Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What is happening to big cats?

Photograph by Nick Brandt  

"Who will now care for the animals, for they cannot look after themselves? Are there young men and women who are willing to take on this charge? Who will raise their voices, when mine is carried away on the wind, to plead their case?"
 ~ George Adamson

Excerpted from Elsa's Legacy: The Born Free Story, Disappearing Cats

While Joy and George Adamson were living in the wide expanse of the Kenyan bush in the mid-twentieth century, there was little interest in lion conservation. The big cat was considered widespread and abundant; their future seemed guaranteed. But times have changed.

Current studies tell us that there or only 6 or 7 viable populations of 1,000 or more lions left in the key wildlife reserves in Africa, with a possible total of only 20,000 to 25,000 in all living in the wild. Today, lions cover only 10% of the continent, primarily in the southern and eastern regions. 

The issues plaguing the lion are similar to the ones that threaten many other species. Human-animal conflict tops the list. As human populations grow, people and animals increasingly compete for resources. And as humans take over more land, the lion’s territory becomes severely fragmented. Inbreeding tends to increase when prides are confined to small, disconnected pockets of land and with less genetic diversity, lions become more susceptible to disease.

People have also attacked lions in order to protect livestock that might otherwise become a lion’s lunch. And trophy hunting, a highly lucrative business, can be particularly harmful when unregulated. Until human-lion relations improve, the future of the big cat looks grim.

Read the entire story here.

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