Durban - LIONS are extinct in 26 African countries and the impact of poaching them for their bones is a concerning trend given the already declining lion population in Africa.
This past week, Uganda Wildlife Authority announced the death of six lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park in the Kanungu district, from suspected poisoning. The lion carcasses were found with most of their parts missing. Eight dead vultures were also found at the scene.
Over the past 10 years, the lion population in the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park has declined from six lions per 100km² to four lions per 100km².
Edith Kabesiime, wildlife campaigns manager at World Animal Protection, said because some the lions’ body parts were missing they could not rule out illegal trafficking.
“For many years, tiger bones and other parts have been used in some Asian countries, especially China and Vietnam, to produce traditional medicines. Following the banning of the use of tiger in traditional medicine in China in 1993, the demand in Asia for lion bones as an alternative to tiger bones have increased in recent years,” Kabesiime said.
Wendy Steward, Wild Tomorrow Fund co-founder and chief operating officer, said that in South Africa the wild lion population was stable and growing. She said there are an estimated 2 300 wild lions and 800 “managed” wild lions in smaller reserves, according to the 2015 Lion Management Plan for South Africa.
Steward said in the last 21 years, equivalent to just three lion generations, the lion population has plummeted by an estimated 43% across the African continent.
She said the story and status for lions differs greatly across Africa. While in North and West Africa between 1992 and 2014 lion populations fell by over 60%, their populations rose by approximately 11% in countries where their protected areas were well funded and managed (Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe).
“Vultures are nature's early-alert signal that a lion, rhino or other animal has been poached. This makes them a direct target of poachers, poisoning them and killing tens to hundreds at a time. Vultures are even more at risk of extinction than lions. The most common vulture in Uganda and in Queen Elizabeth National Park is the African white-backed Vulture. It is near-threatened with extinction.”