Zimbabwe’s Bubye Valley Conservancy has denied reports that it is considering killing 200 lions, saying that it is merely trying to “translocate or re-home” animals to areas where the ecosystem can accommodate them.
Bubye says that it considered and rejected the option of culling the animals as a way of dealing with over-population in the conservancy.
“We do have more lions than the ecosystem can handle in the long-term, that is, more than the natural carrying capacity,” Blondie Leathem, the general manager of Bubye Valley Conservancy, said in a statement made available to Quartz. “Therefore we are looking to translocate or re-home about 200, as we would rather not cull them.”
On Saturday (Feb. 20), the UK’s Daily Telegraph reported that global outrage at the killing of Zimbabwean lion Cecil by an American dentist last July led to a decline of big-game hunting on the continent, and in turn, an overpopulation of lions at Bubye Conservancy. Leathem, however, denies that less hunting is directly related to over-population issues.
Protection of lion has become one of the top button issues in animal rights over the last few years. The past two decades have seen a 43% decline in the world’s lion population, spurring fears that the animal is in danger of extinction. There are now only 20,000 lions left in Africa, from a high of 200,000 at the beginning of the 20th century.
For Bubye, hunting is not the only thing threatening the species. Maintaining a viable ecosystem in which they can thrive is also a big challenge.
“The fact remains that habitat destruction is their biggest enemy, and there is basically no more space in Africa for a new viable population of lions,” Leathem says.