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On Dwindling Savannas, Lions at Risk

Animals  (tags: climate, climate-change, climatechange, conservation, ecosystems, destruction, environment, habitat, habitatdestruction, nature, protection, pollution, Sustainabililty, water, wildlife, world, sadness, wildanimals, suffering, extinction, endangered, ethic )

- 1566 days ago -
"What they don't realize is that the savanna is in worse shape than the rain forests we're always hearing about."

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JL A (282)
Sunday December 9, 2012, 5:26 pm

Green - Energy, the Environment and the Bottom Line
December 6, 2012, 7:53 am
On Dwindling Savannas, Lions at Risk

When armchair travelers think of the African savanna, they may conjure images of vast expanses of untouched wilderness.

"Maybe some lions chasing down zebras in the distance, and Meryl Streep wandering around in khakis and a big hat," said Stuart Pimm, the Doris Duke professor of conservation ecology at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment. "What they don't realize is that the savanna is in worse shape than the rain forests we're always hearing about."

But fans of "Out of Africa" aren't the only ones with a misconception. Low-resolution satellite imagery has often led researchers to assume that much of the savanna remains intact.

But Dr. Pimm's research group reports in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation that a closer look at the landscape tells a different story.

Using Google Maps, the group was able to zoom in on the African landscape and see what the other satellite images weren't capturing: small fields and settlements fragmenting what used to be uninterrupted habitat. According to Dr. Pimm, only about 25 percent of Africa's savanna remains intact.

The team then turned its attention to the top savanna predator, the lion, as another way of gauging savanna integrity. Compiling the best data available on lion populations, the Duke team estimated that only 32,000 to 35,000 lions now survive in Africa. In 1960, there were 100,000.

Perhaps even more worrisome, however, is what the team found when it compared maps of intact savanna with lion population data and statistics on human population density and distribution.

Of the 67 lion areas the team identified, only 10 support lion populations that are large, stable and protected enough to persist into the foreseeable future. None of the those areas are in West or Central Africa.

Even in some of West Africa's largest national parks, like Como in Ivory Coast, lions have completely vanished. About 6,000 lions live in areas where their decline seems is almost inevitable, given habitat disruption and human encroachment, Dr. Pimm said.

"I don't think lions will ever go completely extinct," he said. "But what we could see in the very near future is this magnificent and iconic species constrained to just a few parks in southern and eastern Africa. And that would be a tragedy not just for wildlife lovers, but for the stability of the savanna ecosystem and the local tourism industry."

Even in the United States, the king of the jungle is currently on the government's radar. The federal Fish and Wildlife Service is currently reviewing a petition to add the lion to the endangered species list. Endangered status would prohibit American trophy hunters from bringing remnants home as souvenirs.

Such measures may not make much of a difference. "I think the jury is still out" on trophy hunting and conservation, Dr. Pimm said. "In Kenya, all hunting is outlawed, and just across the border in Tanzania, there is more land devoted to hunting than conservation."

"Both countries have big lion populations," he noted. "We just don't have enough data on these lions to know which strategy will win out in the long term."

Sandi C (109)
Sunday December 9, 2012, 8:41 pm

Leslene Dunn (84)
Sunday December 9, 2012, 9:51 pm

Lenicka R (60)
Monday December 10, 2012, 3:56 am

Barbara Erdman (63)
Monday December 10, 2012, 8:03 am

naomi cohen (55)
Monday December 10, 2012, 11:17 am
as long as their habitats are being demolished, and poachers are lurking around, our beautiful lions are in grave danger. human ignorance is something i cannot tolerate. the humans responsible for reducing the lion population to almost nothing are too stupid to realize or even care how this is destroying all the beauty of this world. signed.

JL A (282)
Monday December 10, 2012, 11:37 am
You are welcome Lisa. You cannot currently send a star to Lisa because you have done so within the last week.

Louise G (1)
Monday December 10, 2012, 3:21 pm
Noted, thanks.

JL A (282)
Monday December 10, 2012, 3:32 pm
You are welcome Louise.

Danuta W (1255)
Tuesday December 11, 2012, 2:11 am
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