The Sunday News
Victoria Falls Reporter
ZIMBABWE is carrying out research to establish the population and changing lifestyle of lions in the country, amid reports the population of the king of the jungle has decreased by close to 80 percent in the last 50 years in Africa. Leading tour operator, Lion Encounter, recently held a schools’ conservation quiz competition in Victoria Falls in commemoration of the World Lion’s Day.
The day was first commemorated last year following the research.
Speaking at the occasion, Lion Encounter representative, Mr Stephen Jonasi, said the decline was worrying adding that lion population was now zero in North Africa while in Southern Africa which includes Zimbabwe, there were between 11 000 and 12 000 lions.
He said there were about 100 000 lions in the continent 50 years ago but the number had decreased to between 32 000 and 34 000.
“We are commemorating World Lion Day which falls on August 10 having started last year following a research which revealed that the population of lions is drastically decreasing,” said Mr Jonasi.
“The research was done in 2012 and when it was realised that the population of lions in Africa was drastically declining, August 10 was set aside as the day for commemorations starting last year. There were about 100 000 lions in Africa but the number has decreased to about 32 000, a decline of about 75 percent in the last 50 years.”
Mr Jonasi said people should understand that lions were facing a similar dilemma of extinction as other animals such as rhinos and elephants.
“Lions are symbolic in Africa which is why we are worried about their existence as we fear having a country without lions. All we are doing is try and help combat reduction and hope to play a notable role through such awareness campaigns,” he said.
Some of the causes of the dwindling population of the king of the jungle had been singled out as human-wildlife conflict fuelled by the growing human population, according to the research.
Some of the reasons are loss of habitat since lions are sociable hunters unlike other predators that are lone hunters, and diseases.
Researcher Mr Brilliant Chibwa based at Zambezi National Park said: “We are doing research with Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and other players such as ecologists to establish a number of issues about lions including their reproduction because sometimes when they are disturbed and live lone lives mating is limited.
That is why we are having school children so that we catch them young and raise awareness about an impending danger facing lions.”
West Africa has between 480 and 525 lions left while in Central Africa there are between 2 267 and 2 419.
There are about 18 308 to 19 973 lions left in East Africa, according to the research giving a total of between 32 260 and 32 907 including the ones in southern Africa.
Four urban schools took part in the conservation quiz won by Baobab Primary School which scooped a trophy, a boat cruise combo and cub encounter after scoring 120 points.