– Malawi and Cameroon, were found to have the most ecologically vulnerable lion populations, suffering as a result of low lion population densities in comparison to their carrying capacity
Harare, Zimbabwe – According to a study report released in September of this year, lion populations in Malawi, Somalia, and Sudan are severely at risk of going extinct.
The study published in the journal Nature Communications titled “Socio-political and Ecological Fragility of Threatened, Free-Ranging African Lion Populations,” said Somalia was the nation with the most vulnerable lion range, followed by Sudan.
This is true notwithstanding the survey’s findings that Lions have high ecological, economic, and existence values.
Some of these nations have low lion populations, high human and livestock population density, and habitat destruction that pose threats to their survival.
The research stated that the total number of threatened species recognised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) was estimated to be between 20,000 and 25,000 and may be decreasing.
A 36% drop in species range has been observed over the past 21 years, according to frightening reports that lions may have been fully exterminated from 92% of their historical ranges.
Given that lions are habitat-dependent, it is likely that habitat loss has resulted in a similar population decline. The study also reveals that because of human interference, lions in protected areas are more vulnerable.
However, there is a clear contrast in population trends between nations and regions: between 1993 and 2014, lion populations increased by 12% in four southern African nations (Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe), but sample lion populations decreased by 60% in the rest of the African range.
Meanwhile, the number of mature lions in West and Central Africa has decreased by an estimated 66%, making them extremely endangered. There are only 250 mature lions left in West Africa.
The exact threats driving these decreases differ significantly throughout the nations and areas that make up the lion’s range.
The most serious dangers to lions in Eastern and Southern Africa are bushmeat poaching, indiscriminate killing (often resulting from conflicts with livestock owners), and low population density.
In contrast, the three main concerns in West and Central Africa are livestock encroachment, a small population, and prey depletion.
Although they are essential for lions as strongholds, protected zones are not always successful in preserving them.
For instance, lion populations in Limpopo National Park in Mozambique have been driven to the brink of extinction by rising poaching for lion parts, while local lion extinctions in Nsumbu National Park in Zambia were likely caused by bushmeat poaching with snares.
Additionally, a sizeable section of the lions’ home range is outside of protected areas, placing them at greater risk from challenges like violence, habitat loss, and loss of prey.
The researchers discovered that 24%, or, in terms of the ecological traits and fragility of lion populations and lion range countries,
The researchers discovered that, in terms of the ecological traits and fragility of lion populations and lion range countries, 24%, or six of the 25 lion ranges, had 50 or less lions, and eight countries, or 32%, had 1,000 or more lions.
With 8,000 of them (34% of the population), Tanzania had the most lions.
Over half of Africa’s lion range countries (56%) supported less than 1% of the lion population apiece, while Tanzania and Botswana alone contributed to 48% of the total lion numbers in the wild.
The two last countries on the index, Malawi and Cameroon, were found to have the most ecologically vulnerable lion populations, suffering as a result of low lion population densities in comparison to their carrying capacity.
According to the report, anthropogenic pressures (human activities like mining), habitat conversion, prey depletion, and unsustainable hunting will pose a greater threat to lion populations.
The research also emphasised the importance of taking ecological and socio-political variables into account in order to comprehend, address, and successfully implement conservation programmes.
“For example, poor governance is often a major limiting factor to effective conservation, and countries that face major challenges such as conflict, poverty, political instability, low human development, or rapidly growing human populations are unlikely to be able to prioritise conservation or conduct it effectively,” it noted.
Furthermore, according to scientists, nations in the lion range had bad scores on the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index and were more or less vulnerable from a socio-political perspective.
“Almost all African lion range countries are in the top 50% (highest poverty), with nearly three quarters in the top 25%. The 10 countries with the most ecologically fragile lion populations are all in the top 50% of acutely poor countries, yet the global community is expecting some of the poorest countries to carry an expensive burden that is inequitable and likely unsustainable,” it observed.
However, lions that once roamed over more developed nations in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia have since disappeared from those regions.
The researchers contend that even though the IUCN mandated inclusion of a wider perspective in lion conservation roughly 15 years ago, it was still disregarded in assessments of conservation.
“The time has come to finally include and compare the socio-political contexts in which remaining lion populations survive. Assessing socio-political alongside ecological pressures is essential to understanding threats and developing effective conservation strategies and priorities,” the researchers concluded.
This weekend marks the beginning of the 20th International Inter-Ministerial Conference on South-South and Triangular Cooperation in Population and Development in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, where specialists are being urged to take into account how the expanding human population is affecting the habitat of wildlife.