Following the release yesterday of a lion assessment by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Born Free Foundation and Born Free USA are urging immediate international action to halt catastrophic recent declines in lion populations across Africa.
In its most up-to-date assessment of the species, IUCN, the world’s oldest and largest global environmental scientific organisation, reported devastating reductions in lion populations across much of the African continent. The new assessment revealed:
- The number of lions across Africa has reduced by approximately 42% over the past 21 years (approximately three lion generations, 1993-2014)
- Excluding Namibia, South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe, lions across the rest of Africa have declined by an average 60%
- In West Africa, the declines suggest lions should be classified as Critically Endangered
- Lions have disappeared altogether from at least 12, possibly up to 16, African countries in recent years.
“The IUCN reassessment confirms what we have known for some time: that lions are in serious decline across much of Africa,” said Adam M. Roberts, Chief Executive of the Born Free Foundation and Born Free USA.
“The trade data suggests that international trade in lion parts and products is putting pressure on these vulnerable lion populations, which they clearly can’t sustain. We call on the international community to increase the protection for lions from the impact of trade through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to issue its long-overdue final rule on listing the lion as endangered under the US Endangered Species Act.”
Trade in lions and lion parts has been increasing. According to the official CITES trade database, from 2009 to 2013 the total number of lions and lion parts exported doubled compared to the previous five year period. The figures reveal particularly worrying increases in the trade in lion bones and skeletons (presumably to supply demand for Asian traditional medicines and tonics), skins, and trophies from captive bred animals.
“These iconic animals can’t wait,” added Roberts. “Lions used to roam all over Africa, west Asia and even southern Europe. Now we risk seeing them disappear from much of their remaining sub-Saharan African range. We cannot sit by and watch this species disappear under our watch.”
Born Free is working with the United Nations Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and African lion experts to improve collaboration between African range states on lion conservation, identify the reasons for the reported declines, and help range states to reverse them.