Risk of extinction of lions in West Africa


16 January 2014        

Oreste Rossi (PPE)

A recent survey carried out in an area covering 17 countries in West Africa showed that there are only 400 surviving lions in this area, of which fewer than 250 are of reproductive age.

The search lasted six years and the African land was surveyed inch by inch in search of lions to be able to obtain an updated estimate of the number of animals. Until 2005, it was believed that the lions could live freely and safely in at least 21 protected areas. Now it seems there are only four: in the W-Arly-Pendjari parks complex that straddles the boundaries of Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger and three other sites between Senegal and Nigeria. The area in question includes some of the poorest countries in the world that do not have the funds to manage the parks and maintain them in appropriate conditions. The researchers found that these parks do not have security checks and are unable to manage the animals that live within them. One particularly worrying aspect is the very low population density, amounting to approximately one lion per 100 square kilometres. The cause of the fall in the number of these big cats can be traced back to humans. Shepherds poison the large mammals to protect their livestock and poachers also kill these animals to supply the trade in bushmeat, which is increasingly in demand.

It should be noted that between 1970 and 2005, the population of these large mammals has fallen by 85% in West Africa.

It should also be noted that the European Union is part of the CITES , the largest global wildlife conservation agreement in existence.

On 15 January 2013, a resolution was passed in the European Parliament on crimes against wildlife.

Given this situation, can the Commission answer the following questions:

1 . Is it aware of the drastic fall in the West African lion population?

2 . Can it state what actions have been taken so far to protect this wild species?

3 . Can it explain what strategies it intends to put in place to achieve this goal?

13 March 2014


Answer given by Mr Potočnik on behalf of the Commission

The Commission is aware of the fall in the West African lion population.

International trade in African lions is strictly regulated both under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) since 1977, and under the EU legislation for the protection of species of wild fauna and flora(1). The Commission is following closely discussions on the African lion within the CITES context and is considering the adoption of stricter rules regarding imports into the EU of lion hunting trophies through amendments to Commission Regulation (EC) No 865/2006(2). The Commission also provides support for protected areas in the region in order to reduce levels of killing of lions and of their prey.

In the broader context of the current poaching crisis in Africa and the significant increase in wildlife trafficking globally over the recent years, the Commission has recently adopted a communication on the EU approach on wildlife trafficking(3), launching a wide stakeholder consultation on the effectiveness of current measures and the future role of the EU in the global fight against wildlife trafficking. The EU is also the main donor to the International Consortium against Wildlife Crime which brings together Interpol, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Customs Organisation, CITES and the World Bank.

(1) Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97 on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein, OJ L 61, 3.3.1997.
(2) Commission Regulation (EC) No 865/2006 of 4 May 2006 laying down detailed rules concerning the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97 on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein (OJ L 166, 19.6.2006.
(3) Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament COM(2014) 64 final of 7 February 2014 on the EU Approach against Wildlife Trafficking.