NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya’s lion population could disappear altogether in the next 20 years because of climate change, habitat destruction, disease and conflict with humans, the country’s wildlife authority said on Monday.
Lions are one of the so-called Big Five along with elephants, buffaloes, leopards and rhinos that are the major tourist attraction in Kenya’s game parks.
Kenya, heavily reliant on tourist dollars, lost an average 100 lions in each of the last seven years; from 2,749 lions in 2002, to some 2,000 of the big cats now, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said.
“The trend of lion population decline is disturbing and every effort needs to be made to ensure that Kenya either stabilizes its population at the current 2000 lions or increases the numbers to an ecologically acceptable level,” KWS said in a statement.
It said it has tracking devices fitted on five lions to monitor their movement and better understand the human-lion conflict in the southern Amboseli ecosystem.
The southern Tsavo National Park -- famous for a pair of man-eating lions that devoured scores of railway construction workers by dragging them from their tents at night in the 1890s -- has only 675 lions, KWS said.
The saga of the man-eating lions of Tsavo was illustrated in a 1996 film by Vil Kilmer and Michael Douglas titled The Ghost and the Darkness.
Reporting by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura; Editing by Jon Hemming