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Lion Aid - News & Updates

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Lion Aid - Current News & Updates

Post  littlewid on Thu Jun 10, 2010 5:57 pm

This thread is dedicated to the current news and updates from the Lion Aid site.
It has been agreed by the Admin Team that all news will be placed in one thread so as to keep all the happenings from Lion Aid in one place. Their main issues are to do with conservation and therefore it was felt this was the best position for all things Lion Aid to sit so that we only have one place to find all their current news.
We have a few postings that I will merge into this thread, it will therefore be helpful, if when replying to a certain topic you title your reply in the "Title of the topic" box at the top of the reply box.
I appreciate this means replys to different topics running alongside each other but it was felt best to keep them all together rather than having them dotted all over the forum.
Also, to save having the Lion Aid link at the end of each new topic posted, I will put the link to Lion Aid at the bottom of this post, it is then up to the members on here if they wish to visit the Lion Aid site, the link is the same for all topics so you will not miss out on anything.
I hope this is agreeable with everyone on wildaboutanimals

http://www.lionaid.org/

littlewid - On behalf of the Admin Team
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Where have all the Lions gone

Post  littlewid on Thu Jun 10, 2010 6:31 pm

Posted by Tsavo

The total African Lion population? Probably not more than 20,000, down from 200,000 50 years ago.
At one time, lions ranged across may parts of Europe – Spain, France, Italy, Turkey, Greece - and then into the Middle East as well, all the way to India. No longer of course, and their past presence is only historically recorded in cave paintings in France, the writings of Herodotus, and ancient hunting tableaux in Iran.
Now, only a handful of lions cling on existence in the Gir Forest in western India, and African lions occur in scattered locations south of the Sahara. For example, there might be as few as 850 lions in all of western Africa. There may actually be only five or six stronghold African lion populations left – three in eastern Africa and two in southern Africa. The total African population? Probably not more than 20,000, down from 200,000 50 years ago. Since those “latest” numbers were gathered in 2002, many countries like Kenya have announced further and significant declines, another 30% in the last 6 years. Organizations that could provide the species with an increased level of conservation protection, such as the IUCN and CITES, remain strangely reticent to any consideration of a change in status from the current “vulnerable” to the more appropriate “endangered”.
What are the main causes for the declines? Not surprisingly, blamed on loss of habitat, decreasing prey abundance, and increasing conflict with humans and domestic animals. Herodotus could have said the same thing about lions in Greece about 2,500 years ago.
Like the stock market, lion numbers will need to find an eventual place of stability. And that could possibly be at a lower number than we have now. Lions fall squarely in the category of a political species. Livestock owners, whether politicians with big herds or smallholders with a few cows don’t like them. No African living in a rural area where lions still roam outside reserves likes them. Yet lions are acknowledged as important income earners for many African countries through tourism and unfortunately trophy hunting. Hunters disguise their long-term effect under the rug of “sustainable offtake”, but there have been great excesses. For example, in Zimbabwe, CITES records indicate that between 1977 and 2004, 2697 lion trophies were exported. Zimbabwe used to allow hunting of both male and female lions, but in 2004, 1135 lions of all ages and sexes remained in the entire country. That means about 240% of the current lion population was shot as trophies in 27 years.
But even if lion populations are protected within conservation areas, there is another problem. There is a silent issue of lion conservation that concerns some worrisome disease issues.
Two of these diseases currently affecting lions have been introduced and the third is endemic. In terms of introduced diseases, lions were seen to be dying in large numbers in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania in 1994. Overall, about 1,000 lions of the estimated 3,000 Serengeti lions died. The cause? Canine distemper virus (CDV) transmitted from domestic dogs. At about the same time, lions in Kruger National Park in South Africa seemed to be wasting away and dying. The cause? Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) introduced by cattle to wild African buffalos, and via them to the lions. bTB entered the park in the 1960’s, and now a significant number of buffalos are infected in the southern areas of Kruger. Numbers of affected lions are unknown, but significant. Park authorities and scientists are strangely quiet about this outbreak but with the consideration of Transfrontier Parks, are now investigating the consequences on lion populations anew.

The underlying reason why lions might be susceptible to bTB and CDV is because lion populations are infected to a very high level by a strain of feline immunodeficiency virus (FIVple). In the Okavango Delta, Kruger, and Serengeti, places where lion populations have been tested, virtually all adult lions are positive.

