Nav: Home

New research reveals extent of human threat to lion populations

December 12, 2016

Two new studies led by scientists at Oxford University have highlighted the threat posed to lions by human activity - including trophy hunting.

The first paper, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, analysed the deaths of 206 lions in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe - home of Cecil the lion - between 1999 and 2012. Researchers found that human activities caused 88% of male and 67% of female mortalities. Male deaths were dominated by trophy hunting, while the human sources of female mortality were more varied and included causes such as unintentional snaring by bushmeat hunters and retaliatory killing by herders for livestock loss.

Analysis showed that lions tended to avoid risky areas - such as farmland with high incidence of retaliatory killings - suggesting they may make behavioural decisions based on perceptions of risk. However, experienced adults visited risky areas less often than young individuals, suggesting that the latter may either be naive or forced into peripheral habitats by older lions.

The research highlights the risks that lions face - not only when they leave the protection of national parks and enter farmland or hunting areas, but also from poachers within protected areas themselves.

The second paper, published in the journal Biological Conservation, also used data from Hwange to show that intensive trophy hunting of male lions in the early 2000s had profoundly negative effects on the lion population. When trophy hunting management was improved, as a result of work by Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), by vastly reducing hunting quotas in the mid-2000s, the lion population increased by 62% and the number of adult males in the population by 200%.

The study concludes that trophy hunting of territorial male lions causes a cascade of negative effects - including infanticide of cubs by new males - that greatly reduce survivorship across all demographic groups, potentially leading to population declines if hunting is not well managed.

Professor David Macdonald, a co-author of both papers and the founding Director of Oxford's WildCRU, said: 'Among the threats facing conservation is the global decline of many large apex predators. Public concern about the fate of many of these iconic species was strikingly emphasised by the outcry over the killing, by an American trophy hunter, of Cecil the lion - an animal studied closely by WildCRU.

'These two important new pieces of research, based on long-term understanding of population dynamics, add very significantly to our understanding of the threats faced by lions and other large predators in a world that is increasingly dominated by the human enterprise.'

Dr Andrew Loveridge, also a member of WildCRU, and lead author on both papers, added: 'Conservationists face real and increasingly costly challenges in protecting these important predator species. Solutions have to include increasing scrutiny of and improvement to the management of trophy hunting, working with farmers to limit loss of livestock to predators, and improving the security of protected areas against poaching and land conversion.'
-end-


University of Oxford

Related Predators Articles:

Marine predators: Bigger in size with an appetite to match
The size of marine invertebrate predators has increased over the past 500 million years, while the size of their prey has not, a new study reveals.
Predators are real lowlifes
By deploying green clay caterpillar models across six continents, researchers unmasked an important global pattern.
Fish step up to lead when predators are near
Researchers from the University of Bristol have discovered that some fish within a shoal take on the responsibilities of leader when they are under threat from predators.
Restoring predators and prey together speeds recovery
Restoring predator and prey species together helps accelerate ecosystem recovery efforts compared to pursuing restoration of one species at a time, new research concludes.
Recovering predators and prey
Researchers show how simultaneously restoring predators and prey is much faster and more effective than doing so one at a time.
Reducing pressure on predators, prey simultaneously is best for species' recovery
Reducing human pressure on exploited predators and prey at the same time is the best way to help their populations recover, a new study indicates.
When it comes to predators, size matters
When it comes to predators, scientists find larger sheephead that consume bigger urchins help keep that population under control.
Birds of a feather flock together to confuse potential predators
Scientists from the universities of Bristol and Groningen, in The Netherlands, have created a computer game style experiment which sheds new light on the reasons why starlings flock in massive swirling groups over wintering grounds.
For viral predators of bacteria, sensitivity can be contagious
Scientists have shown for the first time how bacteria with resistance to a viral predator can become susceptible to it after spending time in the company of other susceptible or 'sensitive' bacteria.
How miniature predators get their favorite soil bacteria
Tiny predators in the soil can literally sniff out their prey: soil bacteria, which communicate with each other using scent.

Related Predators Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...