.

There is no more perfect metaphor to emphasise what the environment is enduring around this incredible continent, than the plight of the African lion as it struggles to survive against increasingly unfavourable odds.  The time to act is now. We all must come together and with one voice vow to protect this precious gift to mankind, and we shall learn to understand its intricacies and frailties so that we may co-exist alongside it. 

These beautiful animals are integral to the well-being of Africa’s unique and special ecosystems, but we must embrace and act on that knowledge, as such action will underpin a more sustainable way of life for us all.

Africa’s lands, so rich and diverse, are not owned by us, but rather they are leant to us.  Whilst each of us may enjoy this natural heritage only for a short time, it is our solemn responsibility to those who come after us to cherish it; and ensure that it remains able to nourish us and them.  Our efforts today may represent a small step, but it is a step in the right direction, and it is a step of immense significance that cannot be measured in Kwacha, Dollars or Euros, but as a demonstration of how communities and wildlife can live and thrive together.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the staff of Lion Encounter, all of whom continue to work tirelessly and with devotion as we strive towards our final goal.  And I would like to thank you all for being with us here today as we celebrate this achievement; I also hope you will all join us, with collective pride, to look to the future of lion and environmental conservation, hand in hand with the aspirations of this community, of the people of Zambia and of Africa.

As Temi, Kela, Kwandi, Loma, Rusha, and Leya begin their new adventure in the Dambwa forest, now entirely dependent on themselves and each other for their pride’s survival, please raise a toast with us to mark this celebration and to offer them continued success.  Congratulations to the pride, and congratulations to everyone involved over the past several years who have made this moment possible.  Such a magnificent achievement.  Huzzah!

You can follow the Dambwa Pride here.

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