1 National Administration for Conservation Areas
Published 18 May 2021
A TRAFFIC assessment finds declining lion populations of Tanzania and Mozambique face ongoing threats from humankind, including domestic and international trade of lion parts and their derivatives. TRAFFIC urges these governments and other stakeholders to seek national approaches to slow population declines and prevent this illicit trade.
Katrina Mole, David Newton
Humans are the primary cause for the decline in African lion numbers. Human-wildlife conflict such as retaliatory killing, demand for bushmeat depleting the lion’s prey base, and habitat loss contribute to their decline. Understanding the additional impact of trade on wild lion populations is critical for the current and future conservation of the species.”
Katrina Mole, Project Officer at TRAFFIC.
In Tanzania, humans and wildlife coexist in large landscapes where communities live adjacent to protected areas. As most of the Protected Areas and National Parks are unfenced, carnivores sometimes traverse into human-dominated landscapes creating an environment for human-wildlife conflict. The study found that retaliatory killings due to livestock depredation are the principal source of lion products used and traded in the country.
Of the 77 communities interviewed (326 community members) as part of the study, 96% of communities experienced conflict with lions, and 55% of communities were aware of retaliatory killings in their communities to protect their livestock. A potential solution could be found by placing more monitoring agencies, including NGOs, tourism companies, and government staff, in these lion landscapes where humans and wildlife coexist. Their focus should be on working with communities that live alongside wild lion populations to find viable solutions and encourage lion deterrents rather than the use of deadly force which, in turn, will reduce the local availability of illegal lion products.
Alongside this, investigations into recent mortality data found that poaching and suspected poaching is fuelling the decline of the national lion numbers in Mozambique. They indicated that most lion products traded domestically, regionally, and internationally are likely to originate from these targeted kills.
TRAFFIC congratulates Mozambique on the well-run lion programmes in key lion areas such as Niassa Special Reserve and Gorongosa National Park, but cautions that some areas in Mozambique, including those surrounding Niassa, have been identified as trade or poaching ‘hotspots’ requiring further investigation and immediate action. The findings suggest that more support for research and conservation programmes by Administração Nacional das Áreas de Conservação (ANAC)1 would improve regional lion management. Across the nation, a consideration for wildlife authorities to increase anti-poaching law enforcement and implementing collaborative strategic workshops may reduce lion poaching and subsequent trade.
Interviewees in Mozambique indicated that most lion parts sold locally are used for traditional African medicine. Other body parts such as teeth and claws were used mainly as curios, status symbols and decorations. Since 2010, 50% of lion product seizures involving Mozambique were destined for Asian countries, mainly in Vietnam and China.
In the same period, there have been 57 international and domestic seizures of lion products involving Tanzania. The seizures involved 1,555 lion products, the vast majority of which were lion claws. The relevant agencies in the respective countries, ANAC, Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (TAWA) and the relevant Customs Authorities, should allocate additional resources towards border control and training customs officers n detection and screening techniques and technologies.
Another considerable challenge faced by conservation efforts, especially in Tanzania, is the lack of consistent population data, which makes it difficult to determine the actual decline in lion numbers.
While Tanzania has well-run lion programmes in areas such as the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tarangire and Ruaha National Park, incomplete data, differing population estimates, and out of date population surveys across Tanzania presents an incomplete picture of lion populations in the country. It is recommended that Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) develop an updated Conservation Action Plan specific to the African Lion in Tanzania. The revised Action Plan should focus on updating current lion population estimates to ensure regular national lion surveys and monitoring programmes are in place. However, the assessments suggest, if action plans can be consolidated and realistic, achievable goals set, it could result in lion stronghold ecosystems, aiding in the overall conservation of the species.
African lions are classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List assessment. According to IUCN assessments, the worrying decline in African lion numbers in West, Central, and East Africa meets Endangered criteria.
TRAFFIC will present the report findings to the relevant governments, authorities and NGOs. It will support and advise on the best approaches to tackle the issues raised by this assessment in the hope that together, lion mortalities and subsequent trade can be reduced.
African Lion numbers are in decline, primarily due to anthropogenic influences
are common in areas where lions and humans co-exist
and traditional medicine are driving an unsustainable trade in lion parts across the continent
Abbie Pearce TRAFFIC Media Support Manager
1 National Administration for Conservation Areas
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