West African Lions on Brink of Extinction

There are fewer than 250 adults left, surprise study finds
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 9, 2014 4:34 PM CST
West African Lions on Brink of Extinction
A male West African lion is seen at Pendjari National Park in Benin in this file photo.   (Jonas Van de Voorde/Wikimedia)

Lions are on the verge of extinction in West Africa, a stunning new survey has concluded, after years of harrowing treks in search of them. When researchers started their search in 2005, the lions, a distinct species from their east and south African brethren, were believed to inhabit 21 protected areas. But as the team searched those areas, they encountered "aggressive poachers, and, in some countries, rebel groups"—but almost no signs of lions, Scientific American reports.

In the end, they concluded that lions still live in just four of the protected zones, and that there were likely only around 400 of them left, including just 250 adults. These lions are desperately spread out as well, with roughly one per 1,000 square kilometers, but there is evidence of successful breeding in all four areas. "We finally know where lions remain," the program's coordinator said, "and where we need to invest our efforts to save them." In other depressing big cat news:

  • An 18-month-old lion was found hanging dead from the roof of his cage at the Surabaya City Zoo in Indonesia, officials announced today. The lion, named Michael, had gotten his head stuck in the steel cables used to open and close the cage, the AFP reports via Raw Story. The Surabaya zoo is notorious for its frequent animal deaths; the lion is the second in the past three days, the Jakarta Globe reports.
  • Police stopped two men loading what they assumed was a human corpse into an SUV in Wenzhou, China yesterday, only to discover that the tarp-wrapped corpse actually belonged to a Siberian tiger, one of the most endangered species on Earth, the New York Times reports. The two men fled, but another man who was still inside the SUV was apprehended.
(More West Africa stories.)

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