Lions Facing Extinction in West Africa
The number of lions in West Africa has faced a “catastrophic collapse” with about 400 left in the region, a new survey suggests. There are concerns that the entire population could disappear with there being fewer than 250 mature lions of breeding age.
Panthera (a non-profit organization) has carried out a 6-year study in 17 countries – Senegal to Nigeria.
In 2005, it was believed that West African lions live in 21 different protected areas (PAs), however, according to the survey published in the scientific journal PLOS One, lions now exist in just 4 of those sites. The report also includes that lions now roam only 1.1% of their historic range in West Africa – a majority of their habitat has been converted for agricultural use (Philipp Henschel, co-author of the report).
“Researchers discovered that West African lions now survive in only 5 countries: Senegal, Nigeria, and a single trans-frontier population on the shared borders of Benin. Niger and Burkina-Faso.” If these lions end up extinct, we will lose a very unique locally adapted population as these lions have a genetic sequence not found in other lions.
“Our results came as a complete shock; all but a few of the areas we surveyed were basically paper parks, having neither management budgets nor patrol staff, and had lost all their lions and other iconic large mammals,” Mr Henschel told the BBC’s Sivaramakrishnan Parameswaran.”
Conservation of West African lions has been greatly neglected, whereas eastern and southern Africa, millions of dollars has been spent.
There is a bush meat problem:
Lions are restricted to protected areas. Poaching of animals (usually the prey/food source for lions) to supply local bushmeat markets is most likely the main threat. Not to mention, retaliatory killings of lions by herdsmen and local farmers have been witnessed.
There is a funding crisis:
There is a lack of funding for conservation of these West African lions as well as increasing human population and encroachment with impoverished economies, resulting in increasingly vulnerable lions. The IUCN (International Union for Conservation) is calling for urgent international support. Benin and Senegal are working to establish a National Lion Action Plan with research teams to identify measures to save the lions in their countries.