Big Life Foundation, which operates in northern Tanzania where human-wildlife conflict has resulted in retaliatory killing of lions, is among six organisations in Africa that have been selected for a $500,000 funding by the Lion Recovery Fund.
The funding targets saving African lions, one of the most iconic and revered animals on the planet, whose numbers are drastically declining, dropping from 200,000 a century ago to just over 20,000 today.
The pace of that decline is increasing and over the past two decades alone the numbers have declined by 43 per cent.
Loss of habitat, encroachment of wild lands by people and livestock, poaching of lion prey and human-wildlife conflict are the main factors that have caused lions to disappear from more than 90 per cent of their former range.
“One of the world’s most iconic and revered animals —the lion— is quietly disappearing. The time is now for us to come together and scale up the funding for wildlife conservation, and certainly for lions,” said Justin Winters, Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation executive director.
The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation together with the Wildlife Conservation Network are the forces behind Lion Recovery Fund.
LRF has so far allocated more than $1.6 million to 19 projects with 14 different organizations working to protects lions and their landscapes across 12 countries in the continent.
Conservationists contend that more than 26 countries have already lost their lion populations and without action, Africa’s king of the jungle may disappear from many of their remaining strongholds.
The loss of the lion — a keynote species —would have a severe impact on Africa’s wildlife and ecosystems, to say nothing of the continent’s $34 billion ecotourism industry.
If Africa loses its lions it will lose out on one of the major competitive edges that it has over other regions of the world in terms of tourists attractions.
“We are working to align the conservation efforts of multiple conservation groups around the key steps needed to save lions and the initial outlook is very promising,” noted Peter Lindsey, LRF director at the Wildlife Conservation Network.
Conservationists estimate that if existing national parks and nature reserves were properly resourced and managed, and if their local communities were supported, Africa’s lion population could increase three to four times its current size.
LRF supports innovative conservation efforts to reduce human-lion conflict, enhance law enforcement and end illegal bushmeat (wild game meat) poaching in reserves, and secure the space lions need to roam and recover.