Lion Poaching is on the Rise in Parts of Africa

Lion poaching is growing in parts of Africa, as Damian Carrington explains. A Lion in the Kapama, Limpopo, South Africa by South African Tourism. CC BY 2.0

I have to interrupt my brief hiatus to share an important story. According to Damian Carrington, writing for The Guardian, lion poaching has recently become far more prevalent in parts of Africa.

Carrington’s article focuses on Limpopo National Park (LNP) in the country of Mozambique. It follows a group of lion researchers and rangers as they track a pride of lions known as the ‘ghost pride,’ trying to find them before the poachers do. The odds are not good.

Lion poaching increased substantially in LNP beginning in 2015. Poachers have been killing prey species like antelope, poisoning the carcasses, and then waiting for lions to scavenge. Once the lions are dead, the poachers hack off the cats’ faces and paws: leaving the rest behind.

In just five years, poachers have helped to reduce LNP’s lion population from 66 to 21 individuals.

Carrington is cautious when he discusses the potential drivers of this poaching crisis, since no one is entirely sure. However, for years I have heard that lions are being used as tiger substitutes in traditional Asian medicine, just like jaguars (for instance, see Macdonald & Loveridge, 2010). In his article, Carrington also writes that lion teeth and claws have been included in packages headed for east Asia – alongside rhino horns and elephant ivory.

It would therefore seem that at least part of the demand for lion parts originates from east Asia, but not all of it: local people also purchase lion parts for use in traditional magic.

The poaching boom may also be compounding existing conflicts involving lions and cattle herders, since the latter party can now earn large sums of money for killing lions.

Fortunately, concerned individuals are taking action. The management at LNP, rangers, international scientists, and a host of other people are rooting out poaching and educating local people about the importance of lions. They are also working to make it easier to live with lions by developing nonlethal measures to protect cattle from predators.

Carrignton’s story goes into far more detail than what I have summarized here, and it is an excellent read; I strongly recommend you follow the link below to learn about the worrying rise in lion poaching in Mozambique.

Click here to Read Damian Carrington’s Original Article for The Guardian

14 Thoughts

  1. Goodness me, what a scene.

    Africans as a people need to realise that poaching does more harm than good to them , yeah sure you’ll earn a few coins here and there but at the cost of you’re own heritage. Now that’s a raw deal.

    I hope that enough systems are put in place to help educate the locals on how to coexist with the animals.

    Omg the traditional majic aka voodoo, what most people use to get themselves ahead in life or to get rid of people they don’t like, sad but true some of those people are so set on their ways and I really don’t know what it would take to convince them otherwise.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Naila! It’s always good to hear from you.

      It seems like the employees of Limpopo National Park and other concerned parties are working hard to engage with the local people in an around the park, and help them realize how important lions are. In many ways, Africa is one of the most extraordinary continents on the planet – possibly the most extraordinary – and losing iconic species like lions and rhinos due to human actions would be a huge tragedy.

      That said, it also sounds like the people who live in and around LNP are quite poor. Those of us who want to keep lions around will thus have to help them find ways to improve their economic situations if we want to be fair.

      But the most important thing is for people to stop buying parts from animals like lions and rhinos!!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hey Josh same here.

        Yeah I agree, what the guys at LNP are doing is commendable we can’t just come down on those communities if they know no better.

        Maybe they should also try to set up programs that will benefit the communities living around the national parks, something that can help them earn an extra coin to avert them from being lured into poaching. That’s if they haven’t already started such programs.

        Africa is a gem and
        I’d love to see African governments laying down more stringent measures when it comes to poaching.
        Lions are the pride of Africa and there’s got to be a stop to the buying of these beautiful wild animals.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I think they have some programs where they’re working to improve grazing conditions for the herders who live near LNP, which will make their lives easier and more profitable. But yes, there needs to be lots of outreach and collaboration with local people to give them other options than poaching.

          As for more stringent anti-poaching efforts, I totally agree.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. This story kinda makes me wonder if funneling more money into limpopo would just end up helping the poachers in the end because they’d have more animals to make money off of. Would increasing the amount of lions also increase the amount of lions killed by poachers?
    I wish they could make a barbed wire fence around this massive park to prevent humans from getting in. I’m glad there are some really intelligent people trying to solve this issue :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Intentionally keeping lion pops low would not be a good idea. Poachers will poach even if all the lions are gone, because there are other animals they can target too. Furthermore, there are additional sources of lion mortality besides poaching: conflicts with herders, fights between other lions, starvation, etc. Then there’s also the issue of genetic diversity, in which the long-term viability of lions populations depends on the introduction of fresh genetic material; in other words, not inbreeding. Given all these factors, the ideal would be to maintain robust lion populations that are able to move about freely. Of course, the definition of “robust” depends on what the carrying capacity of the park is (i.e. how many lions the area can biologically support).

      Also, the absolute amount of lions that are poached might increase with higher lion numbers, but hopefully not the proportion of the available population.

      Funneling money into Limpopo can be very helpful, depending on how it’s used. If more money leads to more effective local outreach efforts, alternative livelihood programs (to give local people additional sources of revenue besides poaching), and more-frequent and well-equipped anti-poaching patrols, then that would almost certainly help.

      About fencing, there are reserves in Africa that are fenced off. However, I’m not overly confident about the ability of a fence to keep out poachers: even captive-bred lions in fenced-in ‘canned hunting’ operations are being poached; there are tools for cutting fences and such. Then there’s also the issue with fences cutting off animals’ natural migration routes; which, given climate change, might turn out to be very bad.

      This is very much NOT my area of expertise, so I welcome any more knowledgeable people who may be reading to chime in, but in general it seems that fencing is a better idea when one is dealing with massive reserves. In that way, animals have room to move despite the presence of fences along the distant boundaries. Dr. Craig Packer seems to be a fairly strong advocate for fencing though, so if you look him up you might find plentiful counters to my arguments; he also knows what he’s talking about far better than I do.

      Liked by 1 person

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