Dawn sentinel. The unmistakable silhouette of a Lioness, seen here standing on a rock kopje in the central Serengeti at dawn. Loss of habitat and consequent increased conflict with humans has seen a calamitous decline in population numbers from as many as 450,000 in the 1940s to only 20,000 today. More recently, a growing international trade in lion parts has fuelled lion poaching and commercial hunting. According to the Born Free Foundation, the number of lion parts and whole lions exported from Africa between 2009 and 2013 was double the amount shipped during the previous five years. Incredibly, this is currently legal under the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which allows lion trade under certain permits. Lion bones are used in traditional Asian medicine and have been in increasing demand to replace bones from tigers, which are in even worse shape than lions. For a number of years, I visited the central Serengeti in early May. This is the rainy season with few tourists, yet it coincides with the annual Wildebeest migration which passes through the area at this time. On one such visit, I had, for a whole week, a full pride of Lions, slung out on a low lying kopje in an isolated area of the park, to myself. With several young cubs in the pride and with lines of Wildebeest and Zebra passing nearby, the adults were content to remain for an extended period at this location. I took this image early one morning before the sun had risen. This female had stayed behind with the cubs while most of the other adults went off to hunt during the night. As the pride adults appeared over the horizon, this female stood at the highest elevation point, ready to greet the returning hunters.
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