Lions under pressure in Uganda
Conservationists from the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of St. Andrews warn that Uganda's African lions—a mainstay of the country's tourism industry and a symbol of Africa—are on the verge of disappearing from the country's national parks.
According to the results of a recent survey, African lions in Uganda have decreased by more than 30 percent over the past 10 years in some areas of the country, mostly the result of poisoning by local cattle herders, retaliations for livestock predation, and other human-related conflicts. The downward trend in lion numbers has conservationists concerned about the species' long-term chances in the country, often described as the "Pearl of Africa" for its natural wonders.
The study appears in the latest edition of the journal Oryx (http://www.oryxthejournal.org). The authors include: Edward Okot Omoya, Tutilo Mudumba, Paul Mulondo, and Andrew J. Plumptre from WCS and Stephen T. Buckland of the University of St. Andrews.
"African lions are a vital component of these ecosystems," said WCS conservationist Edward Okot Omoya, the lead author of the study. "They play an important role in disease control of antelopes and buffalo by killing the sick animals."
The paper describes the results of a "lure count" analysis survey to estimate the density and population distribution of lions and spotted hyenas in Uganda’s three major conservation areas, conducted by researchers between November 2008 and November 2009. The researchers used a buffalo calf distress call (broadcast via speakers mounted on a vehicle roof rack) to attract both medium and large carnivores to the "call stations" as a means of calculating a current population estimate for the study locations. Previous survey methods used to count lions have included counting roars, identifying individual cats, and mark-recapture methods, but the methods are time-consuming and expensive.
Overall, the call station surveys attracted a total of 66 lions, 176 spotted hyenas, and seven leopards. The broadcasts also attracted a host of smaller predators, including side-striped jackals, black-backed jackals, white-tailed mongooses, and large spotted genets.
African Lion photo via Shutterstock.
Read more at Wildlife Conservation Society.