Nathalie Neumann: Two lions lying down in the bush

Predators under threat

The predators of eastern and southern Africa are some of the most iconic species that represent the wealth of biodiversity on the continent. From the majestic lion to the beautiful african wild dog, predators of the savannahs and bushveld attract millions of tourists to nature reserves and National Parks annually.

Like many of Earth’s creatures, African wildlife is under threat from illegal hunting and human conflict. This is no new story, but evidence suggests that the African apex predators are being increasingly hard hit, and wild populations are diminishing.

Main threats

Bushmeat hunting

The bushmeat trade is booming in eastern and southern Africa, as is human population growth. Poor rural areas often turn to illegal bushmeat hunting to earn money and feed their families. Although rarely targeted directly, large predators such as lions, leopards, cheetahs and wild dogs are victims of lack of food from overhunting and getting caught in snares.

Trophy hunting

Legal in specific hunting reserves, however, trophy hunting also occurs illegally in many rural areas and causes the same effects as bushmeat hunting.

Habitat loss

Due to imminent rises in human population size, more natural habitats are being lost and becoming fragmented to livestock and crop farms.

Human-wildlife conflict

Species such as cheetahs and wild dogs can occur outside protected parks and reserves. This leaves them even more vulnerable to snares and conflicts with landowners if their livelihood is threatened.

Researchers and volunteers on the Tuli Conservation Project study predator species in southern Botswana. Earlier this year, they witnessed the devastating effect that human-wildlife conflict can have when several wild dogs were poisoned.

Measures to protect the threatened, vulnerable & endangered

On the IUCN Red List, leopards are listed as near threatened, lions and cheetahs as weak, and wild dogs as endangered. Governments need to tackle and implement measures for the above issues to protect such amazing animals from further decline.

In the meantime, conservation efforts through structured projects aim to protect wildlife on the front line. Wildlife rehabilitation centres are called to relocate injured wildlife and return them to health. Captive population management can help with population numbers through viable breeding programmes. With the dedicated help of local breeders, animal care specialists and wildlife vets, programmes have shown many success stories.

Get involved

Volunteers can get involved in the protection of predators with our Lion Conservation Experience. Learn about the intricacies of managing captive predator populations and captive breeding programmes. Assist wildlife vets in capturing and immobilising the animals and gain knowledge of their role. Experience the practical side of captive predator care at a rehabilitation centre and see conservation management in a large reserve.

Cassidy McKinlay: Lion