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African conservationists urge enhanced protection of lions amid threats

Nairobi, Kenya | XINHUA | African countries need to strengthen protection of lions and other iconic carnivores amid threats to their survival linked to poaching, habitat loss and diseases, conservationists said on Friday ahead of World Lions Day to be observed on Aug. 10.

Edith Kabesiime, wildlife campaign manager at World Animal Protection, said that African lions were facing human and nature induced threats hence the need to prioritize their protection.

“We have witnessed the population of lions in Africa declined in the last decades as human beings occupy their habitat,” Kabesiime said at a virtual briefing in Nairobi.

She said that World Lions Day offers an opportunity to raise awareness on the emerging threats facing the majestic carnivore like poisoning by livestock keepers and poaching to satisfy the overseas traditional medicine industry.

“There is a need to raise awareness on the plight of lions even as we celebrate them as Africa’s iconic species,” said Kabesiime.

Statistics from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) indicate that Africa’s lion population declined from 200,000 in the last century to the current 20,000.

Kabesiime said that currently, lions exist in 26 African countries adding that the continent has lost about 90 percent of the carnivore from its original habitat amid rapid urbanization.

She said that the African lion has been categorized by IUCN as a vulnerable species amid international trade in its claws and jaws to meet a rising demand for traditional medicine and jewelry.

“The other challenge facing lion conservation is illegal bushmeat and poisoning by farmers as a deterrent measure against attack on livestock,” said Kabesiime.

She said that the shrinking of prey base for African lions linked to massive hunting by local communities, has increased their risk of death through starvation.

Kabesiime said that captive breeding of lions that has intensified in some parts of Africa is a threat to their survival.

She urged African governments to support innovative lions’ conservation programs that focus on expanding their prey base while minimizing conflict with humans.

Kabesiime said that a ban on international trade in lion’s products coupled with enforcement of laws to deter poaching will help reverse their declining numbers in Africa.

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