December 17, 2012
Bye Bye Lion Habitats In Africa

Ever wanted to travel to Africa to see lions in the wild? Don't wait too long. Lion habitats and lion populations are in sharp decline.

DURHAM, NC – About 75 percent of Africa’s savannahs and more than two-thirds of the lion population once estimated to live there have disappeared in the last 50 years, according to a study published this week in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation.

The study, led by Duke University researchers, estimates the number of lions now living on the savannahs to be as low as 32,000, down from nearly 100,000 in 1960. Lion populations in West Africa have experienced the greatest declines.

Since the last 50 years of population growth has been far smaller than the next 50 years of population growth the next 25% of savannah will probably go much faster.

Will the national park strongholds survive?

Pimm and his colleagues used high-resolution satellite imagery from Google Earth, coupled with human population density data and estimates of local lion populations, to map areas still favorable to the big cats’ survival.

They identified only 67 isolated areas of savannah across the continent with suitably low human impacts and densities.

Of these, only 10 spots were deemed to be “strongholds” where lions have an excellent chance of survival. Many of the strongholds are located within national parks.

The long term survival of wild lion populations seems very unlikely. One projection from the UN Population Division has Africa's population more than tripling by the end of the 21st century to over 3.5 billion people. Apparently that was a revision upward because Africa's fertility rates aren't declining as much as previously predicted. Africa's still in a Malthusian Trap where more resources translate into more babies. So high fertility rates shouldn't be too surprising.

Population growth and resource depletion get tragically little attention in discussions about what is going wrong in the world.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2012 December 17 10:46 PM 

Ronald Brak said at December 18, 2012 6:43 PM:

Ten billion, that's a lot. I was hoping that some trends, such as spreading mobile phone use, would improve female power in the developing world and help decrease fertility rates. Also I was hoping for a faster transition to light manufacturing in Africa, but it has been dwarfed by resource extraction and countries with resource curses can feel as they can afford not to educate women and this contributes to high birth rates. But at least population growth rates are slowing which makes dealing with the extra population a bit easier, but if everyone starts living as long as the Japanese it's easy to go way over 10 bilion. Hopefully we can do something to reduce population growth. (And guys, by do something I mean something that isn't a James Bondian evil plan.) Maybe Angry Birds II will be better than sex.

Abelard Lindsey said at December 20, 2012 8:23 PM:

This is where the recent talk of a "black planet" has come from.

ErisGuy said at December 21, 2012 9:07 AM:

And think a little more than 100 years ago, lions were easily killing people at Tsavo.

SOBL1 said at December 21, 2012 10:34 AM:

Let's stop sending food to Africa. If they had to feed themselves, they'd have to fix their problems. Read the book "Dead Aid", Western giving is only making problems worse.

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