UPDATE ON LIONS

Whilst Lions seem to be stable in Katavi and a regular sight their status in Africa is becoming worryingly precarious.

Since the 1960’s when the lion’s population in Africa was stable at around 400,000 individuals the lion population of Africa has plummeted to less than 20,000 animals, of which only 10% of the total are mature, maned males. Conflict with Man is the main contributor to this dramatic decline. At this current rate of loss the Lion will be extinct in the wild in about 20 years from NOW!

Around the world in the last half century Man has been responsible for the extermination of over 380,000 lions. But the figure worsens when you consider that 630,000 leopards throughout their extensive distribution range have died, mainly for the fashion industry, 450,000 cheetahs have been  mainly for feeding on domestic livestock when their natural prey of antelopes has been removed by human range extension. During this period 48,000 tigers have died mainly for the spurious medicinal market in the Far East, mainly in China. That is a staggering 1.5 million Big Cats! Or more than 100 per day!!

The bogus medical trade in the Far East has meant that not only the tiger has nearly been hunted to extinction but some tiger sub-species have been killed to the extent that they may no longer be viable as a breeding population with enough genetic variation. Less than 300 Amur Tigers survive in the South-Eastern ranges of Siberia.

This decline in availability of tiger parts has triggered a massive increase in lion poaching during the past decade and is in direct correlation to the levels of investment by Asian Nations, particularly China, in Africa and the figures for elephants and rhino poaching are directly linked too.

Africa’s largest single industry is Tourism and it is ironic that the symbol of Africa and the one animal most visitors wish to see on safari, is the one most under threat. Trophy hunting continues and in South Africa foreigners pay huge sums of money to shoot ‘canned’ lions. These are usually captive bred animals, often kept in barbaric conditions and fee-paying trophy hunters are guaranteed an easy kill of an animal that may even be drugged! Often the carcase is fed back to the lions remaining in captivity.

So far only three African Nation have banned the hunting of lions. Kenya, Botswana and most recently Zambia. Tanzania is the nation in which the most lions are hunted legally, in recent years as many as 250 lions per annum are shot legally, but this pales into insignificance at the number killed illegally in village areas, often under the pretence of protecting livestock or even human life. As many of these areas are on the borders of National Parks and other protected areas these ‘safe’ populations are under ever increasing threat. If Governments compensate the villagers for livestock predation these losses would not be used as an excuse to illegally export lions parts to Asia and African economies not be threatened by the loss of one of its most important assets…. The King of the Beasts!

It has been estimated that each lion is worth US$20,000.00 per annum in tourism earnings, so the African Lion population is worth US$400 million each and every year. Yet lions are being killed for taking a cow maybe worth US$ 200.00 or even a goat worth less than US$40.00. Such slaughter does not make economic sense let alone environment sense or bode well for Africa’s most important industry!