Next month CITES members will get to vote on action to help combat the cheetah smuggling trade.
Next month CITES members will get the chance to discuss and vote on employing specialist consultants to examine the illegal trade in cheetahs. A proposal has been put to the convention by Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda that a study be undertaken to discover the impacts of the illegal cheetah trade.
There are currently an estimated known 7,500 cheetah left in the wild with an estimated additional 2,500 living in areas that are poorly surveyed for this big cat. Two of the five sub-species are critically endangered and the remainder are classed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
The trade in cheetahs is predominately driven by the Middle East countries where the cheetah is a status symbol in private zoos or used as a hunting animal in much the same way that some hunts uses dogs.
The cheetah is a CITES Appendix 1 species so it has the highest levels of protection. There is some trade permitted in the cheetah with three African countries having the right to export an annual quote:
- Namibia – 150 individuals,
- Zimbabwe – 50 individuals,
- Botswana – 5 individuals.
While being able to export live cats under the CITES quotas there have been very few live exports since the 1990′s. Most of the exports through the quota have been as hunting trophies or skins. This opens the opportunity for wildlife criminals to provide for the live cheetah trade.
Monitoring of seizures by various organisations show that cheetah cubs in particular are often traded. In 2011 one organisation – Coalition of Wildlife Trafficking – indicated that 70 cheetahs had been intercepted from wildlife traffickers. Many cubs will die during the process of transport and even when intercepted and rescued the cubs have a high likelihood of death.
While little is known about the trade in cheetahs it is thought the the Horn of Africa and Somalia are the major routes used by wildlife smugglers to get the big cats out of southern and eastern Africa which are now the stronghold of the species.
The trade in cheetahs for pets, private zoos and hunting animals is believed to be putting increasing pressure on the wild populations. It is difficult to breed cheetahs in captivity and a study in 2001 showed that the captive population was not self-sustaining with 30% of captive animals having been caught in the wild.
To try and get a better understanding of the impacts of the illegal cheetah trade the three African countries have asked that CITES consider the following proposals:
Directed to the Standing Committee
16.xx The Standing Committee shall commission an independent study, in accordance with UN rules, of both the legal and illegal trade in wild cheetahs, and assess the impact of this trade on the species’ conservation in the wild. The study will research the source of cheetah in illegal trade, transit routes of trafficked cheetahs, and will document the measures taken by Parties with regard to live confiscated specimens. All range States will be fully consulted as stakeholders, and the findings will be reported to the 65th meeting of the CITES Standing Committee.
Directed to the Parties
16.xx All relevant Parties are urged to assist those commissioned to undertake the above-mentioned study in any way possible including through the provision of necessary information about illegal and legal trade in cheetah.
16.xx Parties are further urged to provide reports concerning all detected illegal trade in cheetah specimens to the 65th meeting of the Standing Committee and relevant Law Enforcement Agencies including Interpol Wildlife Crime Unit.
The number of cheetahs estimated to be in the wild in eastern Africa (Ethiopia, southern Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania) is estimated at 2,572 while the stronghold of southern Africa containing about 4,500 adults. This is broken down as:
- Angola – present but unknown;
- Botswana – 1,800;
- Malawi – <25 (and probably extirpated: Purchase and Purchase 2007);
- Mozambique: <50;
- Namibia – 2,000;
- South Africa – 550;
- Zambia – 100;
- Zimbabwe – 400.
By getting a better understanding of the illegal trade and the routes that wildlife smugglers use it is hoped that better conservation management plans for the enigmatic big cat can be developed.
November 2012. A team of international researchers has provided the first comprehensive DNA evidence that the Addis Ababa lion in Ethiopia is genetically unique and is urging immediate conservation action to preserve this vulnerable lion population.
Large and darker manes
While it has long been noted that some lions in Ethiopia have a large, dark mane, extending from the head, neck and chest to the belly, as well as being smaller and more compact than other lions, it was not known until now if these lions represent a genetically distinct population.
Genetically distinct from all lion populations
The team of researchers, led by the University of York, UK, and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany, has shown that captive lions at the Addis Ababa Zoo in Ethiopia are, in fact, genetically distinct from all lion populations for which comparative data exists, both in Africa and Asia.
