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African lions disappear as human population surges on the continent

By Ronald Musoke

A recent surge in Africa’s human population has left the continent’s lion population on the decline, says a survey released on Dec.4 by the US-based Duke University.

The report said the lion population, one of the major tourist attractions in Africa, has dwindled to as low as 32,000, a nearly 70% decline over the last century.

The lions that roam Africa’s savannah grasslands have lost as much as 75% of their habitat in the last 50 years as humans overtake their land.

The researchers warn that West Africa has come off worse with the sub region’s lions feeling more pressure and the study warns, because many now live in small isolated populations, the trend is likely to continue. The report notes that many national parks in West Africa have no lions.

According to the survey, 50 years ago, 100,000 lions roamed across the African continent, yet in recent years an ever growing human population has come into the savannah lands to settle and develop. That has both cut down the amount of land lions have to roam, as well as fragmented it, the researchers said.

The report noted that five countries in Africa have lost their lions since a 2002 study was run and only nine countries have at least 1,000 lions left in the wild. Tanzania, the report noted, has more than 40% of the continent’s lions.

The lion research was funded by National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative, a long term plan to halt the decline of big cats in the wild through on the ground assessment, conservation projects, education and a global public awareness campaign.

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