For many years, the seriousness of this infection was ignored. Scientists were of the opinion that since the virus had “coevolved” with lion hosts for “many thousands of years”, virus and host had now reached equilibrium. No greater disservice was done to lion conservation. Those same scientists now admit that there are significant consequences to infection, and that infected lions lose immune competence over time, just as humans infected with HIV – it is the same category of virus after all. And FIVfca (the domestic cat virus strain) is a real killer.

The hunting community jumped on the hopeful conclusion that FIV was not a problem for lions. After all, they did not want to admit there might be fragility to the populations from which they were actively earning money. Contributing to the problem is that FIV, unlike CDV, does not fall within the category of an epidemic disease. 95% of individual lions can be infected with FIV, but this does not translate to a mass die-off. FIV affects immune competence. Like humans infected with HIV, that means greater susceptibility to other viruses in the ecosystem. Few humans actually die directly because of the HIV virus. They die of tuberculosis for example, a disease normally resisted by humans with an intact immune system. Lions with weakened immune systems die from CDV and bTV.

There is no cure for FIV among lions. The best we can do is try to prevent domestic dog and cattle viruses from invading their ecosystems, and accept that lions are not only challenged in terms of their survival in terms of area available, but also could exist as immunocompromised populations in need of carefully designed conservation programmes.
LION AID is committted to preventing and reversing the drastic decline in African Lion populations.


Last edited by littlewid on Thu Jun 10, 2010 6:37 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : Post moved)
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Where have all the Lions gone

Post  littlewid on Thu Jun 10, 2010 6:34 pm

That is an interesting read Lion aid, it is often thought or the misconception is that Lions are reducing in numbers because of poaching, canned hunting or because of human/lion conflict; it is not very often mentioned that large numbers of lion succumb to infectious diseases. Many can live with a weakend immune system just as humans can and as you rightly sat its often a secondary infection that causes the death, just as in humans it's often not the HIV that causes death but a pneumonia.
An infected dead animal then spreads the disease to none infected animals and the cycle just goes on.
I imagine that mass vaccination of Bovine cattle is not going to happen in the short or long term or the vaccination of feline diseases, so apart from education , safe boundaries, ensuring enough none infected prey stock what is the answer I wonder.

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Where have all the Lions gone

Post  littlewid on Thu Jun 10, 2010 6:38 pm

Posted by Laikipia

Thanks for posting that Lion Aid. An interesting read, and i confess i had no idea about the disease factor connected with their decline.

I'll look forward to reading and learning more. I sincerely hope something can be done to prevent more losses of these beautiful big cats.

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Where have all the Lions gone

Post  littlewid on Thu Jun 10, 2010 6:40 pm

Posted by Whitestarling

Thanks for information on the Lions, Im sure this disease was mentioned in a programe called Lion Country on ITV, and by coincidence the last part is on tonight at 7-30 pm.I will check the last programes if I can to see what was said
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Where have all the Lions gone

Post  littlewid on Thu Jun 10, 2010 6:41 pm

Posted by Tsavo

My fellow trustee, Dr. Kat, is the expert featured in Lion Country. In the programme, he is seen discussing the disease (FIV) as he examines an anaethetised lion.
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Re: Lion Aid - News & Updates

Post  littlewid on Thu Jun 10, 2010 6:46 pm

Apologies for all the posts having my avatar, for some reason on merging the posts they wouldn't run in order....very strange as they have done before, so I had to copy and paste them, so please accept my apologies.

I will be merging other Lion Aid posts here so I would really appreciate it if all members could refrain from posting on the thread until I have achieved this ( Just off to pick up Splodge).

Please note that Lion Aid is changing her name to Tsavo.

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Leophilia or Leophobia?

Post  Guest on Thu Jun 10, 2010 10:40 pm

The thrill of lions

Lions fascinate us. When we see them in safari parks, in zoos, and preferably in the wild, they trigger a fascinating set of emotions within us all. We are not in any danger in those situations – the lions are either behind sturdy fences or we are safely protected inside a vehicle – yet the emotions surge. Awe, a quickening of the pulse, a titillation of fear – we are mesmerized, enthralled, excited – adrenalin flows. Few other species in the world achieve this complexity of response, and it would be intriguing to explore some of the reasons.

