Lion from Zimbabwe

Photo from “Big Cats” by Katja Westhagen

A recent report by Conserving Large Carnivores: Dollars and Fence, has revealed that nearly half of Africa’s wild lion populace may face extinction in the near future if urgent conservation measures are not taken.The report which has been carried out by the University of Minnesota’s Professor Craig Packer and co-authored by a large team of lion biologists, including Panthera‘s President, Dr Luke Hunter, and Lion Programme director, Dr Guy Balme, states that nearly half the unfenced lion populations may decline to near extinction over the next 20-40 years.

The report asserts that lions are now extinct in 26 countries, with only seven countries, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania having an estimated number of more than 1, 000 lions. They have been listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “vulnerable” and threatened species while in west and central Africa they are classified as “endangered”.  Over the past two decades the world’s lion population is said to have shriveled by 75 percent which is from 50, 000 to 15, 000, due to numerous reasons such as human-lion conflict, poaching, poorly regulated sport hunting and spread of diseases for isolated inbreeding lions.  Panthera says that there is over hunting of lions in Africa, which has led to their depletion as rich foreigners are said to pay attractively to trophy hunt lions in Botswana.

The Botswana-based lion documenter and conservationist, Derek Joubert was quoted as saying that the nature of lion hunting has changed from colonial days because nowadays, faster vehicles, high-powered rifles and advanced traps have further reduced the “bad odds” against the animals. The Botswana government had forbidden farmers from shooting lions that attack their cattle but farmers had also argued that it was unfair to permit rich hunters to go on killing lions for sport when they (farmers) are simply protecting their livestock.  Last November, President Ian Khama gave a speech at a Kgotla in Mababe wherein he announced that the end of 2013 would see trophy hunting being banned in Botswana.

Dr Hunter told the New York Times that fencing lions off from human settlements may be the only hope for their long-term survival.”It’s clear that fencing does help lion conservation. People outside of Africa underestimate the difficulties posed by lions, which are really, really difficult to live with if you’re a subsistence human population that depends on livestock,” Dr Hunter said.

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