The researchers compared DNA samples from 15 Addis Ababa Zoo lions (eight males and seven females) to lion breeds in the wild. The results of the study, which also involved researchers from Leipzig Zoo and the Universities of Durham and Oxford, UK, are published in the European Journal of Wildlife Research.
The lions in Addis Abababa zoo have much larger and darker manes.
Principal Investigator Professor Michi Hofreiter, of the Department of Biology at the University of York, said: “To our knowledge, the males at Addis Ababa Zoo are the last existing lions to possess this distinctive mane. Both microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA data suggest the zoo lions are genetically distinct from all existing lion populations for which comparative data exist.
“We therefore believe the Addis Ababa lions should be treated as a distinct conservation management unit and are urging immediate conservation actions, including a captive breeding programme, to preserve this unique lion population.”
Extinct lion populations
Lion numbers are in serious decline and two significant populations of lion – the North African Barbary lions and the South African Cape lions have already become extinct in the wild.
Few hundred lions left in Ethiopia
One of the regions with a declining lion population is Ethiopia. In addition to a few hundred wild lions scattered throughout the country, 20 lions are kept in the Addis Ababa Zoo. These lions belonged to the collection of the late emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie. He established the zoo in 1948 and the seven founder lions (five males and two females) are claimed to have been captured in south-western Ethiopia, although their geographical origin is controversial.
In their study, the team of researchers recommend establishing a captive breeding programme as a first step towards conserving this unique lion population.
Lead author Susann Bruche, now with Imperial College London, but who conducted the research with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, said: “A great amount of genetic diversity in lions has most likely already been lost, largely due to human influences. Every effort should be made to preserve as much of the lion’s genetic heritage as possible. We hope field surveys will identify wild relatives of the unique Addis Ababa Zoo lions in the future, but conserving the captive population is a crucial first step. Our results show that these zoo lions harbour sufficient genetic diversity to warrant a captive breeding programme.”
Are there more in the wilds of Ethiopia?
It has previously been suggested that no lions comparable to those at Addis Ababa Zoo still exist in the wild, mainly due to hunting for their mane. However, the researchers say that according to the Ethiopian authorities, lions with a similar appearance to those at Addis Ababa Zoo still exist in the east and north-east of the country, notably in the Babille Elephant Sanctuary near Harar and southwards to Hararghe. These regions, the researchers say, should be prioritised for field surveys.
Professor Hofreiter said: “A key question is which wild population did the zoo lions originate from and whether this wild population still exists; this would obviously make it a priority for conservation. What is clear is that these lions did not originate in the zoo, but come from somewhere in the wild – but not from any of the populations for which comparative data is available.”
All photos are courtesy of Joerg Junhold and Klaus Eulenberger, Leipzig Zoo.
A little farther on the lion asked again: “Who burned this place, here?” “I’m the one who burned all of that” the hyena replied. The lion continued his walk with the hyena.
A little farther on, the lion asked his question again: “Who burned this place here?” “Didn’t I already tell you that I am the one who burned the whole area?” said the hyena with some annoyance. They kept walking. When they came to a small tree called a bagênd, the lion asked her once more: “Who burned this area?” “I already told you that I am the one who burned all that you see” said the hyena.
The lion walked around the small tree behind which were his dead cubs. He asked the hyena: “Who burned this area?” “No it wasn’t me. The fires got mixed up. I’m not the one who set the fire here” said the hyena. The lion seized her and cut off her paws. Even today, when the lion finds the hyena he cuts off her paws; he doesn’t kill her.
Addis Ababa, October 12 (WIC) - A pride of captive lions descended from the private menagerie of Emperor Haileselassie of Ethiopia is genetically distinct from all other lions of Africa, a study has found.
The Ethiopian lion has a distinctive dark mane and is slightly smaller and more compact than other African lions. Now an analysis of its DNA has revealed the Ethiopian lion is also a distinct breed.
It is thought that there may be less than a few hundred Ethiopian lions living in the wild and scientists are urging that their unique genetic makeup should be preserved by a captive-breeding program.
DNA tests on 15 of the 20 Ethiopian lions kept in Addis Ababa Zoo have revealed that they form a separate genetic group from the lions of east Africa and southern Africa, said Michael Hofreiter of the University of York.
