The Biggest Obstacles for Africa’s Big Cats

A juvenile lion. Photograph by Michael Schwartz
A juvenile lion. Photograph by Michael Schwartz

Almost every obstacle surrounding big cat conservation in Africa is symptomatic of human population growth and the conversion of rangeland to reduce poverty.

On a slightly contrarian note, Africa’s surge of human inhabitants is actually good news—at least insofar as the state of the human condition is concerned.

At long last, significant portions of a continent long beleaguered by death, disease, and destitution are showing promising signs of improvement, thanks largely to 21st century advancements.

And what’s more, Western civilization has played a fairly substantial role in the continental baby boom by providing the means to engage in large-scale food production.

All in all, such progress is a tad ironic when considering how often animal activists unfairly rake Africans over the coals for their role in the defoliation of wilderness and the disappearance of wildlife. But that argument is neither here nor there.

The fact remains that Africa’s green revolution and expanding human population are the biggest juggernauts for feline conservation. And like it or not, bans on the sustainable use of wildlife have all but removed the incentive for landowners with properties that don’t attract tourists to invest in maintaining wildlife habitats.

A lioness on a hunt. Photograph by Michael Schwartz.

More to the point—a growing demand for vegetable cultivation to bolster economic development means less room for lions, leopards, and cheetahs.

A Changing Landscape

According to the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), “the demographic size of Africa in the world [grew] from nine percent of the total in 1960 to 15 percent in 2010. By 2050, its share of global population will reach 23 percent and it will be considerably larger than either China or India.”

Furthermore, ISS observes that while population growth rates across the continent aren’t uniform, East and West Africa are seeing the most —> Read More