VOICES Ideas and Insight From Explorers
On this World Lion Day, it is time for us to raise the flag for all of the threats facing lions today. By doing so, we can take the next essential steps toward saving this vital species—without which the wilds of Africa will be forever altered.
By Gabriel Fava, Born Free Foundation
Today, the 29th of July, is International Tiger Day (#TigerDay). Does the day represent a cause for celebration, alarm, or both?
A swift and global conservation response is needed to prevent the world’s gorillas, lions, tigers, rhinos, and other iconic terrestrial megafauna from being lost forever, an influential group of international scientists reported today in the journal BioScience.
Their analysis, entitled Saving the World’s Terrestrial Megafauna, covers the precipitous loss of large animal populations around the globe. The report included a 13-point declaration by 43 scientists and conservationists calling for acknowledgement that a “business as usual” mentality will result in massive species extinction. Read the declaration and study the maps showing the global decline of big land animals.
Exciting news for lions is that an expedition led by Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, supported by Born Free USA, has made camera trap images of the big cats in a remote national park in northwestern Ethiopia, an area the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considered as only a ‘possible range’ for the species. As many as 200 lions may survive across the ecosystem between this part of Ethiopia and the adjacent national park in Sudan, according to the expedition’s analysis. There have been concerns that lions had become extinct in Sudan.
In the first full research report of its kind, the trophy hunting industry in South Africa has been exposed as the main source of Asia’s rapidly expanding lion bone trade. The implications are that thousands of lions are being raised in South Africa to shot in cages, stoking a market for lion bone medicine that ultimately threatens the last 2,300 wild lions in the country.
National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and filmmaker Dereck Joubert, a world-renowned expert on lions and the African wilderness, shoots down the myths trophy hunters use to justify killing big cats. He reveals the devastating impact on African economies, employment, and ecology that hunting inflicts at the cost of the much greater wealth that may be generated from ecotourism, and he calls for support of the petition of the U.S. Government to list the lion as an Endangered Species, which would make it illegal to import lions and their parts (such as trophies) into the U.S.