The African lion is an awesome creature when viewed in its natural habitat. This king of the safari can defend itself against other animals, but a new study indicates that it cannot protect itself against human interference.
It’s yet another example of how we people are damaging the earth we inherited. Care2 has reported recently on the alarming decline of the tiger population in India, and the rapidly shrinking number of birds in Britain, both due to human impact. Now we are learning that African lions are suffering the same fate.
According to an analysis published in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation, the savannah habitat that is the home of African lions has shrunk by 75 percent over the past 50 years, and this dramatic loss could threaten the survival of the species: in the same time period, the population of lions has dropped from 100,000 to roughly 32,000.
The research, conducted by American, African and British researchers, shows how major land-use changes and growth in the human population are putting these magnificent creatures in jeopardy. West African lions have experienced the greatest decline in population with only as few as 500 left in the region.
From The Washington Post:
“It’s a shock,” said Duke University professor for conservation ecology Stuart Pimm, one of the paper’s co-authors.
“Savannah Africa has been massively reduced. . . . As [people] moved in, lions have been hunted out.”
According to The Epoch Times, researchers believe that the shrinking lion population is directly due to an increase in farming and development over that half-century span – with around 6,000 lions presently in population centers with a high risk of going extinct.
“The word savannah conjures up visions of vast open plains teeming with wildlife. But the reality is that massive land-use change and deforestation, driven by rapid human population growth, has fragmented or degraded much of the original savannah,” Professor Pimm said in a statement reported by the Epoch Times online. “Only 25 percent remains of an ecosystem that once was a third larger than the continental United States.”
Last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its decision to study whether African lions should be listed under the Endangered Species Act, meaning that American hunters could no longer hunt them. This move was the result of several animal rights and conservation groups petitioning the agency to list the species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature also lists the African lion as vulnerable.
From The Epoch Times:
Andrew Jacobson, a research associate with Pimm, said that “the next 10 years are decisive” for the African savannah, “not just for lions but for biodiversity, since lions are indicators of ecosystem health.”
Let’s hope that his words will be heeded before another species goes extinct.
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