Not many of us will be plagued by lions. In fact if you’re in Europe or North America the only place you’re really likely to see a lion is in the zoo (mountain lions aside for some North American residents). But in Africa there are a great number of them. There would be an even greater number too if it weren’t for so-called trophy hunters or poachers.
One incident which gained a lot of media attention was the killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe by an American trophy hunter. Cecil’s death might not have been in vain though, is it helped highlight the growing problem of trophy hunting and poaching.
A lion’s life
There are estimated to be around 20,000 lions living in Africa, compared to a much more impressive number in the hundreds of thousands as little as two hundred years ago. The lions’ environment has been impacted by man and they sadly have much less space to roam than they did back then.
Surprisingly trophy hunting is perfectly legal in Zimbabwe, but there are always unscrupulous types who will try and cash in and the death of Cecil was one such example. People had been paid for “permits” which weren’t legitimate and a number of laws were broken along the way.
Scores of lions are shot each week outside of trophy hunting by natives who are protecting their livestock or families from them – we must remember that we encroached on their natural habitat and not the other way around.
There are also many more casualties and fatalities thanks to home made snares and barbaric traps that are laid to catch a number of different predators. This can be doubly devastating for lions as many of them are caught by these trips, but so is a lot of their prey.
Stop trophy hunting
This would be the easy answer, but is difficult while it remains legal. Lobbying an African country’s government is unlikely to get a law changed, but many take matters into their own hands. They do this on social media. Publicly shaming trophy hunters by sharing their photographs and encouraging people to lambast them for their actions might work in some instances, but it really amounts to cyber bullying.
A real solution
Big cat conservation is luckily taken very seriously by some people. There are now people in Zimbabwe and across Africa who work for such organisations and aim to protect lions along with people and their livestock.
They are using electronic collars to track the animals and with a series of cameras and sensors they know where they are at all times. If a lion gets to close to someone’s livestock or home, those employed by the conservation organisation will go and chase them away.
It’s a tiring and relentless job, but it keeps animals and humans safe from harm without any killing.
The presence of conservationists also cuts right down on illegal poaching and so the numbers of lions will hopefully stop dwindling. In part of Namibia this practice helped reduce annual lion deaths from 20 to just one in the space of a year.
Sadly Africa is a huge continent which is impossible to police effectively for the safety of lions and poaching and trophy hunting still remain problems. The problems are smaller than they once were, but more financial help for conservation organisations is needed to eradicate it completely.
Education is also needed, along with tougher fines and prison sentences for those caught breaking the law for hunting purposes.
Some people would happily kill the last lion and have their photo taken with it and if attitudes can’t be changed it will happen sooner than we all think.