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ALERT: Poachers, Hunters and the Human-Lion Conflict

Habitat loss leaves lions and other wildlife with little land to call their own. However, the conflict is fuelled by the combination of this with the removal of its food source.

Poor poachers

Zambia is also one of the most malnourished nations on the planet. An increasing population means an even bigger increase in poverty, in a country where being poor is already the widespread norm. Where there is poverty, there is poaching – the illegal removal of an animal for personal gain i.e. to eat or to sell for parts. These people see no other method of producing an income. Local poachers may occasionally, usually accidentally, kill lions in snares intended for buffalo or wildebeest. However, it may become more of an issue as the numbers of wild tigers in Asia dwindle to even more extreme depressing lows. As those using tiger parts for medicine in the Far East struggle to get their hands on the larger cat, they seek lion as an alternative as anatomically, there isn’t really much difference underneath the non-striped fur. So the lion parts are shipped out East.

The main issue however, is that poachers are killing the same animals lions would hunt e.g. impala, wildebeest, zebra, etc. Lions are in direct competition with us for their necessary food source. If we rapidly erode away the numbers of animals of which the lion feeds upon, we’re inadvertently reducing the number of lions that will survive. This is known as prey base depletion.

Greedy governments

Corruptly-ran trophy hunting contributes to decreasing lion numbers when ultimately, believe it or not, it should be helping in more ways than one. Trophy hunting is meant to be a conservation tool. However, a scientifically based and environmentally appropriate quota system is pretty much non-existent and the dollar sign drives more lions to be killed, whilst the revenue generated goes straight into the pocket of corrupt officials and rich hunting operators, rather than back into communities and saving threatened animals. The same goes for the animals which lions hunt and, with poaching, humans remove many of the animals that lions need to survive.

Not only does this all threaten to push lions to the brink of disappearing altogether, but it also combines to produce the human-lion conflict. We leave shrunken and fragmented pockets of land for lions to live on (habitat loss), with little prey left for them to hunt due to poaching (prey base depletion). With humans living in extremely close proximity, lions being to attack livestock and thus, the human-lion conflict exists.

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Read more on the ALERT project.

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Ryan Walker