The deaths of lion Xanda recently and his father Cecil in 2015 ignited a wave of reporting and a global concern for the future of lions. Though well intentioned, that passion is not being harnessed in a way that is making a real difference for these creatures.
Over the last three decades, the number of wild lions in Africa has been almost halved, and they are extinct across 85% of their former range. The primary culprits behind their catastrophic decline are unspoken: habitat loss, poaching of their prey for bushmeat and conflicts with local communities. These are the clear and present dangers to lions — and all the wild lands and wildlife they represent.
Even in Africa’s iconic parks and reserves, lions and their prey find little harbor, as many parks are poorly funded or undervalued. If these lands were resourced effectively and their surrounding communities supported, Africa could today have three to four times more lions roaming safely.
To save whole populations and individual lions, the international community, as well as private donors, need to offer much greater support for the efforts of African countries and communities to protect and manage the landscapes in which lions occur. These actions, above all others, will ensure that the king of beasts recovers and thrives once more.
Peter Lindsey, Conservation Initiatives director for the Wildlife Conservation Network; San Francisco
Luke Hunter, president and chief conservation officer of Panthera, a global wild cat conservation organization; New York