Thursday 16th January 2014
Last hope for western African lions?
In a very recent publication by Etotepe Sogbohossou and others, the status of lions was examined in the Pendjari Reserve and two neighbouring hunting concessions in Benin. The study concluded that lion populations had undergone a severe decline in western Africa, and that the lion population in Pendjari was affected negatively by trophy hunting.
The study did not estimate the total lion numbers in the Reserve, a significant omission. Also, the results were collected between 2008 and 2010, and can be criticized for having little current relevance. The population studies relied on the trophy hunters themselves for delivering information, and these are likely to be exaggerated in their vested interests. The study did not include the neighbouring Arly reserve in Burkina Faso – lions range across the international border. Finally, the study mentioned that the lions were “too skittish” to be identified individually – a likely contributor to significant overestimation of the lions in the Reserve, as each lion could easily have been seen many times during the prolonged surveys.
Nevertheless, the study identified some important differences between hunting areas and protected areas in terms of lion group sizes (significantly smaller in hunting areas)and an overall low ratio of cubs (20% in Pendjari versus 40-50% in other areas – indicative of low reproductive success, perhaps due to rapid male turnover caused by trophy hunting).
The study calls for much better protection of the lion population, reduction of poaching, and elimination of illegal grazing of livestock within the protected areas but offers no practical means to achieve these ends.
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Posted by Chris Macsween at 16:48
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