Lion social behavior dictates that young males are forcibly expelled from their birth pride in order to find females in other areas, thus avoiding genetic inbreeding. So young males wander. In an unexpected twist, they started to wander through breaks in the surrounding fence onto private farmland. Since 1973, at least 500 lions have been shot outside the Park, resulting in a crash of the lion population to only 240 or so animals. Legally, a farmer has a right to protect his livestock. One male lion, on a two year killing spree, supposedly killed over a hundred cattle, donkey and goats before being shot by a farmer. While some farmers act responsibly and contact the authorities, allowing the trespassing lion to be darted and transported safely back into the park, many farmers will shoot an animal for so much as a footprint on their land. In at least one case, a farmer even coaxed lions out of the park by baiting them, giving paying hunters an opportunity for trophies. For the sake of the animals that slip through the fence, a cooperative relationship between park wardens and the farmers is essential, with compensation given for livestock and help provided for trespassing predators. But still there are problems. Two male lion cubs, returned to Etosha after their mother was shot on a nearby farm, await an uncertain fate. Unable to fend for themselves, they are confined in a cage while efforts to re-locate them are worked out.
The safe future of Etosha's lions is vital, not only to Etosha itself, but to other parts of Africa. Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), which is common and lethal in domestic cats, is a lentivirus similar to HIV in humans. The virus can mutate quickly, and therefore poses a potential threat to FIV positive lions. To date, all of Etoshašs lions have proven FIV free, while 79 percent of lions in the Serengeti and the 83 percent in Kruger National Park are FIV positive. Etosha's lions are highly attractive to the restocking of lion populations elsewhere, especially in FIV positive regions, and may prove elemental in the future survival of the species.