Lions have been for millennia been deeply interwoven with human culture. Generally in a positive way in the developed nations where lions do not roam – symbols of courage, strength, royalty; guardians of entrances of buildings and those within; representing the steadfastness of nations. In literature, there are few scary lions – Aslan in the “Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” is a noble character fighting against evil and befriending children. The medieval bestiaries imbued lions with positive characteristics symbolizing the best traits of Christianity. In language, to be lionized is to be respected.

Maneaters
Yet it is well realized that lions are also very big and dangerous predators, and do eat humans. In rural areas of Tanzania, lions killed well over 500 people between 1990 and 2005. To this day, the arguably most famous incident occurred when two lions (the maneaters of Tsavo) killed and ate construction workers on the Mombasa-Nairobi railroad line in 1898. Lt. Col. Patterson eventually shot them both, and estimates of the number of workers killed varies from about 35 to 135 in a nine-month period – but the lions halted construction for several months. Patterson wrote a book about the incident that became a best-seller and kept the skins as rugs on his floor for over 25 years. He eventually sold them to the Chicago Field Museum in 1924 where they were reconstructed, mounted, and put on display. Doubtless shivers still pass through the museum viewers on seeing these killers – they have since been further immortalized in two movies “Bwana Devil” (1952) and “The Ghost and the Darkness” (1996). US author Philip Caputo’s book “Ghosts of Tsavo: Tracking the Mythic Lions of East Africa” was published in 1992 by National Geographic where he has long been a contributor. The Man-Eaters safari camp now stands at the site, and the National Museum of Kenya wants the mounted lions repatriated!

This great interest in these two lions underlines our fascination once again. In actual fact, very many more of the railway workers than ever attacked by lions died from malaria, dysentery, and blackwater fever. The National Museum of Kenya is not calling for a display of parasites… Today, well over 4 million people in Africa die every year from HIV/AIDS, associated tuberculosis, and malaria. Hippos, elephants, crocodiles, buffalos, snakes all kill at least an order of magnitude more people in Africa per year than lions do. Yet tourists in Botswana, for example, gleefully jump into dugout canoes to be poled by guides through the Okavango Delta where waterways are infested with crocodiles and hippos. These are very dangerous animals, but when we see them in zoos or in the wild, do they elicit the same emotional reaction as lions? Of course not.

Atavism

Lions do not even fall into a category of recognized animal phobias. We have ailurophobia (cats), cynophobia (dogs), ophidiophobia (snakes), chiroptophobia (bats), musophobia (mice and rats) – but have you ever heard of leophobia? Phobias generally result from stimuli that trigger responses. A person who might have been attacked by a dog, let’s say, could develop a conditioned response to that particular dog or maybe all dogs. It is also possible to develop a phobia without a personal encounter – if your mother had a morbid fear of dogs and clutched you to her side whenever she saw one, you can take that experience and generate your own fear.

But since in Europe neither you, your mother, your grandmother, your great-grandmother etc ever encountered a lion, whence the adrenalin when you do see one?

It might all come down to an atavistic response – a throwback. Back in the early days when our very distant ancestors walked the African plains, lions must have been a major problem to survival. Our ancestors’ brains must have become hard-wired with a fear and respect for lions, otherwise you would not be reading this. This fear and respect has been maintained through the ages – Daniel was thrown into the lion den (not the crocodile or snake or hippo pen) as an ultimate test of his faith, the ultimate test of manhood among the African Maasai tribe is to kill a lion, the lion tamer with his whip and chair was the eagerly anticipated circus act, and TV audiences these days relish footage of the “Lion Man” who throws himself into the arms of lions (pre-conditioned by long captivity and lifetime human contact). It is all about dominance of a dangerous adversary, but our brains remain hard-wired, despite the fact that dominance has been well-achieved – Africa has over a billion people and less than 20,000 lions, down from 200,000 fifty years ago.

Conservation

In African rural societies there is a very clear response to lions. Not wanted in any way in our space. This is understandable, they are living within the lion’s den, and if we opened a door at night or in the morning to find a lion facing us with a hungry look our reactions would be the same. This article is not about that reaction, but rather about the response still maintained by those of us who have not lived with lions for millennia. But it will take both societies – those who daily live with lions and those who do not – to arrive at a conservation plan for a species that triggers great emotions within all of us.

