90% drop in Africa’s lion population in 20 years!!!!

For many years there has been a general attitude prevailing (even amongst wildlife authorities) that lions and leopards particularly, as well as other predators, have been able to look after themselves and that some how they would always be around and that wild Africa would allow them to roam freely as they always have.  Somehow the lion and leopard have been largely ignored in all of this and the wild African lion population, which was estimated at between 150,000-200,000 in the 1980’s, has plummeted in the last two decades to between 18,000 and 25,000 today. It is thought that Kenya holds about 10% of that figure. And yet, unlike elephants (a far more numerous species), lions have no protection under the international accord governing such matters.

Credit:  James Weis

Much spotlight and huge international reaction was drawn to the dreadful elephant and rhino poaching of the 1970’s and 1980’s which resulted in a dramatic turn around. In addressing the appalling losses through poaching of these two species Richard Leakey spearheaded a massive campaign to combat the poaching and also harnessing the huge attention and funding that his efforts and those of many others generated. This all resulted in dramatically reducing the poaching in Kenya, international bans on ivory and rhino horn and species protection policies that are still much in place today where these species exist. Why can’t this be done today for the predators? Do these incredibly valuable and beautiful species have to be reduced in numbers to where they only exist in National Parks and sanctuaries? Or can they still roam wild and free in large areas like the wildland habitat surrounding Masai Mara? Importantly the Masai Mara region holds more than one third of the entire lion population of Kenya. This makes it all the more valuable to protect.

Credit: James Weis

We don’t have much time. The biggest threat isn’t hunters, poachers or poison makers — it is our own complacency, the lazy hope that someone else is taking care of the great beasts of Africa. Lions and other large predators are disappearing even as we learn more about the collapse of entire ecosystems. The $200 billion a year reaped from ecotourism will be lost, causing suffering among communities all over Africa that rely on this trade.

Credit: James Weis

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