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Program Big Cats Initiative

  • Lions' range once included most of Africa and parts of Asia and Europe. Today, their protection status is vulnerable and lions are only found in parts of sub-Saharan Africa. The exception is a small population of Asian lions living in the Gir Forest of India. Lions are the only big cats that form prides, or groups, to hunt and defend their territory. Lions prey on a variety of animals, including baboons, water buffalo, rodents, zebras, and antelopes. Sometimes they scavenge or steal from other predators like cheetahs or hyenas. Lions are fierce predators that often stalk their prey before attacking. Lions' attacks cause their prey to panic and disperse. Then the lions can isolate and attack a weaker or slower individual. As human populations increase and encroach on lion habitats, conflicts between humans and lions arise. Humans and lions are forced to compete for food and space. Lions are threatened by illegal poaching and retaliatory killings. Many of these killings result from lions seeking out alternative prey like livestock. In some areas, such as the Singida region of Tanzania, some lions and other large carnivores have begun to prey upon humans. After fifteen people were killed by large cat predators, the Tanzanian government ordered hunters to kill any potential man-eaters in the region. This included lions and non-target predators like leopards. Despite the conservation problems with retaliatory killings, locals insist that human welfare must come first.

    1. What is the human-cat conflict occurring in the Singida region of Tanzania?

      Two man-eating lions have been attacking humans in the region.

    2. What problem results from using the foot snare traps to capture the man-eating lions?

      Non-targeted species like leopards are caught and then killed.

    3. Do you think the leopard, a non-targeted carnivore, should be killed by the hunters? Why or why not?

      Answers will vary and should be discussed. Some students may agree that the leopard should be killed to protect human lives. Other students may feel that since lions are the targeted species, leopards should be set free.

    4. Do you agree with the statement that human welfare must come first? Why or why not?

      Answers will vary and should be discussed. Some students may agree that human welfare must always come first over the welfare of the big cats. Other students may argue that the lions and leopards have just as much right to the habitat and food resources as humans have.

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