After forcing slaves to fight to the death in his Christmas movie release Django Unchained, actor Leonardo DiCaprio has taken to the real life cause of saving the African lion from “hunters.”
DiCaprio began his crusade on Facebook earlier this month when he posted, “African lions, like other big cats, are in trouble. The population of African lions in their natural habitat has dropped by nearly 50 percent over the past three decades. Even worse, the U.S. is the world’s largest importer of African lion trophies and parts. Please help protect lions by getting them listed as an endangered species.”
Unfortunately, DiCaprio’s statement is only partially true.
Yes, lions are losing their natural habitat at an alarming rate, just as are thousands of animal species on the African continent. Habitat loss and human encroachment are the largest factor in the loss of animal species worldwide. This is especially true if the species has no economic value. Hunting gives a species a value. The current value of a wild African lion to hunters is around $60,000. And that’s just the trophy fee. That number grows into the mid six figures for most safaris in which a lion is targeted.
In addition to habitat loss lions also fall prey to disease, conflict with livestock farmers (the Maasi indiscriminately kill lions with poison at an extremely alarming rate), the bushmeat trade, and poaching. The latter falls second only to habitat loss in terms of species population declines. In China and throughout much of remaining Asia, African lions are utilized for a number of medicines and traditional treatments. This lust for lion parts makes Asia by far the largest importer of the big cat species in the world…albeit the largest illegal importer.
While I support Mr. DiCaprio’s drive to improve the world, I wish he were more informed on the role that hunting conservation plays in regards to the African lion.
And with all animals.
If it weren’t for hunters, there’d be few animals at all.