What is being call a catastrophic collapse in the lion population has left fewer than 250 adults of breeding age left the wild. As such, there is a real possibility that nothing can be done to prevent West African lions going extinct, according to a recent survey.
The research behind the survey was conducted by a big-cat wildlife advocacy group called Panthera. The group surveyed lion populations was carried out in 17 countries, from Senegal to Nigeria, and took more than six years to come to its conclusions regarding the West African lions- which are genetically different from other African lions. “Our results came as a complete shock,” says Philipp Henschel, co-author of the Panthera report. “All but a few of the areas we surveyed were basically paper parks, having neither management budgets nor patrol staff, and had lost all their lions and other iconic large mammals.”
The sudden population collapse comes after years of local governments neglecting the conservation of lions in West Africa, as opposed to some eastern African nations which have embraced conservation policies. As a result, large-scale plantations for cotton and food crops have contributed significantly to the West African lions going extinct. As of this writing, Panthera believes that the remaining wild lions occupy just 1.1% of their historic hunting grounds.
For the moment, at least, it seems as if the countries of Benin and Senegal …
… are ramping up their conservation efforts. Still, their limited budgets and infrastructure won’t allow them to do much. Panthera, meanwhile, is calling for the lion to be listed as critically endangered in West Africa, and is looking towards the international community (*ahem*, the US) to step in with funds and resources. “We are talking about some of the poorest counties in the world – many governments have bigger problems than protecting lions,” Mr Henschel explains.
Here’s hoping someone out there makes preventing West African lions going extinct a major priority then. Or, at least, realizes it’s better than dragging the US into another quagmire of a war in Syria.