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African lions swiftly headed for local extinction

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 5th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Several populations of African lions are bound for extinction. The great cats which once roamed proudly over an area a third the size larger than the United States are in rapid decline, a sad result of habitat destruction and hunting.

DURHAM, NC (Catholic Online) - In a study released by Duke University done by using satellite data, researchers found that three quarters of the African savannah has been broken up by farmers and ranchers who often kill lions that threaten their herds.

Hunters and habitat destruction have killed so many of the great cats that their estimated population in West Africa is below 500 individuals. In just 50 years, the lion population in Africa has dwindled by two-thirds to just 32,000 lions.

Since the land is also fragmented, lion populations cannot mix as easily, and this is expected to reduce their numbers further. In many areas, it is expected lions will soon become extinct.

The study also found that most of the remaining lions are living in protected sanctuaries, where it is illegal to hunt them or destroy their habitat. However, this does little to protect the declining population of lions in the wild savannahs of Africa.

Unfortunately, this protection isn't enough to save many populations. Several wild animal parks in Africa have lost their lion populations for various reasons including illegal poaching. Lions are also roaming animals, which tend to stray far afield leaving national sanctuaries where they are protected.

Lions are coming into increasing contact with people and their livestock, particularly at night. The result is often the demise of the lion.

There are efforts underway to educate people and to build higher livestock fences and such, to mitigate the losses, however those efforts are small-scale and haphazard and are overall insufficient to protect lions across the whole of the continent.

In the United States, the Fish and Wildlife Service is studying whether or not to list the lion as an endangered species. If the Service does so, it will bar Americans from bringing lion trophies into the country. This could dissuade American trophy hunters from shooting lions in Africa, helping to reduce the decline of the populations there.

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