Efforts Towards Restoring Lions Population
Lion population in Africa has declined by 43% in the past 20 years; unprecedented decline that experts warn is unsustainable. The report further estimates that there are only 20,000 lions in the African continent.
The lion whose threats have exponentially increased in the recent past was the main focus of discussion during this year’s Large Carnivore Conference organised by the Kenya Wildlife Service together with other conservation partners. The conference was facilitated by WWF-Kenya.
Key highlights of this year’s conference were the different lion census methods and their errors, census results from the recent Lake Nakuru lion survey conducted in October 2017 using Spatially Explicit Capture-Recapture (SECR) method, human-lion conflict mitigation measures, veterinary interventions to carnivores and response protocol to wildlife poisoning incidents in Kenya.
Habitat loss and degradation, reduction in prey base, human lion conflict, lack of incentives for the communities to tolerate lions leading to a negative perception of lions and lack of support for their conservation, ineffective lion population management, an emerging illegal trade in lion bones and other body parts for traditional medicine and lion trophies were identified as key contributors to lion population decline.
It was heart breaking to learn that for instance, the Lake Nakuru National Park lions’ population that was thought to be 60 individuals were only 16 according to the recent SECR census. This revelation has prompted the need to do a nationwide lion census to validate their numbers and WWF-K is taking the lead to partner with the Kenya Wildlife Service to make this happen.
Addressing stakeholders during the conference, WWF-Kenya’s Wildlife Programme Manager Dr. Yussuf Wato put into perspective the urgency of saving the less talked about lion population in Kenya.
“We have a huge responsibility to the present and future generation to reverse this lion population decline in Kenya and the African Continent. We do not want to be among those who will preside over the extinction of this iconic species that is a symbol of Africa. More importantly, lions play a critical role in an ecosystem being the top predator in the food chain. The conservation partners gathered here today have the greatest opportunity to work together, pool resources and collectively deliver impact at scale and give the king of the jungle the second lease of life to roam freely in the wilderness of Africa again”
One of the outcomes of the conference was the collective endorsement of the need to conduct nationwide lion survey to validate the number of lions in Kenya. The information gathered during the conference will feed into the revised lion strategy that will guide the conservation of lions in Kenya between 2018-2023.