"West African lions have unique genetic sequences not found in any other lions, including in zoos or captivity," explained Dr. Christine Breitenmoser, the co-chair of the IUCN/SCC Cat Specialist Group, which determines the conservation status of wild cats around the world. "If we lose the lion in West Africa, we will lose a unique, locally adapted population found no-where else. It makes their conservation even more urgent."
Lions have disappeared across Africa as human populations and their livestock herds have grown, competing for land with lions and other wildlife. Wild savannas are converted for agriculture and cattle, the lion's natural prey is hunted out and lions are killed by pastoralists fearing the loss of their herds.
National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and BCI co-founder Dereck Joubert commented, "Every survey we do is inaccurate because as soon as you complete it, it is already out of date; the declines are so rapid. It is a terribly sad state of affairs when you can very accurately count the lions in an area because there are so few of them. This is critical work that again confirms that we are underestimating the rate of decline of lion populations and that the situation requires a global emergency intervention."
Today, fewer than 35,000 lions remain in Africa in about 25% of the species' original range. In West Africa, the lion now survives in less than 50,000km2 - smaller than half the size of New York State - and only 1% of its original historic range in the region.
|Contact: Susie Weller|