If you go on safari to Africa and visit well-known game reserves or national parks, there is a very, very good chance you will see lions. In fact you may even see plentiful lions. This was the case on the last Art Safari I lead for Africa Geographic magazine in Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa. I believe we saw 30 different individuals in 4 days. I came away with an inordinate number of lion sketches. By the end of the safari we were actively searching for zebra because we hadn’t sketched those!
It is wonderful to see so many lions but it also gives many visitors the false impression that lions are numerous and there is no need to worry about their conservation. (Incidentally, there are many other aspects of a typical safari that can give visitors a very, very skewed idea of what real life in Africa is like, but that is for another blog post!)
Lion numbers (like those of many other African species) have declined precipitously across most of their range, particularly outside protected areas, even though many of these unprotected areas are vitally important for hunting, breeding and dispersal.
A century ago there were approximately 200,000 lions in Africa. Today there are less than 30,000.
There are now only 7 countries in Africa which have a population of more than 1000 lions.
Many of the lions I sketch are snoozing but we can’t fall asleep on our watch. We need to ensure that people and wildlife can successfully share the land they need in order to thrive. Its a huge task but there are some wonderful organizations working in the field towards this end. I have spent time with one of them – the African People & Wildlife Fund in northern Tanzania. Their Living Walls program protects livestock (from predators), habitat (from deforestation) and lions (from conflict with people). If you are looking for a worthwhile organization to donate to, you might want to check out their website!
Read more about the African People & Wildlife Fund.