Experts call for ban of lion trade, hunting, captivity

Tuesday, August 25th, 2020 00:00 |
King of the jungle. Photo/Courtesy

They  say saving the king of the jungle needs concerted effort to ensure their role in the food chain.

Milliam Murigi  @millymur

In the past, the African lion roamed over most of the continent and parts of Asia and Europe. But the species has disappeared from 94 per cent of its historic range and can only be found today in parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Data from Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) shows there were 2,749 lions in Kenya in 2002, but the population dropped to roughly 2,000 in 2009.

Annually, Kenya loses an average of 100 lions and if nothing is done, these majestic animals could go extinct by 2050.

“African lions are facing human and nature induced threats hence the need to prioritise their protection.

We have witnessed their population in Africa decline in the last decades as human beings occupy their habitat,” Edith Kabesiime, Campaigns Manger at World Animal Protection said in a press statement.

Climate change, removal from habitats for entertainment and poaching to satisfy the traditional medicine industry are some of the contributing factors to the decline in wild lion populations.

Shrinking of prey base linked to massive hunting has increased their risk of death by starvation.

Tennyson William, Director at Africa World Animal Protection, says lions are first taken in as cubs, to entertain tourists on holiday through selfie culture and petting.

The practice has a complete disregard for their health and basic needs such as a balanced die with the worst being an inbreeding culture.

Additionally, this early separation from their mothers causes them immense stress.

The National Recovery and Action Plan for Lions and Hyenas by KWS  indicates that the illegal trade  in lions and their body parts is a huge concern and might have an impact on lion conservation in Kenya. 

“The impact on wild lion populations from the illegal trade in lion body parts is still largely unknown, yet concerns persist that this is a growing, and in some cases, already a real threat.

In addition, the domestic trade in lion body parts for traditional medicine and curio markets is perceived to be an even bigger threat to lions,” the plan notes.

Launched this month, the plan seeks to stabilise hyena numbers  and grow the population of lions to  ensure that their role in the food chain is maintained. 

Lion populations in the country is alreading facing challenes such as human-wildlife conflict, which the plan shows is  the leading cause of death for these predators, mostly through poisoning in retaliatory killing.

Others include habitat loss, wildlife diseases, infrastructure development and poor management of protected areas.

Ban trade 

Currently, the trade of lion products is legal under the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species (Cites), which has encouraged countries to actively partake in it.

In 2018, the trade saw an increase in export quota to 1,500 carcasses, but animal welfare organisations fought it off, and Cites promised to bring it down to 800. 

In South Africa alone, currently, 8,000 -12,000 lions are in captivity, consequently, threatening the existence of species in the rest of Africa.

China is the biggest market for lion bones, where it is believed medicine extracted from it cures diseases and provides herbal alternatives.

This is, however, not scientifically proven and unfortunately keeps decimating lion numbers in the wild.

“The active trade of lion products has brought nothing, but pain and suffering to these intelligent animals.

A life in a breeding farm is no life at all and their killing is an injustice to life itself,” William says. 

Edith says it is essential for an immediate action to be taken to protect and save lions from future extinction.

A ban on international trade in lion’s products coupled with enforcement of laws to deter poaching will help reverse their declining numbers in Africa. 

“Policy makers need to consider a total ban on wildlife trade. There is need for a coordinated global action to advocate for it as a way of saving Africa’s wild Populations,” says Edith. 

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