Uganda: End wildlife trade to save African lion, tourism experts warn


By Joseph Kiggundu

World Animal Protection has sounded the alarm over the plummeting number of wild African lions, in part caused by the global wildlife trade.

For many years, African countries have been the must-see tourist destinations to experience safaris, with the main focus being to spot the African lion.

According to World Animal Protection, the captive lion industry threatens the survival of lions and is negatively impacting tourism, public health and safety, as the African lion population has nearly halved over the past 25 years. last years.

The agency now warns that such scenarios may not resurface in the near future if nothing is done to end the captive lion breeding industry where lions are bred and captive-bred at high prices. commercial purposes, including hunting for canned trophies, petting, walking with lion experiments, and trade in lion bones for traditional medicine.

It was at the Global Animal Welfare Meeting with different stakeholders as a way to raise awareness of the growing loss of Lions in Africa and how to protect them on August 10, 2021 as they commemorate World Lions Day. Lions.

“Habitat loss and fragmentation, wildlife trade, bushmeat poaching and human-lion conflict continue to threaten lions across Africa, which are now classified by the International Union for the conservation of nature (IUCN) as vulnerable, “Ms. Edith Kabesiime, wildlife campaigns manager at World Animal Protection, said after the meeting.

Ms. Kabesiime noted that it is encouraging to see some African countries committing to abandon the practice of breeding and keeping lions in captivity and the commercial use of captive lions or their derivatives.

Lions suffer at every stage of their life on breeding farms, experts say, and intensive captive conditions increase the risk of zoonotic disease transmission.

“Countries must adopt animal welfare and environmental policies that protect individual wild animals and allow them the right to a life in the wild. Wild animals are sentient beings and their intrinsic value must be recognized as an essential element to ensure the survival of the species. as well as environmental protection, ”Ms. Kabesiime said.

However, in Uganda, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) reported that it carried out two national counts of Ugandan lions from 2007 to 2017, which revealed an increase in the lion population.

The census from 2007 to 2010 gave an estimate of around 408 lions while that from 2011 to 2017 showed an increase to 493 lions nationwide.

Last year, the Uganda Wildlife Education Center (UWEC) received a male lion named Letaba, from South African Lion Park, who replaces Kibonge who died last November at the age of 18.

Regarding the protection of Lions, UWEC Director James Musinguzi revealed that Lion Letaba has helped boost wildlife conservation in the country.

“We are using Letaba for the conservation of wildlife in Uganda, especially young lions, and this is happening when we have less than 400 lions in Uganda,” he said.

Mr Musinguzi added that the decline in the number of lions is attributed to the destruction of their habitats, their use as hunting trophies and poisoning by poachers.

According to UWA, tourism has been one of the country’s main sources of foreign exchange, contributing nearly 10% of the GDP.

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