According to Edith Kabesiime, the campaigns manager at World Animal Protection, Africa’s lion population has declined from 200,000 in the last century to the current 20,000 which she said is alarming.
“African lions are facing human and nature induced threats hence the need to prioritize their protection. We have witnessed the population of lions in Africa declined in the last decades as human beings occupy their habitat,”Kabesiime said.
“Climate change, removal from their habitats for entertainment and poaching to satisfy the traditional medicine industry are some of the contributing factors to decline in wild lion populations. Shrinking of prey base linked to massive hunting has increased their risk of death by starvation. “
According to the conservationists, captive breeding of lions that has intensified in some parts of Africa is also a threat to their survival.
Kabesiime says lack of adequate basic animal welfare conditions, such as enough water, food, space, shelter and medical care, is sadly a stark reality in most commercial breeding farms which has been propelled by the urge to make profits through wildlife trade.
“African lion has been categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature( IUCN) as a vulnerable species amid international trade in its claws, bones and jaws to meet a rising demand for traditional medicine and jewelry,”she said.
“Wildlife trade is not sustainable. If anything, it is a recipe for ultimate extinction and a possible outbreak of a future pandemic like what we are experiencing currently.”
Tennyson Williams, the World Animal Protection Country Director noted that there is need for immediate action to be taken to protect and save lions from future extinction through a ban on international trade in lion products and enforcement of laws to stop poaching.
“Policymakers need to consider a total ban on wildlife trade. There is need for a coordinated global action to advocate for it as a way of saving Africa’s wild populations,” Tennyson Williams said.
“At individual level one should distance themselves from wildlife trade ultimately making it socially unacceptable. If we learn anything from the current situation, it is that we need to leave wild animals where they belong – in the wild. We all have a responsibility to make a shift in our behaviour and attitudes towards animals that could save the lives of lions, other wildlife species, millions of people and our economies.”
This year’s World Lion Day is marked with keen interest in raising awareness of the light of the lion, finding ways to protect the big cat’s natural environment and to educate people on how to prevent human-wildlife conflicts.