Posted on 08 August 2020
Very few animals in the wild have the power to evoke such awe and inspiration as the African lion. Yet despite our reverence for these iconic big cats, lions have been wiped out of large swathes of the wild savannah and desert habitats they once occupied.
Lion range countries, conservation NGOs and communities across Africa have dedicated and channeled enormous resources towards stemming this decline by seeking to address the primary threats that lions face. However the single biggest problem is that many of these programmes have evolved independently, as site-level silos and without the necessary trans-boundary and multi-sector collaboration. Building on WWF’s long proud history of conserving wildlife and the vast experience of several governments and partners working in lion conservation, we believe we now have a unique opportunity of reversing decades of decline in lion populations. There is more at stake than just saving lions from extinction; this initiative holds the promise of recovering the rich trove of other species associated with lions and the resplendent landscapes in which they occur as well as the opportunity of involving the local communities constructively and ensuring they also benefit from conserving lions.
With the right level of advocacy and support, this strategy could go a long way towards ensuring that humans and lions thrive together. Through sharing of experiences and adapting solutions that have worked in other landscapes, we can apply innovative community–led models to livestock and land-use management across the lion range. When people take better care of their cattle, fewer cases of injuries and deaths to people and their livestock occur, and incidences of lions being trapped, shot or poisoned in retaliation decline. This strategy calls for sustainable models that ensure communities benefit and value lions as part of their treasured heritage – without these approaches, poaching of lion prey for bush meat and illegal trade in lion parts will continue. We call for rangers and conservation managers to be well-equipped with world-class technology, training and the motivation to enable them better protect lions and their prey as well as the people that depend on them.
Finally, I am pleased to see this report call for systematic monitoring and data collection to inform management decisions, adequate funding of site-based conservation and research partners and inclusive participation of local communities living with lions. This strategy articulates clear plans and practical solutions that can help maintain and grow lion numbers and their prey, and secure their habitats for the benefit of future human and wildlife generations.
Dr. Margaret Kinnaird,
WWF wildlife practice leader