The woman who feeds me is strangely attracted to lions. I don’t really mind her odd behaviour, lions are cats after all, even if bigger and uglier than my sleek, suave self. And lions are having a hard time of it out there in the world.
Alright, lions may be coarser than I am, but they’re still majestic creatures and the world will soon lose the magic and romance of these regal animals. This would mean a cascade of ecological impacts.
The first of these impacts would be an increase in some of the lion’s prey, such as wildebeest and buffalo, which would also become less alert and less active in the absence of a fearsome predator. These larger, more stagnant populations of herbivores would overgraze their habitat, leading to soil erosion that in turn causes poor water quality downstream and aids the invasion of weeds and exotic plant species. Finally the bloated populations of prey could collapse as the degraded habitat can no longer support them.
The ecotourism industry generates an estimated $80 billion in Africa. Most African tourism is safari tourism. Research indicates that if big cats were no longer featured on that dream safari, far fewer people would come to Africa. Without the $80 billion annual revenue stream communities (and some governments) would start failing and poverty would increase.
But the biggest threat to lions is the burgeoning human population.
Luckily, Kubwa and his brothers live at Melbourne Zoo. Safe from poachers, safe from poison, safe from people.
Kubwa and his brothers, Kashka and Kito at the Melbourne Zoo.