By Sharon Atieno

As the globe marks this year’s World Lions Day, urgent measures need to be taken to prevent the looming extinction of this species.

According to the Big Little Five report by World Animal Protection, the lion population in Africa has dropped by 43% in the last 21 years, and is expected to fall by 50% over the next 20 years.

They are already regionally extinct in 12 countries and possibly extinct in a further four and have lost 82% of their former distribution range over the last century.

“African lions are facing human and nature induced threats hence the need to prioritize their protection. We have witnessed the population of lions in Africa declined in the last decades as human beings occupy their habitat,” Edith Kabesiime, Campaigns Manger at World Animal Protection says.

Ranking the lions among the five most trafficked animals in Africa, the report notes that the decline is in part due to illegal hunting and trade in their bones for traditional Asian medicine.

Other contributing factors include climate change, removal from their habitats for entertainment, captive breeding as well as shrinking of prey base due to massive hunting which has increased their risk of death by starvation.

The African lion has been categorized by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a vulnerable species amid international trade in its claws, bones and jaws to meet a rising demand for traditional medicine and jewellery.

According to World Animal Protection, immediate action should be taken to protect and save lions from future extinction. A ban on international trade in lion’s products coupled with enforcement of laws to deter poaching will help reverse their declining numbers in Africa.

“Policy makers need to consider a total ban on wildlife trade. There is need for a coordinated global action to advocate for it as a way of saving Africa’s wild Populations.

At individual level one should distance themselves from wildlife trade ultimately making it socially unacceptable. If we learn anything from the current situation, it is that we need to leave wild animals where they belong – in the wild. We all have a responsibility to make a shift in our behaviour and attitudes towards animals that could save the lives of lions, other wildlife species, millions of people and our economies,” Says Tennyson Williams, World Animal Protection Country Director.

This year’s World Lion Day is marked with keen interest in three objectives; The first is to raise awareness of the plight of the lion and the issues that the species faces. The second is to find ways to protect the big cat’s natural environment. And the third is to educate people on how to prevent human-wildlife conflicts. Humans and large species like cats can live in harmony together, but only if they understand how to do so.