A report by the Panthera Foundation recently indicated that a so-called “lion stronghold” in southeastern Angola turned up only 10-30 lions after a “survey”.
Previously, this area had been indicated by various other reports, based only on “opinions” to contain about 750 – 1000 lions according to the IUCN in 2006 and about 1,900 lions by Duke University and again quoted as a “lion stronghold” by the IUCN Red List.
Clearly, nobody was paying attention. LionAid had this to say in 2016:
“How many lions occur in Angola? Nobody knows, and nobody has counted even one in the last ten years. It is likely that there are hardly any.”
It is an all too similar story to what we have already seen before. Senegal and adjoining areas were quoted by the IUCN in 2006 to contain about 1,600 lions. Subsequent surveys turned up maybe 16.
The entire western African region, home to lions significantly genetically divergent from other lions on the African continent, probably contains only about 350 to 400 lions.
The Panthera report mentions that bushmeat poaching was responsible for the almost complete collapse of lion populations. LionAid however believe there must have been many other factors including targeted killings of lions to bring the numbers down to such low levels.
In essence, Angola now joins the African nations where lions used to roam but where lions are now, for all intents and purposes, locally extinct.
You will remember that the IUCN made a strong statement to PREVENT lions being listed as an Appendix I species during the CITES meeting in 2016. In fact, the IUCN mentioned that the southern African lion populations had INCREASED by 8% .
Taking the Angola lion population collapse into consideration, it would now appear that in southern Africa lions declined by similar percentages to those in western and eastern Africa.
The Angola lion population collapse again shows that there should never be any further consideration of any type of commercial utilization of lions. Even in countries like Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Tanzania that claim to have “thriving” lion populations.
Individual African nations need to move away from their self-centered and destructive commercial utilization of lions and take a much more responsible Continental approach. All African nations should join together to declare African lions endangered across the Continent rather than clinging to the empty concept that some nations are doing “well” in terms of “their” lions.
It is called collective responsibility to conserve a species ever more endangered. Local politics and commercial exploitation of this species should be set aside. If the African lion goes extinct in the wild it will be a collective African and international failure.
We have had the warnings for far too long. Angola is just one more nail in the coffin and we do not need . Action is required by African lion range states. Those that still have viable populations of lions should immediately put forward policies to conserve them rather than cling to the false premise that lions can be “sustainably utilized”. Similar action is also required by nations still importing lion products and that includes the UK which is still strangely resisting. Australia, France and the Netherlands have made commitments to halt further imports of lion sport hunting trophies. The USA has made a similar commitment to disallow any further hunting trophies UNLESS such trophies can be clearly shown to benefit the conservation of the species. China, Vietnam and Laos, just as a start, should immediately take action to prevent any further imports of lion bones or any other lion product for any purpose.
Angola should now be the straw that breaks the camel’s back as the saying goes. No more complacency, no more belief in “sustainable utilization” of lions, just an absolute ban.
Picture credit – David Dugmore.