5 Numbers That Show Just How Threatened Lions Are
It’s a big moment for the world’s lions. For the first time, the great cats are being afforded legal protection by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which classifies one subspecies as “endangered” and another as “threatened.”
It’s a moment conservationists have been awaiting for years, as the number of African lions has plummeted to just half of what it was two decades ago. The animals are under assault by poachers, game hunters and farmers who kill them in retaliation for lost cattle. Scientists have said they expect populations to fall by half again in the next 20 years without significant intervention.
The American protections are important because they forbid hunters from bringing the remains of an endangered animal into the U.S. for a trophy. Hunters may apply for a permit to bring the remains of a threatened animal into the country, but the government can reject it if the species’ plight is worsening.
This has been a year of turmoil for the big cats, highlighted by Cecil the lion’s killing by an American hunter in July and the poisoning of a famed pride in Kenya. Retribution killings are on the rise as human expansion prompts greater interaction with lions, which can prey on farm animals that encroach on hunting grounds.
Even the world’s greatest predators are no match for a bullet or a dose of cyanide.
Here are five numbers that put the plight of lions into perspective. No, it’s not all hakuna matata from here on out.
The estimated number of lions remaining in the wild.