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News > World

Lion Numbers in Dramatic Decline, Habitats Under Threat

  • Cecil the lion is seen at Hwange National Parks in Zimbabwe.

    Cecil the lion is seen at Hwange National Parks in Zimbabwe. | Photo: Reuters

Published 10 August 2018

Africa was once home to more than 200,000 lions just over a century ago. Now, the continent has just over 20,000.

Today, World Lion Day, comes amid the unforgiving hands of modernity. Habitat loss, prey base depletion, people killing lions in the name of defending livestock or protecting human life and the insidious canned lion and lion bone trade have dramatically decreased the species' population.

Botswana Moves to Lift Hunting Ban of Elephants

Other illegal activities involving lions include captive breeding; cub petting; volunteering and lion walks; and canned hunting.

All these issues fuel lions being bred to be killed, according to The Citizen. It means to be vigilant, for visiting zoos or other facilities that allow you to pet cute little lion cubs are breeding them to be killed when they mature.

Despite the power associated with the king of the jungle, lion, or Panthera leo populations are decreasing at an alarming rate, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, Red List.

A study published in 2014 concluded that lion populations worldwide had reduced by a whopping 43 percent since 1993. Meanwhile, Panthera.org reported that Africa was home to more than 200,000 lions just over a century ago. Now, the continent has just over 20,000.

The hunting, or thrill-kill, of eye-catching animal species the world over has long raised eyebrows. Though the issue gained media fanfare in 2015, after the killing of “Cecil the Lion” in Zimbabwe by United States dentist Walter Palmer, during the latter half of the 19th century, the U.S. military and white settler families embarked on a campaign of killing bison far and wide in efforts to decrease indigenous peoples food supply to break their efforts at resisting colonization.

U.S. army general Philip Sheridan once wrote, “the best way for the government is to now make (resisting indigenous warriors) poor by the destruction of their stock, and then settle them on the lands allotted to them.”

In 1869, the Army-Navy Journal reported U.S. army general William Sherman once stated that “the quickest way to compel the Indians to settle down to civilized life was to send ten regiments of soldiers to the plains, with orders to shoot buffaloes until they became too scarce to support the redskins.”

Before these efforts, the buffalo population once numbered over 30 million. By the end of the 19th century, only a few hundred buffalo remained in the wild, according to The Atlantic.

Modern-day conservationists have heeded the call to protect lions, so this species does not suffer the same fate, albeit for different reasons, like the buffalo.

Kenya has had a decades-long ban on sports hunting. However, some African nations that are home to reduced lion populations, such as South Africa and Tanzania, have hunting industries which they say generate tens of millions of dollars in revenue.

Some interesting facts about lions include: their ability to run as fast as 80km/h in short bursts, and can leap as far as 10m; a lion's roar is audible for up to eight kilometers away; and while today lions only exist in some parts of Africa and Asia, centuries ago, they could be found in several parts of Africa, Asia, and even Europe.

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