LION AID is a charity concerned with programmes and initiatives that support innovative means of ensuring the survival of an iconic species. We will examine all aspects that have contributed to the decline of African lions, and always advocate for sustainable conservation measures. LION AID is unique among UK charities to pursue this goal.

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The BP oil spill - Are we paying attention?

Post  Guest on Thu Jun 10, 2010 10:53 pm

This article has nothing to do with African lions. But is does concern our world environment, biodiversity, and how we as consumers of energy resources are hoodwinked once again. While we aim for a greener world, it seems in the short run we are still meant to deal with pollution and destruction consequent to a cynical business equation.

I am referring here to the major environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, caused by an oil spill the likes we have never seen before. Nobody seems to know how to stop the leak. That is strange in itself, as one of the risk evaluations to all this deep sea drilling seems to me to involve the possibility of something going wrong.

The technology involved in drilling the wells themselves is awe-inspiring. Five thousand feet below the ocean you can drill a well, you can go straight down, sideways, left, right, up, down – amazing. And then once you have oil, you link your well to a massive structure on the surface that essentially floats, is not too bothered by hurricanes, and delivers the oil to ships. Let me say it again, the technology involved in getting oil from beneath the oceans is awesome, and there are thousands of these oil platforms all over the world.

Safety guaranteed

We are told all is made safe by so-called blow-out preventors. At the slightest sign of a problem, these very big structures on the ocean floor shut down the well, and all is well.

But guess what? That preventor failed at the first hurdle in the Gulf.

It has saddened me over the months to read about the trials and tribulations involved in shutting down the spill. We have had news conferences upon news conferences about this plan and that. A containment dome was going to be lowered – but whoops! Some sort of crystals developed to block it. A pipe was going to be inserted into the well, but that sort of did not work. A top kill method was going to be tried, but that failed. The blowout preventor was going to be pumped full of debris made from bits of tires. Underwater dispersants were going to be mixed with the oil. No progress at all.

Meanwhile, miles of (low technology) booms are being laid out, oil is everywhere, and the dispersants are now being called poison. What is visible on the surface is small compared to what is below the water, and there are arguments about how much oil is actually coming out the underwater well – is it 5,000 barrels a day or double or triple that amount?

BP is being held accountable, but they are pointing fingers at their associated companies. The US government is scrambling all over the place. On the one hand Obama has called for more drilling to provide fuel, and on the other hand he is saying that this is an example of the costs to be paid for decades of ignoring alternative sources of energy. With all the technology available for drilling, nobody can come up with a solution for capping.

Responsibility or blame?

I hope it will be taken as a lesson. Pessimists say the Gulf will not recover in our generation. Optimists say it will be temporary, and meanwhile the loss of fish, oysters, shrimp, birds, turtles, dolphins, can be absorbed. The fishermen will be compensated. Meanwhile the fact is that there is a big mess, and nobody, including the US Secretary for Energy, a Nobel Prize laureate, knows what to do.

Obama is right. We should have invested a great deal in alternative energy sources long ago. The technology should have been developed, and could have been. And in the mean time, the technology should have also been developed to deal with a scenario like the oil spill in the Gulf.

We are not paying attention. Environmental destruction occurs all around us. We blame BP, but the real blame comes to us. We have just not taken the time to inform ourselves of the risks to the environment of what we daily consume. We instead blame institutions and governments for loss of biodiversity, pollution, global warming. President Truman of the US had a famous sign on his White House desk – “The buck stops here”. That indicated he was the ultimate authority in terms of government responsibility, and blame was not going to be passed. I believe that sign should now sit on all of our desks to empower us to lend our informed voices to a greener world.

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THE BP OIL SPILL ARE WE PAYING ATTENTION

Post  littlewid on Thu Jun 10, 2010 11:12 pm

Posted by Laikipia

Thanks for posting that Tsavo - sadly it is true, we only have ourselves to blame.

I hope it isn't too late for us to learn that.

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Do animals have rights?

