This Lion Was Spotted in an African National Park for the First Time in Decades — It Was Thought to Be Extinct

Lions were believed to be extinct at Chad's Sena Oura National Park since 2004.

A lioness spotted in front of a camera at Sena Oura National Park in Chad

Courtesy of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)/Government of Chad

A lion was spotted at a national park in Chad for the first time in nearly 20 years after the animal was considered “technically extinct” there.

The lion sighting was captured by a remote camera in February at the Sena Oura National Park, according to the New York-based nonprofit Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Chadian government. The big cat was described as a “muscular female lion” that is “in her prime and clearly in great health.”

Lions haven't been spotted at the park, which is part of the larger Bouba N’djida-Sena Oura Landscape along the border of Cameroon and Chad, since 2004.

“The region saw a period of ruthless, organized poaching more than a decade ago, but has since benefitted from a very strong commitment to conservation by the governments of both Cameroon and Chad,” the WCS said in a statement obtained by Travel + Leisure. “This has produced better protection of the national parks and wildlife populations are now starting to recover.”

Conservationists with the WCS are working to support park guards in the area by “conducting on-the-ground wildlife surveys including by camera trapping,” said the group.

Lions are considered to be a "vulnerable" species in the world, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species. There are 22,000 to 24,000 lions in the wild currently, reported the BBC.

Their populations in west and central Africa are declining — it has decreased by about 66 percent since the early 1990s, according to the WCS, and they're considered "critically endangered." (According to the World Wildlife Fund, the majority of lions in Africa are found south of the Sahara Desert. And three of the five largest lion populations are in Tanzania.)

For travelers looking to ethically see lions in the wild, there are options like reputable safaris in Africa to the lesser-known Asiatic lions in India, which is part of the country’s own "big five."

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