When lions eat livestock, relocation is common—but often deadly

New research shows lions often die after being translocated, leading conservationists to call for a change in tactics.

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The lions pictured here were darted and flown between game reserves in Mozambique. Relocation can be stressful for the animals, and when it comes to moving livestock-eating lions, the practice does not have good record of success.

Wildlife conservationist Glyn Maude knows that scientists shouldn’t get attached to their research subjects. But he and his colleagues couldn’t help rooting for a six-year-old lioness they nicknamed Magigi, Botswanan for “magician,” because of her habit of disappearing.

After she repeatedly killed cattle outside the village of Bere, Botswana authorities captured and moved her 80 miles into Central Kalahari Game Reserve, far from people. Magigi spent most of her time within the reserve’s protective boundaries, but around the one-year anniversary of her capture, she strayed outside in pursuit of livestock and was shot dead by a farmer.

“We were hoping she’d survive long-term,” says Maude, the founder of Kalahari Research and Conservation, a nonprofit wildlife group in Botswana. “But it didn’t work out in the end, which sadly is often the way it goes.”

New research Maude and his colleagues have conducted confirms that Magigi’s unfortunate story is the norm for many relocated lions. For decades, wildlife managers in a number of African countries have used translocation as a humane way to deal with lions that repeatedly kill livestock. (Lions...

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