Post  Guest on Thu Jun 10, 2010 11:17 pm

Conservation and religion

A friend of mine pointed out some years ago that the Catholic Church had never taken an official stance on conservation, biodiversity, and the increasing tempo of species extinction. As I am not particularly affianced to any religion, I could not come up with any answer then as to why this should be the case, but the question stayed with me. It is interesting to examine the possible reasons why this should be, as the Church does acknowledge the wonders of creation – indeed, animals are still referred to as creatures (from the Latin creatus, creare).

In the Book of Genesis, God said “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let him have “dominion” over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:26). Scholars spend considerable time interpreting meanings of words and passages in the Bible, and the word “dominion” can be interpreted in many ways, including “dominance” “sovereignty (rule over)”, and perhaps even “stewardship”. A few passages later, the message is repeated - God said “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28).

Genesis makes the point again when Noah disembarked – “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you” (Genesis 9:3), but also “Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth” (Genesis 8:17).

So the message of Genesis is confused, really. On the one hand, “dominion” is open to interpretation. On the other, all animals are there to be “meat”. But then again, the ark was emptied so that animals could abound and be fruitful and multiply.

An early appreciation of animals?

The Catholic Church believes in the splendour of God’s creation, and in the Middle Ages, illustrated Bestiaries were circulated, assuming considerable meaning in the Christian allegories of Medieval times. Lions, for example, in addition to being the King of Beasts, had three natures – they erased their tracks with their tails to confuse hunters, they slept with their eyes open, and their cubs were born dead. Lions erasing their tracks represented the way Jesus obscured and concealed his divinity except to his trusted followers. Lions sleeping with their eyes open had many meanings – either representing God who never sleeps as he watches over his children, representing Jesus as the Lion of Judah as being always alert and watchful, or representing Jesus physically dead after the crucifixion while spiritually alive in his divine nature. And the cubs being born dead and revived after three days by the male roaring over them represented God waking Jesus after three days in his tomb.

Philosophy and animals

The allegories of the Bestiaries aside, there next came a considerable debate about a religious philosophical dilemma: do animals have souls? Are animals inferior as they lack reason, language, an individual moral identity? If animals do not have souls, is that a justification for humans (who do), to subject animals to eternal servitude? The ensuing debate over the centuries on this matter is too long and complicated to follow here, but I will list a few high (or low) points.

Rene Descartes said in 1641 non-humans are nothing but “automata” without souls, minds, or reason. Animals were therefore not conscious, and could not suffer or feel pain. In that same year, however, in Massachusetts, the Puritans passed a law that nobody could exercise cruelty “toward any bruite creature which are usuallie kept for man’s use”. In England, Cromwell and English Puritans interpreted “dominion” as stewardship, and opposed blood sports, only to see their interpretation overturned when Charles II was returned to the throne.
In 1754, Rousseau argued that because animals are sentient, they have natural rights as being part of natural law – “as they partake, however, in some measure of our nature, in consequence of the sensibility with which they are endowed, they ought to partake of natural right so that mankind is subjected to a kind of obligation even toward the brutes”. Immanuel Kant, however, while opposed to cruelty, was quoted as saying “Animals are there merely as a means to an end. That end is man” in 1785.
Jeremy Bentham in 1789 argued that it was the ability to suffer, above all, which prescribed how we should treat animals. It was not until 1822 that Richard Martin succeeded in UK Parliament to prevent cruel treatment to horses and cattle – the first legislative action rather over a continuing debate of sentience, souls, and human domination. Martin was ridiculed, but his Bill passed, and led to the formation of the RSPCA followed by the American SPCA.

Along came Schopenhauer, who basically said in 1839 we should have outgrown the concept that that the animal kingdom came into existence solely for the benefit and pleasure of man. Along came Henry Salt, who stated in 1894 that we must recognize the common bond of humanity that unites all living beings in one universal brotherhood.

And along came the Nazi Party, which passed in 1933 a highly comprehensive set of animal protection laws – while at the same time designing a hierarchy of their own – Aryans on top, then lots of animals like wolves and eagles, and then Jews and rats at the bottom. In 1934, no more hunting of animals was allowed in Germany, but with the new politically determined hierarchy, persecution of Jews, homosexuals, and mentally retarded individuals was encouraged.

After the war, considerable opposition formed to the increasingly commercialized use of animals, especially in large-scale farming and laboratory animals, and led to the formation of the Animal Rights movement, including grassroots activists whose actions were at times extremely violent.

