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Africa’s beleaguered lions still have a fighting chance

Meanwhile in Africa a similar fate can befall the continent’s lions. To wit: 16 lions were recently butchered by poachers in South Africa, then the animals’ snouts and claws were hacked off so they could be sold as ingredients for traditional medicine and black magic.

Among the dead lions were eight cubs and two pregnant lionesses.

“They had hacked off 32 paws for the claws and eight of their snouts for their teeth after killing them with poisoned chicken, which is a really agonising death for the lions,” lamented Gert Blom, a rancher who owns Predators Rock Bush Lodge in the country’s North West province where the lions were kept.

“It is cruelty that is beyond belief and an absolutely terrible sight to behold when you see magnificent predators [butchered like this],” he added.

Sadly, such savagery perpetrated against Africa’s beleaguered lions is hardly uncommon. Just like tigers and other big cats, African lions have seen their numbers plummet in recent decades. Only some 25,000 mature lions remain in the wild across Africa, down from at least twice as many just a quarter century ago. Worse: three quarters of Africa lion populations are in continued decline.

Habitat loss, poaching and trophy hunting have all taken their toll on the majestic predators. Lions are routinely poisoned by people who want to protect themselves or their livestock from them. They are also killed for their teeth, claws and other body parts to be used in witchcraft and traditional medicine. Each year some 600 wild lions are killed.

Making matters worse, over the past decades the iconic predators have lost 94% of their historic range. “[T]he range and population of the African Lion will drastically decrease and it is highly likely to become Endangered if conservation measures are not successful at reversing current trends in the near future,” warns the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals.

The predators have already disappeared in 26 range states across the continent Africa. “Only a few countries, such as Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa, harbor populations of at least 1,000 lions,” The Hill observes. “The lynch pin in the ecology of the African savanna walks on the tightrope of survival.”

“Lions are truly one of the world’s universal icons, and they are quietly slipping away,” stresses Paul Thomson, director of conservation programs for the Wildlife Conservation Network. “Now is the time to stop the loss and bring lions back to landscapes across the continent.”

Encouragingly, conservation efforts are underway to save Africa’s remaining wild lions. Among those efforts are initiatives aimed at ensuring that people in rural communities can coexist with wild lions. Villagers and herders get compensated if marauding lions kill their livestock. Lookouts recruited from local communities also warn villagers and herders if lions are in the area.

Importantly, experts say, by protecting wild lions and their habitats locals in Africa can ensure a better future for themselves. Lions, as well as other large animals like elephants and giraffes, can thrive only in ample and healthy natural environments. Thus, protecting those natural environments is very much in the interests of people who share them with lions.


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