While the entire world crucifies Dr. Walter Palmer (and we absolutely should), he and his fellow hunters may not be the biggest threat to African’s exotic wildlife. According to reports, African people pose more of a threat. Hmmm.
“The biggest threats to lions are the loss of habitat and when lions come into conflict with people outside the protected area,” says Stuart Pimm, a professor of conservation ecology at Duke University who worked on the study. “The wider context for Cecil the lion is how we manage lions and other animals when they are outside of the protected area.”
Dr. Palmer’s disgusting actions brought attention to a sport that’s been around since the dawn of time. Around the United States, people have banded together to demand a change in hunting laws, specifically importation of the hunter’s trophy (read: dead animals).
Even though people are outraged and hunters continue to hunt, African’s decreased population of lions is more of a result of African’s population and economic growth rather than the hunters’ desire to kill.
In 2012, a group of scientists used satellite data to estimate the size of African savannas where lions could live without being bothered by humans. They found that between 1960 and 2000, the available habitat shrunk by 2.2 million square kilometers, to about 9.7 million square km (about a 20 percent reduction), while the size of the lion population shrunk by 75 percent.
Researchers are expecting the lion population in Africa to decrease more in the years to come. Reports claims that out of a total population ranging from 32,000 to 35,000, they identified some 6,000 lions in areas of “doubtful long-term longevity.” That means that there’s at least 6,000 other Cecil the lions that are going to die. 6,000.
However, the people of Africa have built national parks to house and protect their animals, including lions, but these kings of the jungle often escape, threatening nearby farms’ livestock and the people who live there. So those escaped lions are often killed.
Luckily, there are people like Professor Pimm, who works with National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative, which helps farmers build sturdier enclosures (bomas) for their herds, which reduces the threat of lions hunting the farm animals.
Prosperity and growth are very important to the people of Africa and so is the conservation of their animals, but something has got to give because these things can’t exist together.