And yet, the profusion of prey in the region could potentially support more than 900 individuals of the emblematic African lion, according to new research – but only if immediate conservation steps are taken.
“Those two protected areas that straddle the frontier could be the stronghold for lions in central Africa – the largest population,” says University of Wisconsin-Madison environmental studies professor Adrian Treves, the study’s lead author. “Therefore, (the population) is critically important, because the lion is now considered threatened throughout Africa.”
He and fellow researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Panthera Foundation report their findings in the January issue of the journal Oryx, which published online today (Jan. 29).
While the conflict raging in D.R. Congo makes conservation efforts in that country’s Parque National Virungas (PNVi) nearly impossible right now, says Treves, action can be taken in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP). In an attempt to protect their livestock, cattlemen there have reportedly poisoned and shot predators in large numbers, stirring fears that the king of beasts may be driven to extinction in Uganda.
But these pastoralists haven’t traditionally killed lions, and Treves believes they can be convinced to coexist with the cats once more if given the appropriate incentives. News of the sizeable lion population that QENP might sustain should also be brought to the Ugandan government, he adds.
“We’re providing a vision of what could be,” he says. “Uganda could maybe have a third of those 900-plus lions, and they’re an incredible source of tourism revenue. So we’re hoping that’s an incentive the government will respond to.”
The northern Albertine Rift, in which the two parks sit, is one of the richest reserves of biodiversity in the world. It’s also home to many charismatic wildlife species, including elephant, great herds of ungulates, and lion. But how many lions is poorly known, because the area’s intense poverty and strife have made it dangerous to carry out ground surveys of the cats, which can’t be easily spotted from the air.
What can be readily seen and counted from planes, though, is the lion’s prey. Thus, Treves and his colleagues rounded up data from aerial surveys of buffalo, warthog, waterbuck and other ungulates, and plugged it into a model that uses prey numbers and size to predict the abundance of lions. Because ground surveys of the cats were conducted in QENP in 1999 and 2004, the researchers were also able to confirm that their predictions for the Ugandan park matched well with actual lion numbers.
PNVi consistently held four to five times less prey than QENP – presumably due to poaching and habitat loss – suggesting it can currently support fewer lions. Still, the researchers expect that if prey abundance rebounds and the Congolese park can sustain similar densities of lions as its Uganda counterpart, the entire region could hold up to 905 of the cats.
But actual lion abundance in QENP also revealed a disturbing trend: A 50 percent decline between 1999 and 2004, even though prey numbers rose by 7 percent over the same period. And if lions disappear, as some are forecasting, the entire ecosystem could be in peril, says Treves. Past research shows that loss of a top predator can trigger a cascade of unpredictable changes and completely transform the system.
Still, he’s optimistic this won’t come to pass, so long as immediate conservation interventions are taken. He hopes the paper will serve as a call to action.
“I don’t want to see lions disappear from Queen Elizabeth National Park the way that hyenas almost did, and the way cheetahs were eliminated from parts of Uganda,” he says. “That’s a fate we need to avoid.”
CONTACT: Adrian Treves, 608-890-1450, firstname.lastname@example.org
Madeline Fisher | Newswise Science News
Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel
Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.
The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
23.05.2018 | Life Sciences
23.05.2018 | Life Sciences
23.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy