The decline in African lion numbers

One of the joys of being a Member of Parliament is that one has the occasional opportunity to pursue causes that may be very far removed from the constituency issues that are the bread and butter of everyday work.
One such cause is that of the decline in African lion numbers, which has been a concern of mine for some time. Fifty years ago, around 200,000 wild lions roamed the continent of Africa, but now there are, on some estimates, fewer than 15,000. Some subspecies, such as the West African lion, are almost extinct.
The reasons for the drop in lion numbers are various, but almost all are related to the activity of humans. The opening up of traditional lion habitats to agriculture is an important cause, but the effects of trophy hunting are also a significant adverse influence.
The squalid death of Cecil, possibly the most famous of all African lions, attracted international attention a few months ago. Cecil was a mature lion who had been studied for 16 years by Oxford University scientists. He was lured out of the nature reserve in which he lived, shot with a bow and arrow, stalked for 40 hours, then finally killed by a dentist from Minnesota, who was armed with a rifle. Cecil’s body was skinned and his head removed as a trophy. It was an ugly end to the life of a beautiful and noble animal.
To focus attention on the issue, I secured an adjournment debate at Westminster Hall, calling for a ban on the importation into Britain of lion hunting trophies. If lion hunters, many of whom are British and pay up to $50,000 to shoot a lion, were denied the right to bring trophies back into the country, they would be less likely to engage in the grubby “sport”.
I was delighted that the minister, Rory Stewart, agreed with me. Trophy importation from some African countries is already banned, but in his reply to the debate he announced that the ban will now be extended to other countries unless significant improvements are made to the rules governing lion hunting. The minister’s announcement was warmly welcomed by LionAid, the charity with which I worked on the debate.
It was, I felt, a good day’s work, which I hope will do something, however small, to help improve the African lion’s chances of avoiding extinction.

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