Living with Lions
by | January 6th, 2010

Juvenile African Lions Photo courtesy of Jereld Wing

California and East Africa Share the Challenge and Responsibility

It still amazes me that we live near lions. Lions! We live in an ecosystem that includes an apex predator, a beautiful symbol of the biodiversity in California. Today, I could cast my eyes onto a local

mountain range and know that this magnificent animal could be there, but let’s back up a few months.

In fall 2008 an Oakland Zoo Eco-Trip visited conservation projects we support in Uganda. There, we embarked on a safari with lion ecologist, Dr. Ludwig Siefert. The landscape was beautiful, peaceful, and missing something. Though we had seen a herd of elephants the evening before, on this clear morning, the habitat was empty of one of the most important parts of the eco-system: predators. We looked to Dr. Siefert for an explanation.

African lions have found domestic cattle grazing in their habitat to be easy prey. Unfortunately, the local herdsmen who own the cattle let them graze in the park rather than in the lush pasture right outside. Their solution for lions, leopards, and hyenas that prey on their livelihood is to put poison on carcasses and leave them as bait. There has to be a better way, we thought.

Mountain Lion, Photo courtesy of Felidae Conservation Fund

The planet faces many cases of human-wildlife conflict, especially as the human population grows and habitats shrink, forcing humans and animals to share space. This brings us back to our own habitat and mountain lions.

There are between 4,000 and 6,000 mountain lions in California, keeping ecosystems healthy and wildlife numbers balanced, as top predators do. Shy and elusive, mountain lions live solitary lives and are therefore rarely seen. There have been only fourteen reported deaths due to mountain lions in the past century; however, there are indeed conflicts.

Humans are building homes closer to mountain lion territories, offering their domestic animals to these predators. When an attack occurs, the lion can be legally killed. Often, it is not the same lion that attacked an animal that is killed; thus, the killing does not solve the bigger conundrum of humans versus wildlife.

Clearly, California faces the same challenges as East Africa, and for both there are solutions. For example, those that live near lions could create livestock and pet protection methods. You can also support ballot initiatives that help mountain lions, conserve habitat, and support research on lion behavior. With a proactive attitude and compassion for all, Californians and Ugandans can live alongside lions with pride and peace.

Visit the below websites for more information about African lions, mountain lions, and human versus wildlife conflicts:

  • African Lion Conservation
  • Mountain Lion Foundation: www.mountainlion.org
  • Bay Area Puma Project: www.felidaefund.org
  • World Wild Human/Wildlife Conflict: www.humanwildlifeconflict.org
  • Bay Area Human/Wildlife Conflict: www.littlebluesociety.org

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