Animals of Africa: Lions' Land Being Invaded by People

September 10, 2012
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Everyone knows lions are the kings of the jungle, but their reign is in danger of coming to an end. These majestic cats once roamed all over Eurasia and Africa, but these days their empire has been restricted mainly to sub-Saharan Africa.

The fall of the lion empire

There is one small group of Asiatic lions living in the Gir Forest of western India, but there were only about 360 living there in 2005. As far as the size of the African population of these predators, it is difficult to discern just how many lions are still roaming the lands. The African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) reports the most recent estimates indicate there are about 35,500 lions living in the wild, but this is just a ballpark figure. Even though it may seem like a high number of lions, it's still not enough to bump the species from a” Vulnerable” status on the IUCN Redlist to one of “Least Concern.”

Why are lions in danger?

The biggest threat to these creatures is hunting, as lions are a highly prized target for poachers and game hunters alike. They are also often seen as a danger because they have been known to hunt cattle belonging to farmers. However, this behavior is likely due to the fact that people are taking up more space and cutting into the lions' territory. This leaves less room for the lions to hunt, as one pride usually has a territory of about 100 square miles.

What is being done to protect these cats?

Many African nations have introduced bans that prohibit the hunting of lions, these cats are some of the most iconic animals of ecotourism. The publicity surrounding the lions' plight has helped drive conservation efforts. Groups like ALERT have helped by creating Lion habitats throughout Africa in Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and other countries, to protect lions and help the population thrive.

The advocacy group indicates there are approximately 15,000 lions in Tanzania alone, so nature travel enthusiasts will likely have the chance to see these noble creatures prowling the African plains on their Kenya and Tanzania safari.