"Most of this decline can be attributed to conflicts with an expanding human population, specifically to ranchers killing lions that attack their livestock," said Bruce Patterson, PhD, MacArthur Curator of Mammals at Chicago's Field Museum and author of a new study analyzing the lion-human conflict on the frontlines of conservation in Africa.
As the number of lions continues to dwindle worldwide and humans continue to encroach on lions' traditional territory, conservationists must seek creative ways to mitigate conflict between lions and humans over increasingly scarce resources, such as land and food, Dr. Patterson said.
"To be effective, conservation solutions must involve politics and economics, as well as biology," he added.
Just published online in the journal Biological Conservation, the study concludes that only $8,749 would be needed annually to offset the economic damage of a vigorous population of 26 adult lions inhabiting two ranches in Kenya totaling 160,000 acres. "Although such a cost is crushing to subsistence farmers in Africa, the economic losses are slight by Western standards," Dr. Patterson said.
The study analyzed 312 attacks (primarily by lions but also by hyenas) that claimed 433 head of livestock (primarily cattle) on two ranches adjoining Tsavo East National Park over the four years ending in 1999. Each year, predators killed roughly 2.4% of the herd.
The park is the home of the notorious, maneless lions known for man-eating over more than 100 years. Their story is told in Dr. Patterson's new book The Lions of Tsavo (McGraw Hill, January 2004), which Publishers Weekly calls "the definitive Tsavo lion book." This new study quantifies the cost of livestock predation by these infamous lions.