“If all the beasts were gone, man would die from great loneliness of spirit, for what happens to the beasts, also happens to the man”
Today, if you Google “Lions 2013” you get pages of British Lions rugby. Now, I must confess, I am rather partial to the high-impact game of rugby, but right now, I am far more interested in the real majestic “King of the Jungle” – the African Lion.
In 1975, there was an estimated 250,000 lions in Africa, yet today the continent wide population stands at less than 30,000 individuals. Not only have the overall numbers declined by a staggering 80-90% in less than 40 years, but only 9 countries have at least 1000 lions, and 5 countries are thought to have lost their populations entirely since 2002.
Should populations continue to decline and the magnitude of threats continue to intensify, the extinction of the African lion is imminent.
World Lion Day is the first global independent campaign, with the aim of raising awareness of the need for urgent action to save the lion from extinction. The campaign makes no attempt to highlight or preclude particular approaches to lion conservation, but rather seeks to attract attention and support to the many individuals and organizations that are working towards a shared vision: to ensure the future of the species.
Today the lion is threatened with:
▪ Habitat loss – An ever-growing human population has come into the savannah lands to settle and develop. That has both cut down the amount of land lions have to roam, as well as fragmented it.
▪ Prey loss – Young cubs are vulnerable to predators, such as hyenas, leopards and black-backed jackals. The cubs begin hunting at 11 months but remain with their mother for at least two years.
▪ Human-wildlife conflict – Livestock depredation is rife in Kenya, and consequently community tolerance of lions is low. The result is the killing of nearly 100 lions each year, in retaliation to livestock losses or out of pure fear and hatred of the species. Lion conservationists fear that lions could go extinct in the country within a matter of years.
▪ Unsustainable trophy hunting practices–
Trophy hunting of wild animals earned Zambia US$3 million a year, with one lion trophy fetching $29,000. However the photographic/live value of a lion and other wildlife, far exceeds this – the value of one male lion in Amboseli NP during 1970’s was $91,000*. A recent ban of lion trophy hunting in Zambia has given hope to the existing lion population, whatever its size may be. However many feel such a move will result in escalated poaching and loss of revenue.
▪ Poaching – There is a very disturbing, yet very fast growing trade for lion bones. Having now realised it is diminishing the stock of tiger body parts, the Asian medicine market has turned to lions. As is the case with ‘tiger wine’ the lion bone paste or wine is believed to have medicinal properties. No such proof of these proporties has ever been produced. Fears are now growing as the demand is suspected to see an increase in the poaching of wild lions for such harvesting purposes. The complete skeleton of a lioness can reach to and above $10,000.
▪ Disease – South Africa is estimated to have a lion population of about 1,800 lions, many of which however are within managed, fenced reserves. The famous Kruger National Park is an area of serious concern as the spread of bovine TB continues to threaten the population’s viability. Recent reports have suggested the epidemic disease is also appearing in other populations of Southern Africa such as those in Zimbabwe.
Wherever you may be, join us on August 10th 2013 to celebrate the lion, create much needed conservation awareness, and help save the King of Jungle.
Volunteer projects in Africa to help with the Conservation of Lions: www.amanzitravel.com/wildlife-conservation-volunteer
Next blog on Volunteering with Lions on World Lion Day.
* figures from Hoodvisuals