Bring back the King of the Jungle

Lusayo Singogo, originally published in The Nation on 13 August 2019.

Numbers of lions, the ‘King of the Jungle’ and one of the world’s iconic animals, have dramatically declined across the globe to the point where the species is listed as ‘vulnerable to extinction’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which determines the conservation status of species.

In a report issued by National Geographic, the non-profit Wildlife Conservation Network notes that lion numbers have dropped by half since original Disney film The Lion King premiered in theatres in 1994.

The report says lions were once found on three continents but have since disappeared from 94 per cent of their historic range, which once included almost the entire African continent but is now limited to less than 660,000 square miles.

“There are half as many African lions than there were 25 years ago. Now fewer than 25,000 wild lions are estimated to remain in Africa,” the report reads.

“A group of around 600 Asiatic lions are listed at a national park in India. For every lion in the wild, there are 14 African elephants and 15 Western lowland gorillas. There are more rhinos than lions too.”

In October 2015, The New York Times reported that a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal estimates that Africa’s lion population will shrink by half again in the next two decades if nothing is done to halt declining populations.

African Parks reports that from 1993 to 2014, the lion population nearly halved due to poaching and habitat loss fuelled by wildlife encroachment.

Due to this dramatic loss of the animal kingdom’s most beautiful and fearsome creature, African Parks has heeded the call to safeguard and protect Africa’s largest and most iconic cat through effective park protection at a landscape level and species-specific interventions including reintroductions and translocations, monitoring and research, and mitigating human-lion conflicts.

“Besides efforts made in other countries, African Parks reintroduced lions to Majete Wildlife Reserve in 2012 after they had been hunted down in the 1990s. Nine lions were also reintroduced to Liwonde National Park in 2013 (seven from South Africa and two from Majete),” continues NatGeo’s report.

Thanks to African Parks’ efforts and dedication, today Majete is helping to repopulate other reserves in the country, and together with the Lion Recovery Fund, the Dutch Government, and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, are working on meta-population dynamics to restore lions in Malawi.

As World Lion Day fast approaches, the public is yet again being reminded to emulate the deeds of organisations such as DNPW, African Parks, and Lilongwe Wildlife Trust in raising awareness of the majestic hunter because the more we spread the word, the greater the chances of these animals beautifying our planet forevermore.

World Lion Day also marks the launch of the Lilongwe Wildlife Trusts latest campaign, “Mkango: Pride of Malawi”. Activities will take place across the country promoting the pride Malawians should have that Lions are still wild in the country, and the benefits having lions here will bring both ecological and economically.

The time to bring back the King of the Jungle is now and this can be achieved by intensifying advocacy against poaching and human-lion conflict.

World Lion Day was founded by Big Cat Rescue, the world’s largest accredited sanctuary dedicated to big cats, with the aim of raising awareness on lion conservation. 10 August is the day for people across the world to come together and pay tribute to the majestic lion in different ways.