Saving The King of Beasts To Save Ourselves
The sheer majesty of Lions always captivates the imagination in us all. From The movie “The Lion King” to the Tokens rendition of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” all have put the King of Beasts in the forefront of our conscious mind. But we are just beginning to understand how they have existed in a world that is ever encroaching on their once vast domain. In Tanzania, Africa Lions once populated in the tens of thousands. Sadly, today their numbers have dwindled significantly. To fully understand how these magnificent beasts survive in the wild is to trace their ancestry. The first Lion strutted some 600,000 years ago. Its descendants would eventually have ruled over a much greater range than any other wild land mammal. Their territory has spread to every continent on the globe except Australia and Antarctica. They were in Great Britain, Russia, South America. and even in the United States. As far back as 32,000 years they were depicted in paintings in the caves of France. They were until about 12,000 years ago truly the worlds reigning King of Beasts.
With the advent of better technology especially in hunting man found themselves competing with Lions in trapping and hunting of the same pray that lions depend on. Europe is where the population of lions first vanished. Most likely because man became more adapt at hunting the same prey. Consequently, the lion’s food chain became scarcer. Today Lions are primarily in southeastern Africa with Tanzania being the area with the most Lion population. The Serengeti National Park is refuge to the world’s largest Lion sanctuary with over 3,000 Lions. Outside of the Serengeti where Lions aren’t protected by governmental policies Lions continue to vanish. Part of the blame for the Lion’s demise is due to the so-called trophy-hunting industry, The Tanzania’s government still allows over 240 wild Lions per year to be hunted down outside the Serengeti National Park in places like game reserves and other unprotected areas. What makes this so abominable is that safaris charge a trophy fee for as little as $6.000 per each Lion. Part of these proceeds goes to government which continues to sanction the use of baited prey so that hunters will have much easier and safer conditions in which to hunt lions. Many of the lions hunted are the coveted “trophy males” which many are still being weaned by their mother. This leaves the pride very vulnerable and much weaker in being able to reproduce more lion cubs. There is another real concern here is the use of Lion parts in folk medicines. As with wild lions, wild tigers are also disappearing in Asia for the same purpose of attaining similar animal parts. Scientists have now noticed increasing demands for leonine substitutes is most likely another factor in both lion and tiger declining populations. Leonine substitutes have been long considered a native cure for Leprosy.
The bigger issue is that the population in Africa like in the other areas that used to be dominated by the king of beasts the ever-growing human population has reduced the native habitat of lions and other predatory animals. In Tanzania alone since 1990 the country has grown to over 42 million people and subsequently lost over 40% of their woodlands to urban development, farming, all other developments. This intrusion into land that was the home of so many wild animals is forcing those species either to adapt to new surroundings, migrate to other undisturbed areas, or fall prey to man. When man replaced the land that was once the native forests or jungle the main habitat for all wildlife especially the lion ceased to exist. This encroachment by man has had very catastrophic results not on just the wild lions but all of the natural inhabitants that once roamed freely. Diseases from domestic animals and livestock from these newly formed villages has spread to the lion’s prey. In 1994 in Tanzania a distemper outbreak that started in domestic dogs spread rapidly to packs of lions where a vast number failed to survive. Another sobering statistic is that the lions prey animals consistently are caught for their value in the illegal market for bush meat. This also contributes to the rapidly declining numbers of wild lions. With so little left of the food chain needed to sustain prides of lions it is no wonder that the encroachment of man into what was once the lion’s territory the lions now are forced into situations that endanger man themselves. When that occurs it is the lion that loses out.
Africa is not Africa without lions, but human needs have always preceded wildlife’s and predicated what actions humans take. As populations grow in almost every country in Africa mankind continually takes the lands away from wildlife without the slightest regard for all those animals’ survival that depends on that natural habitat. The population of Africa is approaching over one billion people now. Just think of the enormous implications that this surge in human populations is having not only on lions but all Africa’s wildlife.
To better understand the enormity of all the tragedy in the population of lions decline one needs to understand how Lions interact with each other and how they actually survive in this rapidly changing world. The lion is the only member of the cat family that is social. Social in that they form packs or tribes made up of males, females and their cubs. Male lions have either a fair colored mane or blondish in tint where others have a darker colored mane. In the lion world it is not true that the blondes have more fun. In fact, it is the lion with the darker manes that are prone to attract more females, are generally healthier and stronger than their male blond counterpart. For the most part lions are nocturnal animals. Male lions are known to sleep an average of 20 hours per day while the females are the more aggressive ones in hunting of food. Males meanwhile are prone to be the aggressor in the mating rituals where it is known that they can be most savage in securing their right to mate.
The demise of the wild lion in its own natural habitat like all the other species that are on the brink of extinction sends waves of condemnation over all humanity. The human race has to find a better way to co-exist with all nature’s creatures. To willfully eradicate any species as what is occurring in the overfishing in the world’s oceans to the deforestation that has occurred in the Amazon Rain Forest are prime examples of man’s willful disregard to the sanctity of life. For the King of Beasts their future is in the hands of what scientists and governments are now proposing. In Africa countries governments and scientists are now focusing on ways that man can co-exist with the wildlife and especially the lion. Special funds are now proposed, and some are already set up to replenish herds of livestock if no lion is hurt or killed. Another solution is providing modern fencing to keep livestock from falling prey to lions and other predatory animals. There has to be a mandatory and necessary resolution to stop the illegal hunting of bush meat. This will ultimately prove to be the one factor in ensuring that lions will be able to secure enough food rather that endangering man and the livestock that man depends on.
Man has to come to terms in realizing that on this planet every creature has a rightful place in the total balance of nature. Any disruption in this balance distorts every other aspect of nature, including the landscape of our land and oceans. The preservation of the King of Beasts is just one important reality in the continuity and balance of all living things. This includes mankind. To willfully cause the extinction of any creature will ultimately prove to be fatal for all humanity. Mankind has to find and implement ways to co-exist with all of nature’s creatures. The future of all depends of the preservation of not only the Lion but all living things.
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