Lions May Be Losing Their Reign in Uganda
Julie Larsen Maher/WCS
Two male African lions recline in the tall grass in Uganda's Queen Elizabeth National Park. Conservationists from the WCS and the University of St. Andrews warn that Uganda's lions are disappearing from the country's national parks.
Galapagos National Park
Lonesome George - the Last Pinta Island Tortoise
June 25, 2012 -
Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island giant tortoise and celebrated symbol of conservation efforts has died. George passed away in the Galapagos Islands with no known offspring after several attempts at breeding George with other similar tortoise species, according to AFP. Lonesome George's longtime caretaker, Fausto Llerena, found the giant tortoise's remains stretched out in the "direction of his watering hole" on Santa Cruz Island, according to AFP. Estimated to be more than 100 years old, the creature's cause of death remains unclear and a necropsy is planned. Lonesome George was discovered on Pinta Island in 1972 at a time when giant tortoises of his type, Geochelone nigra abingdoni, were already believed to be extinct, according to AFP. The following is a look at other at risk animals in the world.
NEWS: Extinct' Giant Tortoise Found on Remote Island
Animals at Risk Since the Endangered Species Act's passage 33 years ago, 1,800 species have been listed as endangered and nine have become extinct. ARKive, a collection of the world's best wildlife films and photographs, gathered together a list of the most at risk animals. The Tiger has undergone large population declines across Cambodia and the rest of Asia, according to ARKive.
Doc White /naturepl.com
Blue Whale (Endangered) Once hunted nearly to extinction, the blue whale is the largest animal to have ever lived, growing to around 27 meters (88.5 feet) long and weighing up to an astounding 120 tons. It also produces the loudest call of any animal on Earth. Although hunting of the blue whale was banned in 1966, the recovery of this magnificent marine mammal has been exceptionally slow.
Giant Panda (Endangered) The giant panda is universally admired for its appealing markings and seemingly gentle demeanor. A charismatic conservation icon, the giant panda is threatened by habitat loss, with large areas of China’s natural forest being cleared for agriculture, timber and firewood to meet the needs of the large and growing human population.
Tiger (Endangered) The tiger is one of the most emblematic symbols of conservation today, and its distinctively patterned coat and fearsome reputation make this species instantly recognizable. However, the tiger is facing the grave threat of extinction due to illegal poaching and habitat loss.
Sumatran Orangutan (Critically endangered) The name of the Sumatran orangutan means "person of the forest." The biggest threat to the Sumatran orangutan is the loss of its forest habitat, with around 80 percent of the forest on Sumatra vanishing in recent years due to illegal logging, gold mining and conversion to permanent agriculture, in particular, palm oil plantations.
Black Rhinoceros (Critically endangered) Contrary to its name, the black rhinoceros is actually grey in color. It was hunted almost to the brink of extinction for its impressive horn, which can grow up to 60 cm (23.6 inches), largely due to the demand for horn in Chinese traditional medicine and for traditional dagger handles in Yemen.
Philippine Eagle (Critically endangered) The striking Philippine eagle is the world's largest eagle and also one of the world’s most threatened raptors. The destruction of its habitat is the main cause of its dramatic decline, with vast tracts of tropical forests in the Philippines having been cleared for commercial development and for shifting cultivation.
Kakapo (Critically endangered) As the world’s only flightless parrot, the kakapo is a truly unique bird which is threatened by introduced species in its native home of New Zealand. Conservationists have taken the drastic measure of removing all surviving kakapo to predator-free islands, so far averting the extinction of this remarkable bird.
Hawksbill Turtle (Critically endangered) The hawksbill turtle possesses a beautiful marbled shell, which has been exploited for thousands of years as the sole source of commercial tortoiseshell. Illegal demand for its shell, and for its eggs, meat and even stuffed juveniles as exotic gifts, have led to the dramatic decline of this species over the last century. A further threat to the hawksbill turtle is global climate change.
Michael D. Kern/naturepl.com
Lemur Leaf Frog (Critically endangered) The lemur leaf frog is specially adapted for a life in the trees with adhesive pads on its toes. Eggs are laid on leaf surfaces and when hatched the larvae are washed off or fall into water below. This nocturnal tree frog was once considered to be a reasonably common species in Costa Rica, but it is threatened by the loss of its forest habitat and most populations in Costa Rica have recently disappeared.
Scalloped Hammerhead (Endangered) Forming impressively large schools, female scalloped hammerheads gather in the Gulf of California during the day, around underwater mountains known as seamounts, where they perform a wide range of behaviors yet to be understood. The scalloped hammerhead is under threat due to fishing pressures and in particular is a victim of shark finning. ANIMAL PLANET: Endangered Species Guide
As the largest predator in Africa, the lion has earned its place at the top of the food chain and the title "king of beasts." But the reign of the noble lion could be coming to a close in parts of Uganda, a new study suggests.
One of the reasons for the lion's decline in this part of Africa is poisoning by local ranchers, whose livestock are frequently killed by lions, and other human-related conflicts.
Researchers from the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the University of St. Andrews in Scotland analyzed the density and population distribution of the African lion in three of Uganda's national parks. (In Photos: The Life of a Lion)
In two of the parks surveyed -- Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls National Park -- lion populations have decreased by 30 and 60 percent, respectively, over the past 10 years. Only in Kidepo Valley National Park, in the northeastern part of Uganda, was the number of lions found to be increasing, climbing from 58 to 132 in the last decade.
The decline in lion populations in these parks, once believed to be the last strongholds of the species in Uganda, is deeply troubling to conservationists. Many fear for the lions' long-term chances of survival in the country and worry about the effect that declining lion populations could have on other species.
"Conservation areas, such as Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls, which formerly contained the highest biomass of mammals on Earth, depend on the delicate balance between predators and prey," James Deutsch, executive director of WCS' Africa Program, said in a statement. "Their loss would permanently alter two of Africa's great ecosystems."
But the lion-population declines in Uganda reflect a larger conservation challenge extending across the entire African continent: In the past two decades, the number of lions in Africa has declined by as much as 30 percent, and researchers believe there may be as few as 32,000 of the big cats left on the continent.
Already near extinction in both western and central Africa, lions are on the losing side of a battle with locals, who view them as a threat to their livelihood.
Yet, for other members of the Ugandan population, losing lions could prove to be just as detrimental as having them for neighbors. According to Andrew Plumptre, the WCS' director in Uganda, lions are the animals that tourists most look forward to seeing when visiting the country. And a recent WCS survey suggests that tourists would be 50 percent less likely to visit Uganda's national parks if lions were nowhere to be seen.
The study is detailed in the latest edition of the conservation journal Oryx.
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