Across the entire African continent, the lion, a symbol of strength and majesty, is threatened with decline. Habitat Loss is the biggest single threat to Lions. Outside fenced parks and reserves, there is hardly any room left for Panthera leo. Scientists and conservationists warn that the king of the steppes has lost most of his habitat.
One of the main reasons is the continuous disappearance of their habitat. With shrinking African grasslands, lion populations have declined dramatically. Of about 350.000 lions that roamed the continent’s dry grassy plains in the 1920s, there are less than 20.000 left today. Land use and the transformation of land through tremendous population growth have chopped up and destroyed the savannah. This habitat shrinkage is even more severe as the rainforest loss.
Habitat Loss – the biggest single threat to Lions
Lions are top predators in their environment, whether that’s grasslands, desert or open woodland. It means they play a crucial role in keeping a healthy balance of numbers among other animals, especially herbivores like zebra and wildebeest – which in turn influences the condition of grasslands and forests.
By protecting a lion’s landscape, the whole area can thrive, which doesn’t just benefit wildlife but the people who rely on local natural resources too. Large carnivores play valuable ecological roles in “top-down” structuring of the ecosystem.
Removal of lions may allow populations of mid-sized carnivores to explode which would have cascading impacts on other flora and fauna. From an ecological perspective, large carnivores are crucial for balanced, resilient systems. However, the lion is so much more than just the largest carnivore in Africa.
Lions are vital to the tourism trade
This in turn is economically critical for many African nations. But, lion conservation must work with local communities to ensure their lands serve as important habitat for big cats. Safeguarding these rare animals requires a global commitment. Unfortunately, many countries can’t afford to take action to aid threatened wildlife and need help implementing effective conservation strategies.
In 2017 the Wildlife Conservation Network and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation launched the Lion Recovery Fund, responding to the alarming, drastic decline of African lion populations. Designed to get crucial funding quickly and directly to conservationists in the field, the LRF has spent its inaugural year making key investments into smart, strategic projects designed to bring lions back. One year later, the LRF has allocated more than $2.5 million to 27 projects with 18 different organizations across 15 countries.
The solution to this problem
It will not come from one project, one team or one organization. What is needed is a collaboration of everyone who is interested in lion conservation: scientists, journalists, communities, churches, conservation groups, politicians and governments. The Maasai olympics, that encourages Maasai warriors to prove their bravery and skill by competing for medals instead of through hunting lions, is only one of many promising projects working with the local people.