African lion. Photo by Sue MainkaIUCN - The World Conservation Union, Gland, Switzerland (27.10.2005) - The conservation status of the African lion, for many the very symbol of the continent’s wildlife, is giving cause for serious concern. It was classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2004 due to a continuing decline in population, with current numbers estimated at 23,000-39,000. In West Africa, lions number fewer than 1,500 and meet the criteria for regionally Endangered.
The SSC Cat Specialist Group worked with IUCN Regional Offices and a number of partners, including the Wildlife Conservation Society, to bring together biologists, Range State government managers, and other stakeholders in a series of regional lion conservation workshops. The first of these workshops was held in Douala, Cameroon, on 2-7 October 2005.
Seventeen participants in the first part of the West and Central African Lion Conservation Workshop focused on describing the current distribution and status of lion populations in the two sub-regions. They developed a new, updated lion range map, and identified priority populations for conservation (“Lion Conservation Units,” or LCUs). These LCU’s were assessed for threats, and participants identified uncontrolled hunting of the lion’s wild prey base as the major one in 75% of the 20 LCUs. This clearly shows that maintaining the abundance of large ungulate populations is a key component of lion conservation.
There were thirty-five participants in the second part of the West and Central Africa Lion Workshop, a group which included high level representatives from most range state governments. Their task was to develop regional conservation strategies. Participants set themselves the goal of “ensuring the conservation and sustainable management of the lion in West and Central Africa”. A number of actions were recommended to achieve the objectives in each sub-region. These actions include measures to reduce lion-human conflict, control trade in bushmeat, build government capacity to manage lion populations, and conserve lion habitat.
The West and Central African Lion Conservation Strategies will be published in January 2006. Meeting documents are available at www.felidae.org/DOUALA/lion.htm.
The East and Southern Africa Lion Conservation Workshop will take place in Johannesburg on 8-13 January 2006 and will lead to an overall continental strategy for African lion conservation.
Project of the month (October 2005):
Census and Monitoring of the Zakouma Lion Population, Chad
For more information contact:
Kristin Nowell, IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group, email: firstname.lastname@example.org