With the recent killing of the well-known lion named Cecil by a trophy hunter, the plight of Africa’s disappearing lion population has been much in the news. A new study on Africa’s lions has identified the primary reasons for the drop in the African lion population over the past few decades. While trophy hunting plays a part, African lions face many other dangers as well.
A study co-authored by a big cat conservation organization called Panthera examined the lives of over 8,000 lions in 47 different populations across Africa since 1990. The lion population has dropped dramatically in western and central Africa. If the decline continues at the same rate, these areas will lose half of their lions in the next 20 years.
In some countries like South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, the news is a bit better. Protected natural reserves and wildlife tourism have helped stabilize the lion populations in those countries.
What are the main factors contributing to the decline in the African lion population? Experts point to two major problems. Pastoralists who manage herds of livestock are trapping and killing lions to protect their herds. Also, poachers who use traps and snares to capture the lions’ prey animals like zebras and wildebeest are contributing to the decline in the lions’ food sources.
Trophy hunting was found to be less of a factor than these other two issues. Lions fare best in regions with smaller human populations and in areas that have active wildlife tourism industries. The authors of the study suggest that in the West African countries with denser human populations, improvements can be made in livestock protection and management, as well as in conservation of lion prey species.
For more on the threats to the African lion, click HERE.
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