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Camera trap captures spotted hyena in Gabon national park, the first in 20 years

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  • The spotted hyena was thought to be extinct in Gabon’s Batéké Plateau National Park for 20 years as a result of wildlife poaching.
  • But the camera trap image captured has given conservation groups hope that protection of the park is working and allowing wildlife to return.
  • Camera traps have also recently snagged images of a lion, a serval and chimpanzees.

Researchers have captured a camera trap photograph of a spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) in a national park in Gabon where the predator hasn’t been seen for two decades.

Conservation groups have heralded the hyena’s return as a sign that wildlife is returning to Batéké Plateau National Park.

“During our 2001 Batéké lion survey, besides a single image of one small antelope in this vicinity, we only photographed poachers coming in from Congo,” Philipp Henschel, a wildlife biologist and head of Panthera’s West and Central Africa Regional Lion Program, said in a statement. “To see these large carnivores in the same landscape now is incredibly exciting and promising.”

The lone lion of Gabon photographed recently in the Batéké Plateau National Park. Photo and caption ©Panthera/Gabon National Parks Agency/The Aspinall Foundation.

Poaching decimated wildlife species, including lions and hyenas, in the 2,034-square-kilometer (785-square-mile) park, which the government of Gabon established in 2002. But since then, reintroduced western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN, have taken up residence in the park. And in 2015, a camera trap also nabbed a picture of a lion (Panthera leo).

“Gorillas, lions, hyenas — the remarkable return of these headline-making species is not only an indicator of the success of two decades of hard work, but also inspires us to keep pushing the restoration forward,” said Tony King, who coordinates the reintroduction program at the Aspinall Foundation, the organization that spearheaded the release of the gorillas beginning in the 1990s.

“The Batéké Plateau has many more surprises hidden away,” King added in the statement.

Western lowland gorillas have been successfully re-established in Batéké through the Aspinall Foundation’s long-running reintroduction program. Photo and caption ©The Aspinall Foundation.

Camera traps have also snagged images of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and a small cat called a serval (Leptailurus serval) in the park. The scientists suspect that the hyena may have come from Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the Republic of Congo.

In 2017, Panthera, an NGO focused on the conservation of wild cats and the ecosystems in which they live, partnered with Gabon’s National Parks Agency, known as ANPN, to bolster the protection of Batéké Plateau National Park and its growing wildlife population.

“The return of these large carnivores is a great demonstration that the efforts of our rangers and partners are having a positive effect on Batéké wildlife,” Lee White, who directs the ANPN, said in the statement.

“Predators are gravitating to this protected zone, where prey numbers are recovering as a result of a long-term commitment by ANPN and the Aspinall Foundation to protect the area.”

Chimpanzees caught on a camera trap in the savannahs of the Batéké Plateau National Park, Gabon. Photo and caption ©Panthera/ANPN/TAF.
A serval, typically a savannah species, caught on a camera trap in the Batéké Plateau National Park, Gabon. Photo and caption ©Panthera/ANPN/TAF.

Banner image of a spotted hyena caught by a camera trap recently in the Batéké Plateau National Park in Gabon ©Panthera/ANPN/TAF.

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