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How many lions do we need to lose?


David Youldon

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Download the latest newsletter (c. 0.7 mb) at

http://www.lionalert.org/Newsletter%20July%2009.pdf

This month's issue includes...

• A long walk for Antelope Park’s 2Ss ended their walking career with an exceptional accomplishment...
• Sango and Swahili return to Antelope Park…
• Luangwa moves into fourth place…
• Leya’s first kill...
• The 2KLs take on the buffalo…
• Stage one welcomes Damisi, Dhakiya, Kanu and Kosey…
• Medical and teaching assistance in Gweru…
• Health education…
• Ground Hornbill and large predator studies updates…
• Conservation education…
• Facilitated research update…
• The last roar: Bhubesi & Batoka

In a recent article in the Standard newspaper in Kenya Patrick Omondi, Head of Species Conservation and Management for the Kenyan Wildlife Service is quoted as saying that “Kenya had more than 20,000 African lions in 1963. It dropped to 2,749 in 2002 and stood at 1,970 last year.” If these estimates are accurate then Kenya has seen a frightening 28% drop in lion numbers in just the last six years to 2008. This is a significantly faster decline in populations than what the IUCN suggests in the lions’ red list classification where the rate of decline is based on the period up to 2002 (when the most recent continent wide estimates were published) – “a species population reduction of approximately 30% is suspected over the past two decades”

So that is 30% decline in the 1980s and 90s and then a further 28% drop in this decade so far. If you were not worried about the fate of lions before you should be now!

Let us not forget that vast amounts of conservation funding is spent in Kenya on habitat protection and I would guess that less protected populations may have suffered even greater losses over the same time period.

Any notion that habitat protection alone is sufficient to save the lion is woefully underestimating the problems facing the species.

And do not think for a second that the problem is limited to lions!

This past month I was invited to Ghana – my first visit to this very beautiful country. West Africa is not known for wildlife tourism but this is something that the Ghanaian government is very interested in changing. The 2002 lion estimates by Chardonnet and Bauer & van der Merwe suggested that only 15 – 30 lions exist in the country but that the population is increasing. Talking to the wildlife managers of the Parks where these lions are supposedly living refutes these claims however. The lion is effectively extinct with a two year camera trap study in the Mole National park showing an unexpected number of hyena and leopard but not one single lion. There has only been one sighting of lion in the Park this year, although granted, the thick bush reduces the chance of locating them.

So it’s very early stages for this project but we hope to work with the authorities to develop a management plan for the species as well as discuss tourism capacity building to fund the programs and take advantage of their outcomes.

For those that care - our financial year end is 31st December. I'll leave you do to the math on that!

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