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.