Philosophy versus individual responsibility

The philosophical debate continues today, and to my mind is making little progress. While there is a general agreement that animals should not be made to needlessly suffer, current philosophers discuss ethics, not the underlying and more prickly issue of whether humans should maintain their rights to an utilitarian approach to animals – they were created for us to be used by us. That said, two philosophers on the subject, Tom Regan at North Carolina State University and Gary Francione at Rutgers School of Law, argue that animals have moral rights as they are capable of cognition, learning, and assimilation of experience. Animals are therefore sentient, and whether such sentience parallels ours is immaterial. Note that the debate mostly involved domestic animals, not wildlife.

But where does this leave the concept of conservation? While the Catholic Church should decry the loss of biodiversity as it is destructive of creation, at the same time it could argue that man was given dominion – ours to do with what we like (well, except for that message in Genesis 8:17 that is interpretable). A strongly utilitarian concept of wildlife still pervades all aspects of life – wildlife must be “useful” to us, otherwise there is no basis for its existence. Such usefulness comes in many ways – humans must be able to enjoy nature, humans must be able to go on safaris, humans should be allowed to hunt, humans should be able to determine where, in what quantities, and under what conditions wildlife exists, and humans should be allowed to use dolphins and killer whales at Sea World for our entertainment.

The Year of Biodiversity is a flop because we only value biodiversity as a benefit to ourselves and only ask “What if our grandchildren cannot see a panda except in a zoo?”. The panda does not give a hoot for our grandchildren, but that is how its existence is largely being valued. It all comes back to the old question – “If a tree falls in the forest, and there is nobody there to hear it, does it make a noise?” – we interpret the world through our experience as if nothing else matters.

So where do we go from here? Practically, wildlife must be given a value, and not only an anthropocentric commercial one. Dominion must be seen as a stewardship concept, not an utilitarian predetermination. Conservation should be a duty, not a fad. And perhaps the RSPCA should broaden it’s charter to become involved in conservation issues such as assisting to ban the import of “sport” hunting trophies into the UK? Wildlife conservation will require a sea change in attitudes to make it work, and hopefully we are sapient, cognizant, and sufficiently assimilative of past mistakes to earn our status as moral beings.

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Do animals have rights?

Post  littlewid on Thu Jun 10, 2010 11:27 pm

Posted by Laikipia

I will read this later Tsavo - it looks interesting and informative and i need to give it 100%

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Leophilia or Leophobia

Post  littlewid on Fri Jun 11, 2010 9:34 pm

Leophilia or Leophobia, not words we have used before on this site but I know many of us have discussed these issues before, usually I suppose under the headings that could be Love or Hate or Passion or Fear, they all mean the same and have the same outcome.
Those that live with the Lions daily have the Leophobia,Hate or Fear, they are the ones with the space, livestock and human death to face on a daily basis. Those that do not live with them daily do not have these issues and therefore have the Leophilia,Love or Passion, the qualities that alot of organisations will say are blinkered views. This I dispute quite firmly on my part. Alot of people that do not have the daily issues of Lions to contend with respect what others are living with, however, I do also feel that education is required for both parties, we are learning and respecting what it is like for people to live their daily lives in the face of Lions, what these people have to learn and respect is that the Lions are having to live in the face of people on a daily basis.
There are alot of conservancys that are doing good work to try and build respect on both sides. Lions have a right to live in the space they were born into, people are constantly encroaching on that space, this will inevitably cause conflict, it is this conflict that needs to be managed on both sides.
We can't sit the Lions down and give them a good old talking too, but we can educate the people into respecting Lion territory and the benefits that the Lions bring to their country through tourism and teach them ways on how to manage conflict and in keeping their livestock safe from predatory Lions.
I applaude Lion Aid if this is their good work for both parties but in fairness I must say that organisations such as Rekero in the Masai Mara have also set up conservancys to do the same thing, so I suppose a coalition of Conservancys may just bring about a change for the good, hence alot of money donated to charities looking at these conservation issues is ploughed into education of the local people and quite rightly, in the same vein, it is also education of people outside these countries that can lead to a world change on how Lion/Human conflict can be changed.
Lions are cute and cuddly to look at and yes many people outside these countries will talk with their hearts and passions in the support for the Lion, but I also think that many people have the awareness that living with them on a daily basis is another story and that conflict does arise.....but it's not always the Lions fault.
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Leophilia or Leophobia

