African Cat Conservation Needs Improvement!

Lion populations have plummeted in recent years, particularly since the 1960’s. There used to be approximately 200,000 lions in Africa. Now, about 20,000 lions remain in all of the country, according to estimates. It was projected that there was a 67 percent chance that the number of lions in Central and West Africa would drop by half within two decades — According to an article, “Lion Population in Africa Likely to Fall by Half, Study Finds”, published in October of 2015 in the New York Times.

Are the efforts being made by conservationists to protect big cats in Africa effective, and why or why not? To answer this we need to know what conservation groups there are that work towards African cat conservation. What methods are these groups using, and are these methods making a difference? We need to explore further to figure out how and why their methods do or don’t work. Lastly, there is the question of where all the African cat populations stand currently.

A Pride of Beautiful Lions

I became interested in the conservation of African cat populations as soon as I learned about the trouble African cats are in and about conservation.

I love the all of the different big cat species, care about what happens to the all the animals in this world, and want to protect to our environment. Unfortunately, the African cat populations are not as robust as they should be, so they need our help through conservation. In order for there to be a proper amount of change with something like this, we need as many people as possible, not just to be knowledgeable about the problem, but to be inspired to do something. If there was further exploration of this topic, then there would be important knowledge gained, and if that were shared with enough people, perhaps some positive change regarding this issue could happen.

One conservation group that protects the big cats in Africa is the African Wildlife Foundation and one conservation method that is used in various places in Africa is regulating trophy hunting. Regulated trophy hunting is usually done within a privately owned ranch where animals are specially bought, bred or raised for the purpose of an individual that pays a fee to be able to hunt “wild prey,” like lions. According to an article at called “Outcry for Cecil the Lion Could Undercut Conservation Efforts” by Norimitsu Onishi. Jimmiel Mandima, an ecologist and program director at the African Wildlife Foundation said, “Most of the illegal offtake results from illicit wildlife trafficking.” This is basically saying that some of the animal loss is due to wildlife trafficking by poachers which is separate from hunting, in that it is not regulated and “payed for,” and poaching is illegal, whereas trophy hunting is allowed is some places. This is unfortunately a key obstacle in making conservation efforts work and a definite problem. The conservationists, game wardens, and fish and game need to find better ways to cut out trafficking and poaching, perhaps through better monitoring, security measures, and strong penalties for these crimes.

Killing of Cecil the lion

There are multiple points in the “Outcry…” article that support the hunting method as helpful in conservation. Just to mention one, the article states,

“Despite intensifying calls to ban or restrict trophy hunting in Africa after the killing of a lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe, most conservation groups, wildlife management experts and African governments support the practice as a way to maintain wildlife. Hunting, they contend, is part of a complex economy that has so far proven to be the most effective method of conservation, not only in Africa but around the world as well.”

There are various sections of the article that are relevant, but this quote sums up how the Trophy hunting seems to be fairly effective.

That’s not to say there aren’t still issues that make conservation challenging or that there are no opposing points of view about hunting as a method. As a matter of fact the “Outcry..” article does say,

“Animal rights groups say it is simply unethical to kill animals in the name of conservation. They contend — and most conservationists agree — that there are problems with trophy hunting. Proceeds from hunting are not always funneled into conservation efforts. Unlike those in Namibia, hunting programs elsewhere, including a long-existing one in Zimbabwe, fail to bring full benefits to local populations.”

I agree with this. The trophy hunting method would be more effective if it was regulated more strictly, and verified that the hunting was following the regulations and ensured wthat the proceeds went towards conservation and the local economy as it is supposed to.

African lion population chart.

There is an article, also from, called “Lion Population in Africa Likely to Fall by Half, Study Finds,” by Erica Goode that discusses a population study done regarding Lion populations in Africa. A conservation group called Panthera, was involved in the study. The article states, “Over all, the African lion population in these regions has decreased by about 50 percent since 1993, said Luke Hunter, president of Panthera, an organization focused on the global conservation of big cats, and one of eight authors of the study…” Doing a study to figure out what the numbers are for a population ( lions in this case), is an important step in conservation.

So, let’s go back to the questions or inquiries that I mentioned in the beginning. To begin with, a couple conservation groups are Panthera and The African Wildlife Foundation. The first article I discuss mentions the AWF, and their method of regulating trophy hunting. To recap my previous discussion on this, there are ways in which this method works; however it does, in my opinion, need improvement. The other group, Panthera, uses knowledge of the conservation issue as part of their method. They want to get lions categorized or listed as at least threatened but preferably endangered, in order to get them protected under the Endangered Species Act. Then the countries outside Africa can be given the knowledge that the people in Africa have a problem with their lions. As of right now African lions are listed as vulnerable, which is less severe than endangered, when really they should be listed as endangered. This method of changing their listing and “spreading the news” will make a difference and is an key part of conservation. Lastly, this discussion is about Lions, which is not the only African cat species, so this is just one part of African cat conservation. The efforts in conserving African cat populations needs improvement because the numbers are still not where they should be, and trophy hunting and poaching still exist.

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