Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Asiatic Lions Increase

More direct evidence that conservation saves species from extinction comes from the Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica). A new survey puts the number of lions living in and around Gir Forest National Park at 523 individuals, an increase of 27%.  The lion was once common throughout Central and Western Asia; now it is confined to the sanctuary established for them.  There are 109 males, 201 females and 213 cubs says the chief minister of Gujarat State, India.  In 2005 359 lions were counted indicating a steady increase, but being confined to one sanctuary imperils the last lions.  Gujarat State has held up plans to relocate a portion to protect them from a natural disaster or disease that could extinguish them.  The ICUN classifies the Asiatic lion as endangered.

A new update of the ICUN's Red List shows the West African population of lions is critically endangered.  Experts estimate that there are only 125-375 adult lions left in West Africa based on a study in 2014.  West African lions are considered to be genetically separate from lions in other regions of Africa.  They are found west of the lower Niger River in parks of Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal.  The update also shows that the African golden cat (Caracal aurata), a beautiful forest feline, has declined from Near Threatened to Vulnerable.  Deforestation and poaching are responsible for its decline.  Cats vacate forests were there is noticeable human encroachment.

credit: NPL/Alamy
The good news for felines is that decades of intensive human intervention on behalf of the Iberian lynx has rescued the world's most endangered cat from extinction.  It moved from Critically Endangered to Endangered on the Red List.  Conservationists worked to reestablish the feline's preferred prey, rabbits; conducted captive breeding and reintroductions; and improved detection of illegal trapping.  Conservationists also helped private land owners improve lynx habitat on their land.  Much of Iberian lynx's range are productive cork forests.  Their work shows wild predators and humans can live harmoniously together.  Automobile traffic may be the lynx's biggest peril today.  In 2014 a record 22 lynxes died in collisions with cars up from just two in 2008.  This threat is a relatively easy fix with proper road maintenance and the establishment of barriers and wildlife crossings.