Posts Tagged With: habitat loss

King of the Jungle Dethroned

Africa’s rhino and elephant aren’t the only animals facing extinction, the African Lion is threatened. It is extremely rare to see a lion over 3 years of age in the wild.??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

*Over the last 50 years, the lion population has plummeted from 200,000 to less than 25,000

*Sadly, the rate of decline is accelerating. While the countries of Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire and the Congo have already lost their lions, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda expect them to be gone within ten years.

lion map


Habitat loss and human conflict is partially to blame for their loss. The loss comes from the gradual depletion of the savannah. In an ecosystem that was once larger than the United States, there is only about a quarter of that left today. From this shrinking habitat, comes a population growth which increases human/lion conflicts. People move into an area, bring in livestock which is inadvertently bait for the lions; then when the lions come in and do what their predator skills dictate they do,  the people kill the lions. It’s  a losing situation on both sides.

Trophy hunting/canned hunting is also a factor. (See previous post: This is entirely preventable. There are currently 160 farms in South Africa alone who legally breed lions just to be hunted. Although the hunts are not completely confined to bred animals, as some ranches capture wild lions and smuggle them in. In a five-year span ending in 2011, there have been 4,062 lion trophies exported out of  South Africa.

These lions were bred to be killed at a ranch that offers canned hunts.

These lions were bred to be killed at a ranch that offers canned hunts.

Canine distemper and tuberculosis have also been widespread.  In 1994 and 2001 there were major Distemper outbreaks  resulting in a the demise of a third of the population.  Tuberculosis  started with infected cattle and moved to buffalo which was ingested by the lions. About 25 lions die each year from TB. Just as importantly, it  has an effect on social behavior, as males are weakened by the chronic disease, leading to a faster territorial male turnover and consequent infanticide, eviction of entire prides and a decrease in  lion longevity.

lions storm


If this top predator disappears, it will devastate an entire ecosystem. Lions play an integral role in the food chain, regulating the herbivores (i.e zebra, buffalo). Without the big cats, the “prey” will out-compete other animals, causing a reduction in biodiversity and eventual extinction.

Tourism will become non-existent. People go on safari to see not only the lions, but the lion’s prey (zebra, gazelle, buffalo). At the current rate of decline with  Africa’s big 5 (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo, and leopard) there will be NO safaris.

It seems difficult for people to grasp that the “King of the Jungle” is vulnerable and needs help. But without human intervention, it seems the lions may be a species of the past, only to be seen in pictures. We can’t let that happen.

For more information on lions and how to save them please go to these organizations:

extremely rare to find a male lion older than the age of three – See more at:
extremely rare to find a male lion older than the age of three – See more at:
Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Circle of Life

baobab cartoonThe Baobab Tree isn’t called the “Tree of Life” for nothing. The giant African trees can store hundreds of liters of water, which can be tapped in the dry periods. The fruit or “monkey bread” is high in vitamin C, and the leaves are used for medicine. Even the cork-like bark, which is fire-resistant, is used for making cloth and rope.

The enormous Baobab is one of the longest living trees in Africa. Most of the mature trees are hollow and provide living space for humans and animals. In fact one such tree which was made into a pub is said to have been carbon dated at over 6,000 years old!

Ready for the catch? The Tree of Life is not doing well. In fact, its one of the top ten endangered trees on the planet.  Why?  Climate change and the natural regeneration of Baobab has been badly affected.

This is where the elephants come in. Elephants only digest 40% of the vegetation they eat. The 60% of undigested (the dung) generates new plant growth as it is deposited. With humans destroying elephant habitat AND poaching the pachyderms for their tusks, the population has dwindled and they too are endangered.

Up to 30% of the tree species may require the elephants to help with dispersal and germination. Also, during migration they use the same paths, keeping habitats open so other species can use them. They bring down vegetation as they traverse, making it more accessible to the smaller species to feed. In the process, they also inadvertently create trails that humans use.

Daphne Sheldrick (of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust) has observed that many forms of life depend on the activity of the elephants. They are a keystone species  (a species that has a disproportionately large effect on its environment relative to its abundance) to Africa.

So destroy the elephants, take with them the Baobab, as well as bushbabies, squirrels, rodents, snakes, tree frogs, scorpions, rollers, hornbills, parrots, kestrels, spinetails, barn owls, eagles, buffalo weavers, baboons and fruit bats. Not to mention the supplies of water and fruit to the people living on the savannah.

For more information on Daphne Sheldrick’s observations see IMPACT IN TSAVO.

african elephants


Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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