I DON’T LOOK LIKE AN ELEPHANT OR RHINO BUT I’M IMPORTANT TOO!
Back in 2004, Kenya suggested that African lions be placed on Appendix I of CITES . Kenya then was actively encouraged to withdraw that proposal at the CITES Conference of Parties 15, and to instead accept that a number of meetings would later take place inviting lion range states to report their lion numbers and examine management practices for the species. So the application was withdrawn and such meetings were duly organized in 2005/2006. No substantive and effective action for lion conservation resulted from those meetings.
Then, in July 2011, at the CITES Animals Committee meeting, Kenya and Namibia were appointed co-Chairs of a Periodic Review of lions. The purpose of this Review which was recommended as “high priority” was to ask all lion range States to report on their remaining lion populations and report back BEFORE the 16th CITES Conference of Parties in March 2013.
Now, in late February 2013, it seems that this Review has NOT been completed as requested. It would appear that there has been a great reluctance on the part of the lion range States to participate in an accurate assessment of their remaining lion populations and the process has effectively stalled.
Make no mistake here, such a Review could well have resulted in a proposal to uplist the African lion to Appendix 1 at CoP16 if it was felt that remaining lion populations had declined to levels risking the sustainability of trade in the species.
As regular readers of our website will already know, we have already conducted our own review of lion populations and strongly believe that lion numbers have fallen to an all-time low of 15,244.
The reality is that of 49 continental African nations, lions are extinct in 25 (51%), virtually extinct in 10 (20%), and only have some possible future in 14 (28%). Only five populations number over 1,000 lions and these are located in Tanzania/Kenya (3), South Africa (1) and Botswana/Zimbabwe (1). Uniquely genetically distinct western and central African lions are virtually extinct.
We can only remain hopeful that Kenya and Namibia, despite any evidence of progress, will still produce a consensus document based on science on the current status of lion populations in Africa.
We realise that Kenya will be very occupied with elephant and rhino proposals at the conference but we would urge Kenya to also pay dedicated attention to other species requiring urgent conservation consideration.
Picture credit: Martin Fowkes
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