AFRICA’S SAVANNAH ECOSYSTEMS — AND THEIR LIONS — DECLINING AT ALARMING RATE
Lion Population Estimates as Low as 32,000, Habitat Reduced by 75%
Tanzania, East Africa (Dec. 4, 2012)—Researchers coordinated by a team at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University have determined that Africa’s once-thriving savannahs are in trouble, due to massive land-use conversion and burgeoning human population growth. The decline has had a significant impact on the lions that make their home in these savannahs; their numbers have dropped to as low as 32,000, down from nearly 100,000 just 50 years ago, according to a paper published online in this week’s journal “Biodiversity and Conservation.” The research is the most comprehensive assessment of lion numbers to date.
African savannahs are defined as those areas that receive between 300 and 1500 mm (approximately 11 to 59 inches) of rain annually. “These savannahs conjure up visions of vast open plains,” said Laly Lichtenfeld, a co-author of the paper who is Executive Director of the African People & Wildlife Fund and a Visiting Fellow with the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. “The reality is that from an original area a third larger than the continental United States, only 25% remains.” In comparison, 30% of the world’s original rain forests remain.