N’DJAMENA, Chad – An image was released Thursday of a lioness in the Sena Oura National Park in Chad, where lions hadn’t been seen for nearly 20 years.
Resting with her right paw tucked underneath her left arm, the lioness appears healthy, muscular and alert in the image.
"A beautiful lioness, in her prime and clearly in great health," said the conservationists of the big cat.
The animal sighting is significant because lions have not been seen in Sena Oura National Park in nearly two decades. An assessment by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) had listed the lions as technically extinct in Sena Oura, noted the WCS.
Poaching ran rampant in the region over 10 years ago, causing wildlife populations to drop. Wildlife populations, however, are beginning to recover due to government protections of national parks.
Lion populations in Central and West Africa are small and fragmented, the WCS said. Their numbers have declined an estimated 66 percent since the early 1990s, leading them to be considered Critically Endangered in the region.
Recent lion sightings, such as that of the lioness, provide hope that the big cats will continue to make their return.