Lions may be the king of the jungle, but they might not rule for too much longer. A recent study has found that lion populations are declining at much more rapidly than previously thought. Lions aren’t included on many endangered species lists, but that could be changing sooner, rather than later.
Examining some 47 different sites spread out across Africa, researchers found that lion populations have been rapidly declining. The sites examined contained years worth of data, often stretching back into the 1990’s. Only in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe have lions not suffered a massive decline.
Sadly, the average size of lion prides has dropped from about 20 to just 9.
Researchers believe that there is a 67 percent risk that lion populations will be halved in Central and Western Africa in the next two decades, while populations in East Africa are at a 37 percent risk.
The decline in lion populations should come as no surprise as large herbivores, which lions depend upon for food, are also declining. The rapidly declining populations are due to human activity, such as hunting, and also development.
When land areas are developed, the availability of free space is reduced. Since large herbivores and predators depend on large areas of land to live on, any decline in habitat space will disportionately affect them. Smaller, more versatile animals, such as coyotes, have proven to be more capable of adapting to human presence.
One method that has so far proven effective for protecting lions and other large animals is to fence them in. By keeping animals in specified, smaller areas, public officials are able to better protect the animals.
Lions are doing better in the southern regions of Africa because the government there are stronger, and more well-organized. Elsewhere, a lack of stable governance has left lions vulnerable.
Most research now points to the world as being in the middle of a massive, human caused extinction event, called the Holocene extinction. Countless animals have gone extinct over the last 10,000 years, and numerous animals are now on the verge of going extinct.
It turns out that humans could be as deadly for the environment as asteroids, and the other cataclysmic events that caused animals to go extinct en masse.