Scientific name: Panthera leo
Swahili name: Simba
Until recently scientists believed there were 100-200,000 lions living in Africa, but a recent survey has found that the number has dropped dramatically to approximately 23,000, and most of these are living in protected National Parks. But outside these parks lions are being killed at an alarming rate, and unless urgent action is taken, they may be completely wiped out from these unprotected areas.
Lions are often killed through poisoning, use of spears or guns in revenge for attacks on livestock. Conservationists in Kenya say carbofuran is the most widely used pesticide to kill wildlife such as lions and leopards. Due to its high toxicity, carbofuran is not permitted for use in agriculture in the European Union and the US where it is manufactured. According to Pest Control Products Board, carbofuran is among 27 pesticides that have been banned in Kenya. It was banned in 2004.
Monitoring, Research and Conservation
Countrywide, the lion population dropped from an estimated 2,749 in 2002 to 2,280 in 2004 and 2000 animals by 2009, according to the Kenya Wildlife Service.
Living with Lions, www.lionconservation.org a research and conservation group that is reaching unprotected areas to save the remaining lions and other predators is working alongside KWS to address the conflict. Under its Lion Guardians project, the organization is working with local communities to improve their livestock enclosures, change herding practices and educate them on lion movements, through an early warning system.
LWL team uses radio telemetry equipment to track collared lions. The lions are tracked weekly from the air and on ground to record information on their locations and home ranges, and the resulting data is analysed in relation to human land use and concentrations of wild herbivores and livestock. The information on lions' locations and movements can be viewed online via a lion-tracking website http://www.abycats.com/maps/catmap.html Some of the project sites include Amboseli National Park, Maasai Mara game Reserve and Laikipia in Kenya
Kenya Wildlife Service on the other hand has introduced a digital animal tracking system, in a bid to reduce human-wildlife conflict. This is a joint venture with the University of the Netherlands. The lions are fitted with GSM-enabled collars.
The tracking system transmits data on the animal's location to either a cellphone or a GSM ground station in the form of a short text message. Through this, the authorities can identify the season when lions migrate near human settlements data which is useful in outlining measures to reduce human conflict with the lions.
Another organization working to save lions is Born free foundation www.bornfree.org.uk
Among other lion projects, Born freeBorn Free is working with the Kenya Wildlife Service, Living With Lions, The Kenya Wildlife Trust, Predator Conservation Fund and others to purchase the necessary materials for the construction of lion proof bomas (cattle sheds) and give technical advice on their deployment to the communities around national parks and reserves especially the maasai. The community themselves will construct and maintain the bomas with guidance and support. This will reduce lion attacks on cattle.