The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Zambia is saddened by the death of a celebrated lioness, famously known as ‘Lady Luiwa’ who lived in the Luiwa Plain National Park. As confirmed by African Parks, Lady Liuwa died of natural causes on 9th August 2017 a day before World Lion Day.

Lady Liuwa’s iconic story of endurance and strength is one of the most renowned wildlife accounts the world over. In the early 1990’s, after the Angolan civil war turbulence, poaching and illegal trophy hunting entirely wiped out Lions from the Liuwa Plains. The only survivor was the Lady Luiwa. Her first confirmed sighting was in 2002 and she wandered the plains for years in isolation.

WWF Zambia Species and Protected Areas Specialist Moses Nyirenda has described Lady Luiwa as a phenomenal lioness whose death is a loss to the ecosystem. “Lady Liuwa was a uniquely remarkable lioness. Her separation from her kind drew her close to humans and she was always considered as part of the conservation family” He Said. Mr. Nyirenda explained how WWF’s efforts in partnership with African Parks and the Department for National Parks and Wildlife contributed to reuniting Lady Luiwa with a new pride. Several efforts were made to reintroduce lions to the Luiwa Plains, many of them suffering major setbacks.

In 2008, after safeguarding the park and ensuring improved law enforcement, WWF through its partners facilitated the introduction of a male lion to the Luiwa. Tragically, he died in the process of translocation. A second attempt was made in May 2009 and this time two males were relocated to the Luiwa from the Kafue national park. They were both acquainted with Lady Luiwa but unfortunately any attempts to produce offspring were unsuccessful. With time, it became clear that Lady Liuwa was incapable of producing offspring.

This is particularly unfortunate because Lady Liuwa is the last lioness of the Kalahari sun genes in the Liuwa national park. Although her exact age is unknown, she is believed to have been between 17-19 years old which is remarkable as the average lifespan of her kind is around 10-15 years.