– The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), a Kenya-based conservation NGO, has on Wednesday called on the world to totally ban sport hunting of Africa’s lions until the decline in lion populations is reversed.
AWF Senior Director of Conservation Science, Philip Muruthi, said lions are extinct in North Africa, severely depleted across West and Central Africa, and now losing ground in their strongholds of East and Southern Africa.
“For those sport hunters and hunting outfitters in the United States and in Africa’s lion range states that have always adhered to the letter of the law, we fully recognize the sacrifice we are asking them to make,” Muruthi said in a statement issued in Nairobi. “Still, we cannot afford to sacrifice the future of Africa’s lions for the sake of a few trophies,” he said, warning that the absence of lions has profound and long-lasting repercussions on Africa’s ecosystems.
“Lions are top predators. If they disappear, the entire predator–prey equilibrium is disrupted,” Muruthi warned.
The continental population of African lions is estimated at no more than 23,000, with the actual population likely within the range of 16,500 to 30,000.
“Africa’s total lion population has declined by 30 percent over the past two decades. The threat of extinction is very real for African lions,” Muruthi said.
The largest lion populations remain in eastern and southern Africa. In South Africa, more than 350 lions have been reintroduced in more than 20 small, isolated reserves.
According to AWF, while the primary threats to lions are habitat loss, conflict with people and a shrinking prey base, the cumulative effect of these in driving down lion numbers means all steps to reduce human-induced lion mortalities must be taken, including a ban on sport hunting.