The future of African predators is in peril. It is estimated that only 10,000-15,000 free-roaming African lions remain, down from 50,000 a decade ago. African lions are now listed as Endangered (West African subspecies) and Vulnerable (East and Southern African subspecies) by the World Conservation Union and are on Appendix II of the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) list.
African lions are in danger of disappearing altogether due to disease (FIV, bovine tuberculosis, canine distemper) and habitat encroachment. Mankind constantly seizes more and more of the remaining wild areas of Africa, forcing lions onto smaller and smaller parcels of land. Large-scale developments destroy the lion’s natural habitat. In areas inhabited by livestock, lions are frequently shot, snared or poisoned. And sadly, the hunting of these amazing animals for “sport,” for man’s pleasure, is still encouraged as a revenue producing industry by many African governments.
Diseases are having disastrous effects on the few large lion populations left in Africa. The Serengeti lions were hard-hit by canine distemper in 1997, resulting in the loss of one-third of the resident lion population. In Botswana, 90% of the free-roaming lions studied by The Okavango Lion Conservation Project are infected with FIV, the feline equivalent of human HIV, which can be deadly in a population that is under stress. Currently, the Kruger population in South Africa is suffering from a serious outbreak of bovine tuberculosis.
Problem Animal Control
Each year, an increasing number of lions die as they are forced to make room for the growth of Africa’s human and livestock populations. In Botswana alone, over 100 lions per year are killed to protect livestock (study conducted by The Okavango Lion Conservation Project).
Trophy hunting not only depletes the population of the African lion, but threatens its gene pool as well. Killing the dominant male of a pride (normally the target of a trophy hunt) sets off a chain of instinctive behavior in which the subsequent dominant male kills all the young of the previous dominant male (a study by the Okavango Lion Conservation Project found that 6-8 estimated deaths result from each male shot). A hole in the reproductive cycle, a dwindling population, and a weakening of the gene pool replace the natural process. Despite this fact, approximately 1,500 lions are killed every year in Southern Africa alone. Given the urgent need for revenue among African locals, and a willingness to pay handsomely for such trophies among Asians, Europeans and Westerner’s, predators are increasingly hunted for sport, even as they disappear.