The Reality of Lion Conservation – Walking For Lions
One of the top 3 biggest killers of wild lions comes from human-wildlife conflict, whereby livestock farmers shoot, poison, and trap lions in retaliation to lions killing their livestock. In a world where 75% of Africa’s Savannah has been lost due to human encroachment, rural farms and villages exist in lion territories. The resulting conflict between lions and farmers is killing off wild lions at a rate of knots. Walking for Lions is an organisation working to assist in lessening and, hopefully, preventing this conflict in order to save the population of wild lions – a trying job with almost as much disappointment as triumph. Marnus Roodbol, founder of Walking For Lions, talks about the reality of lion conservation, below.
If one were to describe the word conservation in layman’s terms and remove the complexity of the the word conservation, conservation basically means to protect. How one would go about something as multifaceted as this is yet another story as there are thousands of veins that connect towards the end goal that is the protection of a species.
Wildlife has been exploited for centuries. We witness the same exploitation daily and some even support it by participating in acts that serve no benefit to those species roaming free in the wild. For example, cub petting, or walking with captive-bred lions – a huge NO NO! The tumbling wheel of destruction is fast approaching and the world requires more than an army of conservationists at this rate, but the question still stands whether or not we will be able to slow down or stop this wheel from turning.
If we can, where would one begin? Do you start small at schools, farms, communities, and poachers? Or do we go straight to the top and reach those that can change the outcome for one specific species with just a pen on paper? Is the pen truly mightier than the sword? Will leave that one for you to answer.
Conservation requires unity from all and if one link to this unity does not benefit from a species then the road to success becomes harder. It is difficult to explain to a farmer that only has a dozen cattle not to shoot a lion that attempts to predate on his livelihood when the farmer does not benefit from having a lion walk through his land.
The starting point of successful conservation would be to show the benefit of wildlife to those that have never benefited from its living presence. Tolerance of wildlife is built on trust, education, and a support structure that has to be provided to those that are forced/unforced to live amongst wildlife.
When the value of a species filters down towards communities living amongst them, then the wildlife that lives in protected areas stand a greater chance of survival.
Westernised society should stop pretending to know what local inhabitants want and should start listening to their needs, as they might be surprised. Lion conservation takes years to break down into manageable chunks and the question one has to ask is; if by then, it will all be too late?