As encroaching civilization has brought people and lions into much closer proximity the incidence of lion attacks on humans and livestock has increased substantially. Not surprisingly, villagers retaliate by killing lions to protect their families and their livestock.
"We must never lose sight of the fact that the costs of lion conservation ultimately derive from the need to protect people from these animals," said Packer. And lions are not alone in causing widespread human misery. "Elephants are in crisis, too, and although they are largely being decimated by ivory poachers, there's little support for elephant conservation in rural villages because of the enormous damage they cause to crops. A fence that is lion-proof is also elephant-proof, so a well-designed policy of fencing would protect more than just lions."
Because the findings from the Ecology Letters paper present such an enormous challenge for African governments and conservationists, the best hope may be to advocate for a "Marshall Plan" for African wildlife conservation, Packer said.
"If we're serious about this, it means establishing fences around very large areas, such as the Selous Game Reserve, which is home to the largest remaining lion population in the world. Fencing the Selous, which covers an area of about 17,000 square miles, would cost something like $30 million. None of the world's conservation agencies could afford that, but perhaps a global funding agency for developing countries would do it because fencing would protect humans as well as lions."
Packer's own research has focused on lions in Serengeti National Park for the past 35 years. The world's most distinguished lion researcher, his studies are reported widely by national and international media.
|Contact: Peggy Rinard|
University of Minnesota