African lion weakened by sport hunting

The African lion has been weakened by sport and trophy hunting. It’s happened over a hundred years. The decline began when European colonists hunted lions in large numbers over 100 years ago. They were persecuted. They still are.

The reason for this weakening of lions is because hunting restricts genetic diversity. As I understand it, it’s a bit like inbreeding. When you breed animals they can suffer from inbreeding depression. It weakens the immune system and creates less healthy and less robust animals. I am going to presume that the worsening genetic diversity is caused by reduced numbers leading to inbreeding.

“We show that the genetic diversity of the modern population was reduced by 12% to 17%, with a reduction in allelic diversity of approximately 15%, compared to to historic populations.”

Simon Dures

The Daily Mail online says that lions have lost their strength. This implies that it is more than just about weakened immune systems but actual physical strength. The study took place in the Kavango-Zambezi conservation area of Africa.

The study was conducted by researchers at the Zoological Society of London and led by the conservation biologist Simon Dures. They say that the evidence is compelling but not conclusive. It provides further evidence on the need to protect wild species from trophy hunters in Africa.

This is a new angle on the problem. Up until now the discussion was about how trophy hunting can simply reduce population sizes. Reducing genetic diversity arguably has a much greater impact in the long term on population sizes. For instance, it may ultimately result in males becoming sterile. This can happen with cheetahs. The cheetah population is known to be inbred.

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