Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click on 'Find out more' to see our Cookie statement.
Cecil the lion

Lion populations are at a tipping point.

There are now fewer than 25,000 left in the wild. But while there is general public appreciation of the consequences of a decline in the lion population, the causes behind the fall are less understood.

Public outcry flooded social media when Cecil the lion’s son, Xanda, was killed by a hunter in Zimbabwe in July, meeting the same fate as his father a year before. Big game trophy hunting is one of the most widely reviled threats to the lion population, and consequently one of the most discussed. However, the biggest single threat to the future of wild big cats is not trophy hunting. It is direct, everyday conflict with humans. An issue that has not yet captured public consciousness in the same way.

In 2011, 37 lions were killed in the area around a single village. That’s the equivalent of half the wild lions lost to trophy killings across the whole of Africa, in a year.

For some groups in Africa, such as the Barabaig and Maasai tribes of Tanzania, lion hunting is a cultural norm. Lions are considered a vermin, akin to rats in the city or foxes on farms. They are a very real danger to local people’s families and their livestock — very few of us would be happy having lions roaming around and threatening us, especially with no means of protecting ourselves. In these parts of Africa, a local person who kills a big cat is lauded by the community, and the killing is considered a mark of status and bravery.

Dr Amy Dickman of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) is working to protect the lion prides of Africa in southern Tanzania, along with her team at the Ruaha Carnivore Project. By offering incentives for conservation to the community, they have encouraged local people to value lions rather than regarding them mainly as a dangerous pest. Since the project launched six years ago, carnivore attacks on livestock in these communities have been reduced by 60%, and big cat killings have decreased by 80%.

Read the full interview with Amy Dickman about the innovative ways she has found to bring about these changes.

Story courtesy of Lanisha Butterfield in the University of Oxford News Office.

Similar stories

Alpha variant spread via ‘super-seeding’ event: warning over COVID-19 variants

The COVID-19 Alpha (or Kent) variant is not 80% more transmissible, as was originally thought, according to a new study published by researchers at universities including Oxford. But, they warn, the rapid spread of the variant around the UK last year has major implications for the treatment of other variant outbreaks, because it resulted from multiple ‘exports’. It was, in fact, a major ‘super-seeding’ event, with the variant ‘exported’ numerous times from the large outbreak in the Kent/London area.

Ear to the ground: Locating elephants using ground vibrations

Researchers from the University of Oxford, Mpala Research Center and Save the Elephants, have used a combination of acoustic microphones and seismometers to locate elephants.

Oxford researchers develop tool to predict where people go after a disaster

Researchers at Department of Statistics, University of Oxford, in collaboration with the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), have developed an open source software package to estimate displaced populations post-disaster, currently with a focus on earthquakes and cyclones.

Oxford overseas research facility expands to include diagnostics and genetics testing centre

The Oxford-Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research, known as OSCAR, has marked another significant milestone with the launch of OSCAR-Prenetics Innovation and Technology Centre for Advanced Molecular Diagnostics (the OSCAR-Prenetics ITC).

Artificial Intelligence pioneered at Oxford to detect floods launches into space

A new technology, developed by Oxford researchers, in partnership with the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Φ-lab, will pilot the detection of flood events from space. It was deployed on hardware on D-Orbit’s upcoming ‘Wild Ride’ mission being launched by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral, 30 June, 20.00 UK time.

New study finds elephants show risk-avoidance behaviour in response to human-generated seismic cues

Researchers at the University of Oxford and Save the Elephants have found evidence that African elephants (Loxodonta africana) listen and react to ground vibrations created by human activity.