The lion's habitat is being lost
As human populations expand, more and more of the lion’s habitat is being lost. Lions are also losing their natural prey to illegal poaching, or dying a slow and painful death in a poacher’s wire snare. As lions come into more frequent contact with humans they are being shot, speared and poisoned in retaliation for killing livestock on which communities rely. Adding to the problem are unsustainable trophy hunting practices, the trade in lion bones to meet the increasing demands of Far East traditional medicine markets, multiple diseases - often transferred from domestic animals, the impacts of climate change and the effects of inbreeding depression.
The loss of lions within Africa’s fragile ecosystems can result in serious and unpredictable consequences throughout the food chain. Lions are important in the complex system that maintains biodiversity amongst herbivore species by regulating population size of the most dominant of those species, such as zebra and buffalo. Without lions to control them, these dominant species can out-compete other animals, causing their extinction. Lions also help to control the spread of disease by removing the weak and elderly animals in the herds of their preferred prey. Tourists contribute significantly to the local and national economies of countries that still maintain lion populations. If lions disappear, the livelihoods of those that rely on the income tourism generates will be lost, particularly in Africa’s most needy rural communities. As the economy of these regions become suppressed, so social development also slows. We must also not forget that the African lion is an important symbol, not only to many African cultural groups, but as a national icon for many African countries. Its image is also an icon to the majority of people around the world. Our planet will be impoverished if the African lion exists only as statues, pictures and stories.