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Zambia’s Lions Roam Areas Previously Believed to Be Uninhabitable

by Meilan Solly Smithsonian.com

Approximately 1,200 lions call Zambia—a U-shaped country in southeast Africa known for its abundant wildlife—home. These big cats, constituting one of the continent’s largest lion populations, live in two distinct groups separated by seemingly insurmountable barriers.

But new research suggests a small number of lions do, in fact, move across areas previously believed to be uninhabitable by the species. As researchers led by Caitlin J. Curry, a biologist at Texas A&M University, report in the journal PLoS ONE, these select felines then mate with members of other prides, ensuring high levels of genetic diversity throughout Zambia’s wider lion population.

According to a Conversation article written by Curry, the landlocked country’s lion subpopulations are divided between the Greater Kafue Ecosystem in the west and the Luangwa Valley Ecosystem in the east. Scientists have long believed that geographical and anthropogenic barriers, including different habitats and the presence of a large city lacking wildlife protection, prevent the groups from interacting, but as the new survey found, Zambia’s lions are not as isolated as one might think.

To assess the animals’ genetic diversity, the team extracted DNA from 409 lions, as represented by hair, skin, bone and tissue samples collected between 2004 and 2012.

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Biography
Carol graduated from Riverside White Cross School of Nursing in Columbus, Ohio and received her diploma as a registered nurse. She attended Bowling Green State University where she received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Literature. She attended the University of Toledo, College of Nursing, and received a Master’s of Nursing Science Degree as an Educator.

She has traveled extensively, is a photographer, and writes on medical issues. Carol has three children RJ, Katherine, and Stephen – two daughters-in-law; Suzy and Katie – two granddaughters; Isabella Marianna and Zoe Olivia – and one grandson, Alexander Paul. She also shares her life with husband Gordon Duff, many cats, and two rescue pups.

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