By Sharon Atieno

Though the lion population in Kenya remains low, there has been a steady increase in its population, Najib Balala, Cabinet Secretary (CS) Tourism and Wildlife said during the commemoration of World Lion Day celebrated on 10th July.

According to Balala, the just concluded National Wildlife Census shows that the number has risen from a low of 1,970 in 2008 to 2,589 in 2021. “This is still low and we need to step up our efforts to increase their population,” he said.

“Most challenges facing lion conservation stem from the linked issues of human population growth,” said Brig. (Rtd) John Waweru, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Director General.

“In a bid to curb this, KWS has come up with a National Lion Strategy that aims to conserve lions within the context of the wider approach to the conservation of wildlife.”

He also called on partners to help in the implementation of the strategy as it would assure Kenya and the world of the continued presence of lions.

Najib Balala (right ) and Brig. (Rtd)John Waweru (left) during the celebration of World Lion’s Day
Photo credits: KWS

Elsewhere, the World Animal protection has raised alarm on the plummeting numbers of wild African lions partly due to the global wildlife trade.

Currently listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the African lions’ population has been declining with only about 20,000 individuals left in the wild. So dire is the situation, that the West African subspecies has been categorized as critically endangered.

According to Edith Kabesiime, wildlife campaigns manager at World Animal Protection the African lions have lost 90% of its original range lands.

Commending South Africa’s commitment to shift away from the practice of breeding and keeping lions in captivity for commercial purposes, she said that this was an important step forward.

“We hope that the South African government will follow through and see that this declaration is fully translated into policy and law and ultimately see this industry is brought to a close,” she said, urging consumer countries like China and Vietnam to put in place bans to ultimately secure conservation of the African lions.

Edith Kabesiime – Wildlife Campaigns Manager
Photo credits: World Animal Protection

According to a statement by World Animal Protection, there is need for states to take bold steps through enacting and operationalizing laws that heavily punish those involved in wildlife trade.

“Wild animals can no longer be reduced to commodities simply to be cruelly exploited by humans, without any regard for their lives or welfare,” it read.

“Countries need to enact animal welfare and environmental policies that protect individual wild animals and allow them the right to a life in the wild. Wild animals are sentient beings, and their intrinsic value should be recognized as an essential component in ensuring the survival of species as well as the protection of the environment. This is the real ‘new deal’ for wildlife, people and the planet.”