Africa’s lions are facing a catastrophic decline, a wildlife conservationist said in a new report released on Saturday.
The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) said the lion which is one of the world’s most iconic animal species is facing a catastrophic decline, with Africa’s population dropping 50 percent in only 20 years.
“Lions will not survive the 21st century on goodwill alone. Nor will they survive if reduced to being merely the centerpiece of a high status vacation for foreign visitors to the continent, or even the target of trophy hunters,” says the report dubbed ‘The New Lion Economy: Unlocking the value of lions and their landscapes’.
The survey was released to commemorate the World Lion Day which is held annually on Aug. 10.
This year’s campaign aims to bring people together globally to pay tribute to the lions and raise awareness of the issues facing lion conservation. The report notes that lions are on a knife edge throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
“Their decline is a tragedy for the whole world. And if Africa loses more lions, many countries will not only lose the direct economic benefits that they bring through tourism and trophy hunting, but likely also a host of other ecosystem services that come from the threatened habitats through which they stalk,” says the review.
The survey details how lions contribute to Africa’s economy, beyond tourism and hunting revenues.
The findings provide evidence that lions are a perfect flagship or umbrella species on which to focus policy and development decisions.
The report notes that despite the iconic place that the lion holds in African society, and the conscious linking of economic development with the power of lions, there has been little notice taken of the risks that this development agenda brings for the lion itself.
Kaddu Sebunya, CEO of AWF, said that the economic development of Africa and conservation of nature are convergent goals.
“It is a false dilemma to suppose that Africa’s wildlife and wild landscapes must or should be sacrificed in order for the continent to modernize and maintain the steady pace of its economic growth,” Sebunya said.
He observed that despite Africa growing fast, economically, culturally and in the confidence of its mainly young citizens, the continent will continue to be reliant on the range of ecosystem services provided by its wildlife, forests, savannahs and freshwaters to provide ecosystem services like clean water, buffering against floods and desertification, carbon storage and wild food.
According to AWF, wildlife like the lions are indicators of many of the ecosystem services and as such, a healthy lion population indicates healthy savannah, which in turn indicates vital contributions to food and water security, disaster risk reduction and climate stabilization.
“Investing in lion conservation is not simply a charitable act that might protect populations of one particular species, however important. It also protects the many commercial and subsistence values that rely on lions directly, or that rely on the landscapes where lions live, and come as a no-cost extra to conservation,” he added.