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A petition to put an end to illegal slaying of lions in horrific hunts is under way as body parts of lions are being exported to the UK. With over 700 000 signatures, the petition aims to put an end to illegal trophy hunting. The petition states that the number of lions in Africa has been decreasing from over 200 000 to less than 15 000 within the past 50 years and most of the “trophies” are male lions, leading to a disastrous knock-on effect as the pride structure will be disrupted.

According to recent estimates from the African Lion Database, there are now at least 3 100 lions in the wild in South Africa and this includes the Kruger National Park, Kalahari-Gemsbok National Park and 43 smaller fenced reserves across the country.

Carnivore conservation programme manager at Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), David Mills, said that many of the threats to lions occur outside of protected areas, most notably along the boundaries

“Research has shown that retaliatory killing of lions and unregulated trophy hunting has a domino effect on lion prides. This is because the death of dominant pride males leads to infanticide, where the new pride males kill all cubs under one year old and chases away older cubs. This destabilises the pride and, when it happens too often, it can prevent successful reproduction.

“Therefore, ensuring sustainable resource management, including hunting lions that have already successfully reared at least one set of cubs to adulthood and implementing livestock management practices that protect livestock from predation, is critical to ensuring the long-term stability of the lion populations,” said Mills.

African Lion Database co-ordinator Samantha Nicholson said that lions are important to Africa's natural ecosystem because they keep the prey populations healthy by preying on the old and weak, and as climate change intensifies, it is expected that habitats will become far more arid and inhospitable for lions to keep the cycle of life going.

“By attacking the old and the weak, lions maintain healthy prey populations. Additionally, lions control mesopredator population (medium-sized carnivores such as jackals and caracals) by minimising their overpopulation, and with climate change and lion population declining, stability of the lion population looks slim.

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