AboutZoos, Since 2008


New report con­firms almost half of Africa’s lions fac­ing extinction

pub­lished 05 March 2013 | mod­i­fied 05 March 2013

electric wildlife fenceA new report pub­lished today con­cludes that nearly half of Africa’s wild lion pop­u­la­tions may decline to near extinc­tion over the next 2040 years with­out urgent con­ser­va­tion mea­sures. The plight of many lion pop­u­la­tions is so bleak, the report con­cludes that fenc­ing them in — and fenc­ing humans out — may be their only hope for sur­vival.

Led by the Uni­ver­sity of Minnesota’s Pro­fes­sor Craig Packer and co-​authored by a large team of lion biol­o­gists, includ­ing Panthera’s Pres­i­dent, Dr. Luke Hunter, and Lion Pro­gram Direc­tor, Dr. Guy Balme, the report, enti­tled Con­serv­ing large car­ni­vores: dol­lars and fence, was pub­lished today in the sci­en­tific jour­nal Ecol­ogy Let­ters.

“It is clear that fences work and unfenced pop­u­la­tions are extremely expen­sive to main­tain,” said Craig Packer, who also sits on Panthera’s Cat Advi­sory Coun­cil. Using field data from 11 African coun­tries, the Ecol­ogy Let­ters study exam­ines the cost of man­ag­ing fenced and unfenced habi­tats, and com­pares lion pop­u­la­tion den­si­ties and trends in both. The report shows that con­ser­va­tion costs are lower, and lion pop­u­la­tion sizes and den­si­ties are greater, in reserves secured by wildlife-​proof fences, com­pared to unfenced ecosys­tems. Lions in unfenced reserves were sub­ject to a higher degree of threats from human com­mu­ni­ties, includ­ing retal­ia­tory killing by herders, habi­tat loss and frag­men­ta­tion, and over­hunt­ing of lion prey.

Panthera’s Dr. Luke Hunter explained:

These find­ings high­light the sever­ity of the lion con­ser­va­tion cri­sis today and the lim­ited choices we have to ensure a future for the species. No one wants to resort to putting any more fences around Africa’s mar­velous wild areas, but with­out mas­sive and imme­di­ate increases in the com­mit­ment to lion con­ser­va­tion, we may have lit­tle choice.

Whether fenc­ing or some alter­na­tive phys­i­cal bound­ary such as intensely man­aged buffer zones, it is clear that sep­a­rat­ing lion and human pop­u­la­tions will be essen­tial for the species’ sur­vival. Along with main­tain­ing phys­i­cal bound­aries, con­flict mit­i­ga­tion ini­tia­tives such as those car­ried out through Panthera’s Project Leonardo and the Lion Guardians pro­gram, are required to reduce the killing of lions where humans and lions share the land­scape.

Panthera’s Dr. Guy Balme stated, “We have shown that it is pos­si­ble to keep both humans and lions in African land­scapes by reduc­ing lion-​human con­flict, but it requires exten­sive resources. As the num­bers of peo­ple and their live­stock con­tinue to grow in Africa, it is essen­tial to scale up these pro­grams to avert los­ing many lion pop­u­la­tions.”

Today, it is esti­mated that fewer than 30,000 lions remain in Africa in just 25% of the species’ orig­i­nal nat­ural habitat.
Learn more about Panthera’s efforts to pro­tect and grow Africa’s remain­ing lion pop­u­la­tions through Project Leonardo.

(Source: Pan­thera press release, 05.03.2013)

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