Nigeria’s lions are being besieged by illegal grazing and loss of habitat. This was disclosed by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Nigeria chapter yesterday, while they celebrated the World Lion Day. They said that their numbers are very small and they are critically endangered. They mentioned that the Kainji Lake National Park, New Busa, in Niger State, and the Yankari Game Reserve in Bauchi State, are the two sites that wild lions survive in substantial number. Although both sites are legally protected, lions remain threatened due to illegal livestock grazing and loss of natural habitat. The lion is a keystone species and its population status in an area is an indication of the health of the ecosystem as a whole.
Lions remain one of the world’s most popular wildlife and at the same time, one of the world’s most prestigious trophy for illegal hunters. But here in Nigeria hunting is the least of the Nigeria National Park Service. Most worrying problem that the rangers face in their profession, are loss of habitat and encroachment by unauthorized grazing. As well as lack of awareness among citizens about the efforts of conservators and the Government in the protection and preservation of wildlife.
According to WCS Nigeria, “West African lions have declined by more than 60% over the last 20 years and are now classified as critically endangered.
There is a significant risk that lions will go extinct in Nigeria without concerted action.”
They added that “effective conservation requires a long term approach and real commitment. The WCS will ensure that lions in Yankari Game Reserve recover and are secured.”
They stated that more than 90% of the lion’s original habitat has been lost.
The WCS vowed that they are committed to remaining on the ground for as long as it takes in areas where lion populations otherwise might succumb to extreme threats.
The Kainji Lake National Park is a 5,340.82 square kilometre area separated into two distinct non-contiguous sectors: Borgu with an area of 3970.02 square kilometres and Zugurma with an area of 1370.80 square kilometres. The aggregate 5340.82 square kilometres also stretch into parts of Kwara State.
The Yankari Game Reserve is a 2,244 square kilometres area in the southern part of Bauchi. It has several natural warm water springs, and amazing varieties of tropical wild animals and plants.
The level of awareness about wildlife conservation in Nigeria is still low, as indulgence in ‘bush meat’ is still persisting, and indiscriminate cultivation and grazing as well as haphazard urban expansion threatens the threshold of the country’s amazing exotic wildlife and flora.
The World Conservation Society is therefore appealing to every citizen to help raise awareness about the need for conserving the animals in their natural habitats, instead of being caged and chained in zoos. And the need to rescue important animals from destruction and even extinction, most especially the popular lion.