The lion, often called ''king of the jungle'', is a threatened animal, and the number of wild lions has more than halved in 35 years.
In 2015, the African lion Cecil was shot to death by a pleasure hunter identified as the dentist Walter J. Palmer of Minnesota in the United States. The event received considerable attention - because Cecil was a "known" lion who lived in a popular national park and was studied and followed through GPS by a research team at Oxford University.
The BBC reported that Palmer had paid $50,000 to get the "privilege" to kill a lion with a bow and arrow. Palmer did not manage to shoot dead Cecil, but injured the lion, which meant that the hunters were tracking Cecil for 40 hours before the dentist could shoot him dead.
The details of how Cecil was shot to death for pleasure by a dentist from Minnesota outraged many around the world, and now scientists once again warn that the lion species is endangered.
In 1980 estimates said that there were about 75,000 African lions, today that number has dropped drastically to somewhere between 20.000 and 32.000, writes AP.
- We should be worried, says Hans Bauer, one of the lion researchers at Oxford University, stationed in Ethiopia.
- The numbers are clear, they are dramatically reduced in number.
Bauer says that even if there is poaching, and that people kill lions because they attack domestic livestock, the great threat is not people who kill lions. Instead, it is that the lions' habitat is constantly shrinking and that makes it harder for the species to survive.
Since the beginning of the 1990s, the number of lions decreased substantially between 1993 and 2004. The number of lions in East Africa decreased with 59 percent and in West Africa with as much as 66 percent.
"The lion is on the brink of extinction, they are desperately rare," says renowned conservation biologist Stuart Pimm.
- The reason that Cecil became iconic was because he lived in a National Park, he lived sheltered, he explains.
- If we can not even manage to protect the lions living in national parks, it does not look good for the other lions.
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