Human greed and ignorance know no bounds. In Asia, tigers are routinely killed so their parts can be used in traditional medicine, while in Africa a similar fate may occur for the continent's lions.
16 lions were recently slaughtered by poachers in South Africa, then the animals' snouts and claws were cut off so they could be sold as ingredients for traditional medicine and black magic. Among the dead lions were eight cubs and two pregnant lionesses.
"They had cut off 32 legs by their claws and eight of their snouts by their teeth after killing them with poisoned chicken, which is a really agonizing death for lions," lamented Gert Blom, a rancher who owns Predators Rock Bush Lodge in a province of the United States. northwest of the country where the lions kept.
"It is a cruelty that is beyond belief and an absolutely terrible sight to behold when you see magnificent predators slaughtered like this," added Blom.
Sadly, such savagery perpetrated against the besieged lions of Africa is quite prevalent. Like tigers and other big cats, African lions have seen their numbers drop in recent decades. Only about 25,000 remain in the wild in Africa, compared to at least double that of just a quarter of a century ago. Worse still: three-quarters of Africa's populations are in continuous decline.
Habitat loss, poaching, and trophy hunting have taken their toll on the majestic predators. Lions are routinely poisoned by people who want to protect themselves or their livestock from them. They are also killed by their teeth, claws and other parts of the body to be used in witchcraft and traditional medicine. Every year about 600 wild lions are killed.
To make matters worse, in the last few decades iconic predators have lost 94% of their historical range. "The range and population of the African lion will decline dramatically and it is very likely to be endangered if conservation measures are not successful in reversing current trends in the near future," warns the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals.
The predators have already disappeared in 26 range states across the continent of Africa. "Only a few countries, such as Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa, are home to populations of at least 1,000 lions," observes The Hill. "The lynch pin in the ecology of the African savannah walks the tightrope of survival."
“They are truly one of the universal icons of the world and they are quietly slipping away,” emphasizes Paul Thomson, director of conservation programs for the Wildlife Conservation Network. "Now is the time to stop the loss and return lions to landscapes across the continent."
Encouragingly, conservation efforts are underway to save the remaining wild lions in Africa. Among those efforts are initiatives aimed at ensuring that people in rural communities can coexist with wild lions. Villagers and herdsmen are rewarded if marauding lions kill their livestock. Watchers recruited from local communities also warn villagers and herders if there are lions in the area.
Importantly, according to experts, by protecting wild lions and their habitats, the people of Africa can ensure a better future for them. Lions, as well as other large animals like elephants and giraffes, can thrive only in large, healthy natural environments. Therefore, protecting those natural environments is very beneficial for the people who share them with lions.