What if lions went extinct?

A new report by the IUCN says that lions have decreased by 42 per-cent since 1993, and we discuss what would happen if these big cats died out

Desertification

As large predators, lions are responsible for keeping prey populations under control. Antelopes and zebras are grazers, and without lions picking them off they could overgraze the African landscape. Without vegetation to keep the soil in place, the once lush plains could crumble to desert.

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Knock-on effects

Lions are apex predators, meaning they are at the top of the food chain. Hundreds of species below them in the chain benefit from their presence, and if they disappeared each species would be affected. An abandoned carcass attracts insects, which in turn attract animals that feast on bugs and their larvae. Hyenas, jackals and vultures scavenge from lion kill sites, and what’s left is broken down by bacteria. These carcasses eventually enrich the soil by acting as natural fertiliser, and without regular kills the soil quality could drop.

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Poverty

One of Africa’s ‘Big five’, lions bring tourists from around the world. Without the money they bring in, the economies of many African countries could suffer. This could even result in increased poaching pressure on other endangered wildlife like leopards and rhinos.

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Long live the king

Lions are the number one species people think of as safari animals. Without them, Africa’s landscape would truly suffer and we would be left with lion-shaped holes in our hearts. We wouldn’t be able to look at adorable pictures of lion cubs, or watch Disney’s The Lion King without crying (but in all honesty, who can do that now?). Lions need to be saved, so why not get involved with the Born Free foundation and help out a cat in need.

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Image from flickr.com/photos/virtualwayfarer