Lions, despite being a symbol of strength and courage, are now vulnerable to the threat of extinction in a matter of decades, unless mankind can address the problem and safeguard their natural habitat.
The relatively new World Lion Day (10th August) celebrates the magnificence of these regal animals, while highlighting their plight under the banner of ‘Saving the King of Beasts to Save Ourselves’.
Although their existence is celebrated across the globe in iconic images and symbols adorning flags, coins, statues, buildings, places of worship, transportation, stamps and jewellery, it is estimated that there are only between 20,000 to 35,000 lions alive today, a tenfold drop in numbers since the mid-1970s. These numbers are shockingly low for an animal which, since evolution of modern day lions (nearly 200,000 years ago), had a Sub-Saharan African population of approximately 320,000.
They once roamed across the globe, from the Mediterranean, Middle East and Eurasia to Africa and the Americas, but today there are reportedly only 523 Asiatic lions alive (all based in Gir Forest National Park in Guajat, India).
The rest are in Africa, where over the past fifty years there has been an 80% decrease in lion’s natural environment. In addition to habitat loss, hunting, poaching and urban encroachment they need help to decelerate the speed of decimation, with five countries losing their indigenous lion populations altogether over the past fifteen years.
Whether we can turn the tide on lion number conservation is yet to be seen. As highlighted in my previous blog, tourism is undoubtedly playing its part in the protection of wildlife across Africa, particularly across the most well-known natural lion habitat national parks and wilderness reserves. Millions of international travellers continue to make their way to Africa to see lions in the wild, and to watch them dominating proceedings across the bushlands as they have for thousands of years.
As these photos show, I do not take for granted the life-long memories of experiencing lions in the wild. Similarly, whenever planning a Nomadic Thoughts safari trip we always build in time to explore the most impressive of natural lion landscapes.
So while celebrating World Lion Day, the abiding thought must be ‘long may it last’.