A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States has laid out a very dire future for African Lions. It shows that the decline of the population of the big cats is expected to decline by about half over the next 20 years. However, it’s not all doom and gloom as one of the four regions of Africa, the south, does seem to indicate an increase.
The reasons for the decline of the celebrated feline are plentiful, but they all boil down to one primary root cause: humans. Be it poaching and hunting, destruction of habitat and food sources, or simply competing with them for land and food, humans have had a drastic negative impact on many animal species over time, and the African lion is no different.
The study followed 47 of the 67 known African Lion populations over time, and separated the data by region. The West African and Central African groups showed significant declines, including being completely absent from areas they had once roamed, while the East African group showed a slight decline, though it had previously been thought to have a good chance of growing. The South African group showed stability or increases in all but one subset, those in Botswana. Additionally, the researchers indicated that their numbers are optimistic if anything. That means that losing half of all wild lions in Africa over the next two decades is the best case scenario.
There are a total of about 20,000 lions known to be living in the wild, only about a tenth of the number that existed a hundred years ago. While direct human interaction is to be blamed, that’s not always the whole story. To be sure, they are often hunted or killed, usually as competition for food as they can be a threat to livestock, but instability on the continent as a whole has led to destruction of habitats and means of survival for many animals, lions simply being one of them. After all, the relatively stable Southern Africa having the best prospects compared the unstable regions like West Africa is certainly no coincidence.
While many nations have started to get on board with conservation efforts by creating wildlife preserves and penalizing unnecessary killing of animals such as lions, not all have been able to do so. Some have political issues that preclude any action being viable, while others are simply corrupt to the point of not caring.
The researchers agree, saying that it behooves non-African nations to aid those who can’t protect wildlife themselves, financially or otherwise. Moves have been made in the United States and beyond to push lions onto the endangered species list everywhere outside of Southern Africa, but there is not a comprehensive plan as of yet.
To read the entire study you can click here. To learn more about the lion and its decline, as well as ways you can get involved, click here.