Post  whitestarling on Mon Jun 14, 2010 12:33 am

I agree that a lot of the conflicts between Lions, and Humans is caused by the encroachment of Humans into Lion habitat. At the same time we must appreciate that people have the right to protect their lives, and livestock. That is something we dont have to live with, but these people do. However I think as Littlewid says with organisations such as Rekero, and Lion Guardians, plus other conservaton organistaions like Lion Aid they are on the right track to keep conflict to a minimum. I was wondering Tsavo what your thoughts are on an Umberella Organisation that would bring all these Conservation parties together to get a co-ordinated approach to the Lion Human conflict.
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Leophilia or Leophobia

Post  Guest on Mon Jun 14, 2010 2:04 pm

Hi Whitestarling,
The reason so many conservation initiatives ultimately or even rapidly fail is that there is no coordination among parties. This is unfortunately a consequence of donor-driven conservation programmes as parties are highly reluctant to share funds from hard-won donors, and will continue to push their own agendas to the detriment of possibly a more comprehensive programme.

This is in addition to the problem that human-lion conflict comes in many forms and each resolution could have to be fine-tuned to the local situation. Nevertheless there are commonalities among all areas where such conflict occurs, and each party does not need to reinvent the wheel.

LION AID has been established to seek novel ways forward. This approach might break through the current fragmented situation. We have also urged for an unbiased evaluation of all lion-human conflict "resolution" programmes. We would like each party involved to evaluate their programmes in terms of gains and setbacks, and not to always hear the "keep the donor happy" version of events.

This will take a level of maturity by both the parties and the donors. We hope that will be a positive first step on this very complicated predator conflict situation in Africa.

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Loss of an Apex Predator

Post  Guest on Sat Jun 26, 2010 10:50 am

LION AID is often asked the following question: “If lions were to go extinct in the wild, what would be the consequences on the ecosystem?”
It is a fair question, and in all truth the answer must be that we don’t really know.

Even though lions have suffered local extinctions in very many locations (North Africa, southern Europe, the Middle East, western Africa) and have undergone drastic population declines in the rest of Africa, there is insufficient “before and after” information to be able to decide what the impact of the loss has meant. In addition, once the lions were gone, many areas in which they used to occur have since been completely converted to livestock and agriculture.

However, there are some parallels that can be used to at least generate a “most likely” indication of what could happen, and in addition, there are some careful studies of the changes in environment that took place after a top predator was re-introduced, many of them unexpected.

The first effect of apex-predator loss is that there is an increase in the so-called mesopredators, the medium-sized ones in the system. A recent paper (L.R. Prugh et al., 2009. The rise of the mesopredator. Bioscience 59 (9):779-791) concludes that the effects of such mesopredators on ecosystems cause major economic and ecological disruptions in both terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

MESOPREDATOR RELEASE

The authors begin by stating that humans have persecuted apex predators in many ecological systems for years, and mention specifically the loss of wolves, bears, and pumas in the USA, lions and leopards in Africa, and jaguars and pumas in southern America. Conflict with humans and livestock is the main reason, and specific eradication programmes to remove all large predators (to increase game for hunters and to eliminate threats to humans and livestock) have occurred especially in the United States. However, rather than resolving the problem, unexpected increases in other species occurred, and it was a failure to consider the real complexities of ecosystems that resulted in subsequent problems. The authors state that apex predators could actually benefit prey populations indirectly by keeping numbers of mesopredators down. Failure to recognize such interactions within the predator guild has led to unforeseen consequences.

Mesopredator “release” is accompanied by some very interesting examples of ecosystem changes as described in the paper – decimation of lion and leopard populations in Africa has led to a population explosion of baboons. These in turn prey on the young of antelopes, cause significant crop damage, raid the nests of many bird species, and even keep children out of school to help protect maize fields from ravenous troops of these monkeys. This cascade of events was totally unanticipated. Similarly, the eradication of sharks led to a release of cow-nosed rays, a major predator of Atlantic Bay Scallops, leading to a collapse of the scallop fishery in many areas.

