The Lion Sleeps Tonight,.. and Forever.

“In the Lion’s Den: Conserving Africa’s Lions”

African Lions, Threats, Conflict and Mitigation: Dr. Jackie Abell

Under what conditions will some of the poorest people in the world live alongside some of the most dangerous predators in the world?

The overall talk was about how local people can help to conserve “Charismatic Magafauna” which are in great decline. Many lion populations are experiencing declines and are classed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. This classification is due to the rate of decline – not the total population.

Unfortunately, no-one really knows the total number of wild lions as they’re hard to accurately count. Lions have large territories and are rather widespread within their known environments. Furthermore, lions live in harsh areas where physically going out to find them is difficult. Most population data on lions are estimates are based on the available habitats.

Problems Lions Face:

  • Human-Wildlife conflict: Lions rarely win.
  • Bushmeat poaching; prey and habitat loss
    • Wipes out the prey species
  • Diseases, epidemics and endemics
  • Unregulated hunting pressures > trophy hunting
    • Over hunted
    • Money generated by this doesn’t go into conservation.
  • Climate change:
    • Africa is getting hotter and drier
    • More land is becoming desert and barren.

No-one in Africa will actively save a lion because they are cute. You cannot expect the poorest people in the world to live with dangerous predators just because they’re cuddly to people who live on the other side of the world.

Human population is growing exponentially. Humans are an unstable population and we are requiring more land for homes and businesses. This means we are removing habitats from other organisms for our own gain.

Human population is growing exponentially. Graph source


  • Focus on protecting known living populations of lions – not bringing old ones back.
  • Need to work with large political and business entities for money
  • Provide reasons for the area to be protected
    • build schools to educate local people
  • Programs for the communities to learn about
    • Conservation
    • Biodiversity
    • Efficient agriculture

Zimbabwe national park: Chizarira

There are not supposed to be any people living in the park as it is a protected national park. However, with the farming and population boom, there are now many villages, farms and livestock.

When livestock are lost to lions, the lions are usually shot; it is the cheapest and easiest solution.

According to a recent study, there are 31.6 lions left in this park.

(Somewhere, out there, there is 0.6 of a lion)

0.6 of a lion
0.6 of a lion. (Image made by me)

Animal husbandry, welfare and understanding of behaviour is poorly understood and followed by locals.


Abell’s team use red flashing LED antipredator lights to deter lions from livestock buildings. They also set up camera traps to understand the lion’s behaviour and to make sure that it is lions that are eating the livestock – not hyenas or other carnivores.

Lions haven’t shown any sign of habituating/getting used to these lights.

Overall thoughts on the talk:

I personally think that this needs more focus on the actual problems of lion extinction – what environmental effects does the loss of an apex predator have? Personally, I am not too bothered about the conservation and co-habiting of human populations and lions, but that does not mean it is unimportant.

I am going to link to an article by a colleague: Save the sea squirts! This talks about the impact of losing small, yet vitally important, organisms which are often overlooked by charity organisations because they’re neither cute nor cuddly.

Last notes: this is really nit-picky but the presentation was hard to read as most slides consisted of coloured or white text over photographs of lions.

Graphics created by Franz Anthony for the “Save the Sea Squirts” article.

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