Lions in Kenya may become extinct in the next 15-20 years if nothing is done to save them, conservationists have said.
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) says the country is losing 100 lions per year while the current population is estimated to be less than 2,000.
“Loss of habitat and biodiversity due to corruption, climate change, poverty and increased human population pose the greatest threat to the conservation of wildlife, protected areas and the country’s ecosystem,” Dr John Waithaka, the director of Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC), said during its launch last month.
In west Africa, lions disappeared 60 years ago while in north Africa they became extinct 150 years ago.
As it is, they may also disappear in East Africa if governments do not take stern action to stop the decimation of wildlife and protected areas, Dr. Waithaka, who is also co-chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), observes.
The decline has been unabated in the past two decades. In 2002, for example, there were 2,749 lions but their population declined to 2,280 by 2004, and then to 1,970 in 2008, according to IUCN.
In 1900, the lion population in Africa was about one million, but 50 years later, it had declined to 500,000. In 1975, the continent had 200,000 lions, but in 1990 there were just 100,000.
More disturbing is that about 10 years later, the population had declined drastically to only 35,000.
Dr. Waithaka, who is also the chair of the KWS board, said in the last 100 years, the lion population in Africa had declined by 96.5 percent.
In the last 21 years, it had dropped by 43 percent. The trend may be irreversible, and that is why the lion species was put on the 2013 list of endangered species through the Wildlife Conservation Management Act.