Lions, the most social of all big cats, are approaching extinction. David Braun of National Geographic attributes the plunge to human pressures in the in his article entitled, Lion Numbers Plunge as African Wilderness Succumbs to Human Pressure. The fact is there are only 32,000 lions remaining out of the 100,000 that roamed in Africa in the 1960s. In the article, Braun discusses the serious trouble lions are in due to human encroachment seeping into their habitat.
New research reported by, Science Daily, found that the African lion is facing extinction across the entire West African region. The West African lion once ranged continuously from Senegal to Nigeria, but the new article reveals there are now only an estimated 250 adult lions restricted to four isolated and severely imperiled populations. Only one of those populations contains more than 50 lions.
Stuart Pimm, Chair of Conservation at Duke University, also mentions, “the lions of West Africa are essentially gone and only a radical effort can save them at this stage.” With so much evidence and support, why aren’t we taking this issue more seriously? It’s not just encroachment into their habitat, there are serious concerns with illegal trafficking and poaching which brings big money to criminal organizations.
An article in National Geographic states large carnivores play valuable ecological roles in “top-down” structuring of the ecosystem. For instance, removal of lions may allow populations of mid-sized carnivores to explode which would have cascading impacts on other flora and fauna. From an ecological perspective, large carnivores are crucial for balanced, resilient systems.
However, the lion is so much more than just the largest carnivore in Africa. It is a powerful cultural and political symbol. Attempting to list all the uses of lions in African proverbs, symbols, names etc. would be a nearly impossible task. Finally, lions are vital to the tourism trade, which in turn is economically critical for many African nations.
Kevin Richardson, a self-taught animal behaviorist, says in his own words in this 60 Minutes special, habitat loss and human encroachment is one of the main reasons lions are disappearing at such a rapid rate. Through his remarkable relationships with the animals he has also made a name for himself as one of South Africa’s leading animal handlers and advisors. Richardson disgregards common misconceptions that breaking an animal’s spirit with sticks and chains is the best way to subdue them, he uses love, understanding and trust to develop personal bonds with them. His has a one of kind method of getting to know each cat’s individual personality, what makes each of them angry, happy, upset, or irritated, just like a mother understands a child, which has caused them to accept him like one of their own into their fold. This understanding he has is truly a gift. Kevin understands the risks he takes but his vast knowledge of understanding these animals precedes all.
Check out the 60 Minutes special below. I am sure you will be impressed!
Every action has a reaction whether it be negative or positive. Lions need to be protected to keep our ecosystems in balance and simply for their magnificence! I would never want to imagine seeing lions only in zoos, would you?
Make a difference and consider supporting the International Fund for Animal Welfare so they may protect lions from hunters.
You can sign the petition here.
60 minutes special