Ecotourism companies aim to double Africa’s lion population by 2050

Lions are pictured in Lion Park in Lanseria, northwest of Johannesburg, during a visit there by the members of the German national soccer team, June 25, 2010. REUTERS/Markus Gilliar/Pool

Africa’s four leading ecotourism operators have launched the Lionscape Coalition to support Lion Recovery Fund (LRF) to help preserve the dwindling population of lions on the continent.

The initiative is to help secure a better future for Africa’s lions and their landscapes, the LRF said Thursday.

The four operators are &Beyond, Conservation Travel Foundation by Ultimate Safaris, Singita, and Wilderness Safaris.

“With a unique ability to inspire and inform travelers about the threats faced by these magnificent cats, and the habitat they need to survive, Africa’s ecotourism industry can play a pivotal role in bringing them back,” said Paul Thomson from the Wildlife Conservation Network, which manages the LRF in Gaborone.

Africa’s lion population has halved in the past 25 years, and the species is now officially classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as “vulnerable,” the LRF said.

The LRF attributes the decline in lion numbers to habitat loss and fragmentation, illegal wildlife trade, bush-meat poaching and human-lion conflict.

“Lions are a resilient species and a turnaround is still possible if these key issues are addressed,” Thomson said.

He said the LRF’s vision is to see wild lion numbers doubled by 2050.

“By engaging guests before, during and after their safaris about the threats and opportunities for lion conservation, Lionscape Coalition members will aim to generate additional funding in support of the LRF’s goals, with 100 percent of all donations received channeled directly to projects on the ground,” Thomson said.