African lions are facing further threat of extinction in certain regions of Africa, as the remaining population is fast running out of savannah on which to roam, according to a new study.
Scientists studying the surface area of Africa have discovered that at least 75% of the country’s plains and wild savannah have been taken over by humans over the course of the last 50 years – most of which is now being used for large-scale development or as farm land. The original plain measured in at around 30% larger than the United States of America – now less than 25% of this remains.
The number of lions in Africa has plummeted over recent decades, with recent estimates suggesting that no more than 32,000 are now roaming the isolated areas of land still available to them. Worse still, only 10 of the remaining 67 areas which contain wild lions are considered safe and stable. As for the remaining 57 areas, most are dwindling in size and under serious threat from disease, illegal hunting and inbreeding – their chances of survival are bleak to say the least.
According to the results of the study, at least 6,000 lions are currently populating areas in extreme danger of local extinction. By contrast, the human population of West Africa has increased double over the past three decades, where no more than 500 wild lions remain.
“Lion populations in west and central Africa are acutely threatened with many recent, local extinctions even in nominally protected areas,” according to the scientists behind the study. “Only immediate, energetic conservation measures can offer any hope for their survival.”
Back in the US, officials have announced that African lions may be added to the endangered species list as a result of their dwindling numbers, which would mean an nationwide ban on the import of hunt trophies and hides.