Johannesburg - Africa
needs an annual budget of at least $1.25bn to save the lion,
conservationists said, a year after the killing of a Zimbabwean cat
named Cecil provoked global outrage.
The money is required to protect lions’ natural habitat from human
encroachment, the most effective way of maintaining populations,
WildAid and the
Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, known as WildCru, said in a report
published on Thursday.
Cecil, a 13-year-old lion whose black mane made him
popular with tourists, was being monitored by WildCru when he was
illegally killed by US hunter Walter Palmer in July 2015.
“The future of the lion in Africa hangs in the balance,” the groups
said. “Although there is a scattering of populations that are probably
secure for the long term, many more are under extreme pressure and will
disappear without concerted conservation action.”
Cecil’s death prompted an outpouring of sympathy and anger as it
exposed the scale of Africa’s trophy hunting industry. Governments
including those in the US, France, the Netherlands and Australia
tightened restrictions on importing trophies from animals that had been
hunted. United Airlines and
Delta Air Lines joined airlines including Emirates and Deutsche
Lufthansa in banning customers from transporting big-game hunting
trophies as cargo.
There are 20 000 lions left in Africa, a 43% decline in the
past two decades, and just six countries host populations with more than
1 000 animals, the groups said in their report. The only countries to
buck the trend are Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, which
together are home to almost a third of the continent’s lions. The cats
are confined to 8% of their historical habitat.
WildCru and Panthera will hold a “Cecil Summit” in September to work
out how much of the $1.25bn a year is already funded and what
portion needs to be raised.
While the hunting industry needs to be reformed, it’s “a relatively
small factor contributing to the lion’s current status,” the three
groups said. Humans encroaching on lions’ territory and killing them to
protect livestock is a much bigger threat.
The increase in locals hunting for so-called bushmeat as a cheap
source of protein is also a major threat. The killings reduce the amount
of prey available and lions often get caught in traps set for animals
such as wildebeest and zebra, according to the three organisations.
Hunting can play a role in preserving habitat and giving lions an
economic value, but quotas are often too high and revenues fail to
benefit local communities, they said.
hit back at criticism, saying the industry is a major contributor to
conservation and communities. The conservation arm of
Safari Club International, which suspended the membership of Palmer, a
Minnesota dentist, for shooting Cecil, said earlier this month that
trophy hunting contributes $426m to eight, mostly poor,
sub-Saharan African countries and employs 53 000 people.