The male lions are the last lions in the world to possess the distinctive dark brown mane. They are the direct descendants of a group of seven males and two females taken from the wild in 1948 for Hailesellassie’s own zoo, Dr Hofreiter said.
A comparison with other populations of wild lions living in the Serengeti of Tanzania in east Africa and the lions of the Kalahari desert of south-west Africa found that the Addis Ababa lions are quite separate genetically, he said.
“We therefore believe the Addis Ababa lions should be treated as a distinct conservation management unit and are urging immediate conservation actions, including a captive breeding program, to preserve this unique lion population,” Dr Hofreiter said.
As a species, lions are under threat and their numbers have dwindled over the decades, with the biggest populations centered on east Africa and southern Africa, with a tiny population of Asiatic lions existing in the Gir Forest of India.
Two lion populations that shared the dark brown mane of the Ethiopian lion – the North African Barbary lions and the South African Cape lions – have already gone extinct in the wild.
Susann Bruche of Imperial College London, the lead author of the study published in European Journal of Wildlife Research, said that it is important to preserve the genetic diversity of the Ethiopian lions to help the species as a whole.
“A great amount of genetic diversity in lions has most likely already been lost, largely due to human influences. Every effort should be made to preserve as much of the lion’s genetic heritage as possible,” Dr Bruche said.
“We hope field surveys will identify wild relatives of the unique Addis Ababa Zoo lions in the future, but conserving the captive population is a crucial first step,” she said. (Independent.co.uk)
September 2012. The first evidence of lions in montane rain and cloud forest has been documented by NABU – The German Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union. Up to now, the African lion, which is classified as vulnerable by the IUCN had only been documented and photographed outside of rainforests.
The discovery in the Kafa Biosphere Reserve in Southwest Ethiopia took place as part of NABU’s wider conservation work in Ethiopia. NABU’s images show a lioness in an area of dense montane rain and cloud forests.
“We are delighted with this news and look forward to studying these exceptional animals in their unusual habitat,” says NABU’s Vice-President Thomas Tennhardt. “To manage potential conflict with local communities, NABU will set up a dedicated conservation fund.”
Lions prefer open woodlands, and thick bush, scrub and grass land areas, which offer sufficient cover for hunting. Until now, scientists have never recorded the species in rain forest habitats. However, local people have long known about the lions in the Kafa Biosphere Reserve.
Wildlife photographer Bruno D’Amicis travelled to Ethiopia on NABU’s behalf in early 2012 in an attempt to document their presence. NABU believes that this is the first time lions have ever been photographed in montane rain and cloud forest habitat.
|Lions prefer open woodlands, and thick bush,
scrub and grass land areas, which offer sufficient
cover for hunting. Until now, scientists have never
recorded the species in rain forest habitats.
However, local people have long known about the
lions in the Kafa Biosphere Reserve.
Photo credit Bruno D’Amicis/NABU
Ethiopia’s Kafa Biosphere Reserve is characterised by its impressive afromontane moist rain and cloud forests, which are considered to be the place of origin of Arabica coffee. Apart from wild coffee, it is also home to many rare animal and plant species. Southern Ethiopia is regarded as an important migratory route for lions; it is therefore assumed that the animals are passing through the area during the dry season.
85% Africa’s lions have disappeared
African lions have lost more than 85 percent of their historic range. Recent surveys indicate that across the continent there are now just 39,000 lions left, of which up to 1,500 live in Ethiopia. Both their numbers and range have declined significantly in recent decades in Africa. Habitat loss and fragmentation due to human population growth and the reduction of prey animals, direct persecution and hunting are the primary reasons for their demise.
In line with the Regional Conservation Strategy for the Lion in Eastern and Southern Africa, the Ethiopia Wildlife Conservation Authority recently adopted a National Action Plan for lions in Ethiopia to secure and restore lion populations in the country.
NABU has worked towards the preservation of the wild coffee forests in Kafa since 2006 and supported the Ethiopian government in setting up the Kafa Biosphere Reserve. NABU has been supporting the reserve in terms of developing an effective management regime and through public awareness work since 2009. NABU is also implementing a large scale forest and climate protection project in the area within the framework of the International Climate Initiative of the German Federal Environment Ministry.
NABU is Germany´s oldest and largest conservation organization.
Website : www.NABU-International.de