The authors also state that overabundant mesopredators are often resilient to control programmes as they are characterized by high densities, high rates of recruitment, and high rates of dispersal. A good example in a very simple system would be a decision to eliminate the apex predator (cats) from your farmyard – rats would have a heyday, and at least invade your grain stores, your cupboards, eat chicks and ducklings and raid wild bird nests, and probably spread a variety of diseases directly affecting humans. You might be able to call a pest control company and try to bring the rat population under control, but brown rats with a gestation period of 21 days, a litter of up to 14 pups, and five litters per year can overwhelm any human control programme. Brown rats have spread to all continents, and there are an estimated 81 million in the UK alone.

APEX PREDATOR RESTORATION

An interesting example of what happens when an apex predator is restored to an ecosystem occurred with the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park. Eliminated in 1926, wolves were restored in 1995. What happened? Willow trees, cottonwoods, and aspen trees are growing again, as the elk populations that ate all the seedlings are now wary of entering wooded areas and have been reduced in numbers. Coyote numbers (a mesopredator) have fallen by half, leading to prey increases for red foxes and raptors. Beaver numbers have increased with the return of trees, building more ponds, and creating more diverse habitats. Bird numbers and diversity have increased as well. The study continues, but the results of the reintroduction of wolves are fascinating and largely unexpected, and are based on careful before and after studies.

UNCERTAINTIES IN HIGHLY COMPLEX SYSTEMS

Given those kinds of cascade observations we can at least construct some likely scenarios if lions were to be removed with some important caveats. First, with the exception of Kruger Park in South Africa and possibly the Serengeti in Tanzania, detailed studies of the components of ecosystem complexity have largely not been recorded for protected areas where lions occur. In addition, abiotic factors in Africa are hugely important in determining animal and plant populations. Droughts are frequent, and have a tremendous effect on recruitment of all species. Bush fires are frequent and often intentionally set, destroying saplings and small animal species alike. Also, disease epidemics like rabies and canine distemper can result in local extinctions of many carnivore populations. And finally, the predator/omnivore guild in Africa consists of many more members than the simpler systems in Yellowstone. Just as an example, in my former study area in Botswana, there were at least four species of mongooses; two species of genets; honey badgers; Black-backed and Side-striped jackals, Bat-eared foxes, Cape foxes and African wild dogs; spotted hyenas and aardwolves; African wild cats, servals, caracals, cheetahs, leopards, and lions; and of course baboons. This is not counting raptors, snakes, monitor lizards, crocodiles, etc.

To remove lions from this massive equation and predict a result is not easy, but it can be attempted. The first result would be that large-bodied herbivores – buffalos, hippos, zebras, giraffes, and even elephants would be largely released from predator pressure, though hyenas, for example, could still prey on their newborns. The second result is that medium-sized herbivores could be much more heavily targeted, as populations of African wild dogs, hyenas, cheetahs, and leopards would increase with loss of lions, and this would result in a decimation of impalas for example. Loss in numbers of this predominantly browsing species and highly popular prey item might have in turn an effect on vegetation. Eventually the loss of impalas could lead to increased competition among medium-sized carnivores competing for the same resource. A release of large herbivores from direct predator pressure might result in their populations expanding to the detriment of smaller species, possibly resulting in a depauperate herbivore fauna. In other words another cascade of consequences that should rather be avoided.

COMPLEXITY IS STILL BEYOND PREDICTION

The bottom line is that despite many years of study we still can only underestimate the complexities of many ecosystems. The Bioscience paper indicates that we have not even properly considered the effect of an apex predator on mesopredators, and when the latter take over, considerable and unexpected results can accumulate. Biologists tend to use predictive computer models to anticipate the effects of disruptions, but models are only as robust as the value of the input data, and this is most often incomplete. Best scenario – keep what you have, because when you lose something, consequences are unpredictable and full restoration highly uncertain.

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Re: Lion Aid - News & Updates

Post  Laikipia on Sat Jun 26, 2010 1:00 pm

An interesting read Tsavo - and food for thought.

Thanks for posting.

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Re: Lion Aid - News & Updates

Post  littlewid on Sat Jun 26, 2010 2:52 pm

Thank you for posting again Tsavo. I will give this my full attention later when I can settle and read in peace to take it all in.

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Re: Lion Aid - News & Updates

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