A lion’s roar has a unique footprint which can only be associated to a particular individual lion. It reminds me of the tiger and their coat. Each coat is individual and unique to each tiger. In this way you can identify tigers through photographs of them. It is hoped that conservationists can use the uniqueness of the lion roar to identify lions in the wild and to help them judge their numbers and movements. This should contribute to conservation and may assist in reducing lion-human conflict in Africa, which is one of the more important factors in their rapid decline in numbers to around 23,000 today, a drop of about 50% over the past two decades.
Scientists from Oxford University’s wildlife conservation research unit tracked lions in Zimbabwe. They have been able to identify, by analysing the roar, the exact aspects of this long-distance call which makes it unique.
Five male lions were used in the research. They wore GPS collars so that the researchers could pinpoint their exact locations. They also used an acoustic accelerometer to map the sound of the roar which can be as loud as 114 dB; equivalent to a chainsaw. The lion’s roar can be heard several miles away.
They analysed the recordings using algorithms written by the University’s science department. They broke down the sound into its temporal pattern (unique voice print) and in doing this were able to identify individual cats based on their roar with a 91.5% accuracy.
Andrew Loveridge, a member of the Oxford University team said, “Developing cost-effective tools for monitoring and ultimately better protecting populations is a conservation priority”. He also said:
The ability to remotely evaluate the number of individual lions in a population from their roars could revolutionise the way in which lion populations are assessed.
The African lion is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List because of their sharp decline in numbers. The research was carried out in Bubye Valley Conservancy in Western Zimbabwe. This covers an area of about 1 million acres. It is an area where there has been a lion success story because of increased numbers from about 20 in 1999 to more than 400 today.