Monday, 8 December 2008

The endangered lion

Lion numbers have plummetted from around 450,000 ca. 50 years ago to around 20,000. When I was the secretary for the Fauna and Flora Preservation Society some 20 years ago I suggested to the Council that the lion was in serious difficulty,and that the society (now known as Fauna and Flora International) should initiate a conservation programme -- a proposal that was turned down. I pointed out at the time that the lion together with the unicorn was on the royal coat of arms. In fact, one of the origins of the unicorn has been suggested as the Arabian or White Oryx -- a species saved from extinction by an initiative of the Fauna Preservation Society (as it was then).

But still lion numbers decline, and will continue to do so as more and more of their territory is taken over by humans and their ever expanding flocks of domestic livestock (particularly if charities continue to encourage more and more goats as Christmas presents). The fragmentation of their habitat is the real problem. While lions are not Territorial like most cats, they do need large numbers of prey, each time habitat is fragmented, the survival of lions is threatened. And because they are large predators, and both humans and cattle, as well as sheep and goats are all well within their natural prey range, conflict is inevitable. Lions were exterminated in Europe over 2000 years ago, and throughout much of the Levant and Middle East by the early 20th century. India has lost all but one tiny population. The Cape Lion has gone, and so has the North African population. The rest are pretty well doomed, unless we can create corridor ts between the fragmented patchwork of national parks and other protected areas. The World Land Trust is pioneering the creation of corridors, but as yet has not been able to do so in Africa. We probably need at least $2 million to kick start such work. Any Offers?

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