News / Africa

New Study Shows African Lion Populations Declining

Researchers warn that the lion is rapidly losing its habitat in the savannahs of Africa.
Researchers warn that the lion is rapidly losing its habitat in the savannahs of Africa.
Jennifer Lazuta
A new study says the number of lions in sub-Saharan Africa is declining at an alarming rate, due in part to human encroachment in lions’ natural habitats. 

The mighty lion may be Africa’s top predator, but it appears to be no match against human encroachment into savannah lands, the natural habitat of the so-called king of the jungle.

Researchers from Duke University released a study this week that said lion populations in Africa have decreased by almost two-thirds over the last 50 years, predicting that as few as 32,000 lions may be left on the continent.

Using satellite imaging technology, researchers said they found strong evidence of correlation between the population decline and a dramatic 75 percent loss of habitable savannah land during approximately the same time period.

Stuart Pimm is a professor of conservation ecology at Duke University and one of the lead authors of the paper.  He said much of this loss has gone unnoticed for decades.

“Savannah Africa is an area about half as large as the continental United States, so it is a very, very large piece of land.  The impression that many people have comes from watching movies where you see lions chasing zebras across plains, and you get the impression it is in good shape. But in fact, what we found was that savannah Africa is in worse shape than the world’s rainforests," Pimm said. "About 25 percent of savannah Africa remains.”

Researchers said as many as 6,000 of the remaining lions currently face a high risk of extinction.

The situation is particularly dire in West Africa, where it is estimated that the lion population dropped from approximately 1,200 lions in 2002 down to between just 480 and 525 lions in 2012.

And with human populations in Africa expected to double by the year 2050, conservationists say the situation is likely to get worse.   

Pimm said that as Africa becomes increasingly urbanized and more savannah is converted to farm land, lions risk being pushed out of even more of their habitats. Despite the decrease, Pimm said it is not too late. The number of lions across the continent, he said, has not yet fallen to a critical level. “I think one of the important things to stress is that this isn’t all gloom and doom.  That we’re using this information to very actively look at strategies for how we can protect lions and help people get a benefit from having wildlife live near them,” he added.

Pimm said the next step is to find ways of allowing lions and people to coexist.  While national parks and game reserves go a long way in protecting wildlife, he said most are not big enough to support large lion populations, and many, particularly in East Africa, are not fenced in.

In both cases, the lions end up migrating into areas inhabited by humans and eating their livestock.  People retaliate against the lions, Pimm said, and the populations begin to dwindle. “So in those areas, we need to work with people to make sure when lions kill their livestock they don’t retaliate," he explained. "And the way to do that is to make sure the lions don’t kill the livestock in the first place.  And we are working with the people there to help them develop simple technologies that will protect livestock better.”

Pimm said that lions and other wildlife are a valuable resource.  They can drive tourism and other economic activity in the countries that choose to protect and maintain their wildlife.

You May Like

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Deborah from: USA
December 07, 2012 12:44 PM
The African lion population has declined by more than 50 percent in 30 years, with fewer than 35,000 lions estimated in the wild today. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will consider protecting the African lion under the Endangered Species Act. To comment on the proposed status change, visit the Born Free USA web site at www.bornfreeusa.org for instructions and sample letters to submit comments.


by: Linda from: USA
December 05, 2012 6:37 PM
Excellent article

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid