Over the past 50 years Africa’s lion populations have plummeted from over 200,000 individuals back in the 1960’s to fewer than 25,000 today. A shocking number if you consider the size of that continent, and by far the greatest number of remaining lion populations are small, scattered, and highly vulnerable.
There have been many conservation foundations working to improve the lot of the African lion, but sadly to date the declines have not abated. In fact the rate of decline in lion numbers is accelerating. Ghana, Coted’Ivoire, and Congo are the latest African countries added to long list that have lost all their lions, and Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda predict local extinctions in the next ten years.
While many factors are listed as contributory to the overall decline in lion population numbers (including loss of habitat, conflict with growing human and livestock populations, declines in the number of functioning protected areas, etc), trophy hunting is a highly significant and immediately preventable source of additive mortality. The CITES Trade Database lists a total of 6,652 lion trophies exported 2000-2009, virtually all males. This number very likely exceeds lions killed as “problem” animals due to livestock and human attacks: as one example, between 1992 and 1998, 135 lions were reportedly killed as problem animals in northern Botswana. During that same time, 198 trophies were exported from the same area. Lion trophy hunting is not a sustainable practice, does not comply with CITES and EC WTR regulations that trade should not negatively affect species’ conservation status, and should be abolished.