Shocking Study Finds Lions are Nearly Extinct in West Africa via Scientific American
Sections of the report reads:
Physically and emotionally demanding. That’s how Philipp Henschel, Lion Program Survey Coordinator for the big-cat conservation organization Panthera, describes the six years he and other researchers spent combing the wilds of 17 nations looking for the elusive and rarely studied West African lion. The results of their quest were disheartening to say the least. Back in 2005, before the survey began, West African lions were believed to live in 21 different protected areas. But now a paper about the survey, published today in PLoS One, confirms that lions actually exist in just four of those sites. Worse still, the researchers estimate that the total population for West African lions is only about 400 animals, including fewer than 250 mature individuals of breeding age.
The research team conducted in-person surveys in 13 of the 21 protected areas—each of which was larger than 500 square kilometers—and relied on field reports from scientists studying other species in the eight smaller sites. Although some of the work could be done from vehicles, that wasn’t an option in many sites. “Due to the complete lack of roads in some protected areas, we had to conduct all survey work on foot in those areas, hiking up to 600 kilometers through rough terrain during individual surveys,” Henschel says. The research was also sometimes quite dangerous. “Encounters with aggressive poachers, and, in some countries, rebel groups, were frequent.”