According to a new article on African lion conservation by science and nature writer David Quammen, recent surveys and estimates indicate an 80% decline in lions throughout Africa, with the remaining lions currently living in approximately 70 different areas. “But the smallest contain only tiny populations, isolated, genetically limited, and lacking viability for the long term,” notes Quammen.
Quammen states various causes of the decline, including:
- Habitat loss
- Habitat fragmentation
- Poaching of lion prey for bush meat
- Poaching snares that catch lions instead
- Displacement of lion prey by livestock
- Spearing and killing of lions
- Tribal ritual killings
- Trophy hunting
He discusses possible solutions to the problem, such as the controversial fencing strategies suggested by ecologist Craig Packer, a professor at the University of Minnesota and director of the Lion Research Center. Parker claims that “few African nations can invest adequately in the management of the parks,” and that while fencing could destroy some migratory ecosystems, it would protect and save a much higher percentage of lions due to significantly reduced management costs.
Quammen also talks about a reduction in lion killings following the 2007 implementation of the Maasai Lion Guardian program, a Living with Lions project. Lion killing has been a Maasai “rites of passage” tradition. The Lion Guardian program recruits and trains Maasai warriors to protect the lions instead of killing them.