Born Free Foundation CEO Adam M. Roberts said lions were in “serious decline” and “persecution” was a major threat to their survival across much of their remaining African range.
“If these issues are not addressed, the terrible prospect of a Masai Mara without lions will become very real,” Roberts said in a statement issued in Nairobi.
The statement came after two herders poisoned a pride of lions in Masai Mara Game Reserve on Sunday, resulting in the death of three lions.
The herders, who had taken their animals into the Game Reserve to graze, were apparently annoyed after the lions grabbed three of their cows. They then carried away the remaining meat from the dead cows, laced it with poison and brought it back to kill the lions.
The Marsh lion pride featured in the popular BBC television series “Big Cat Diary” which aired from 1996 to 2008. A male cub that was missing was later found in good health.
Roberts said the poisoning incident raises serious concerns about the future for the pride, and reflect wider threats to lions across much of Africa.
“Lion populations have declined alarmingly in recent years. In its most recent assessment, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature suggested that the number of lions remaining across Africa could be as low as 20,000, and that lions now occupy as little as 8 percent of their historic range,” Roberts said.
He said as human populations expand into traditional lion habitats, the predators are often considered a threat to both people and livestock, and persecution of lions can be intense. In some areas, deliberate killing, through poisoning, snaring or shooting, represents a major threat to lion survival.
“Lions are the most social of all the big cats. They rely on the stability of their prides in order to survive. The loss of even a few lions in this way will seriously damage the pride’s ability to function,” Roberts said.
“The solutions to human-lion conflict are often relatively simple, yet lions continue to be targeted, and to suffer slow, painful and unnecessary deaths,” he added.
Born Free works with the Kenyan government and local communities to implement solutions to the problems of human-wildlife conflict. Enditem