Dar es Salaam — Tanzania is home to 40 per cent of the world's remaining wild lions, however, the lion's survival is threatened by a number of factors because 60 per cent of them live outside of protected areas, where they are vulnerable to habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict and the bushmeat trade.
With increasing human-lion conflict and declining wild cat populations, a new nation-wide campaign from the Tanzania Tourist Board, the Lion Recovery Fund and WildAid asks communities to "Be The Pride" because lions are vital to the economy, environment and cultural identity.
"If we do not protect our lions and make sure they have secure, safe areas in which to live, then we risk losing a vital part of our nation's heritage and a key driver of our wildlife tourism industry," said Devota Mdachi, Managing Director of the Tanzania Tourist Board.
"As a nation, we need to ensure that our lions thrive for generations to come."
The campaign urges Tanzanians to ask their local and national leaders to draft policy that will safeguard both lions and the people living alongside them.
"Tanzania might be one of the few places where coexistence is possible, where a number of community-driven organizations are pioneering systems that ensure people and wildlife are seeing benefits from keeping lions alive," she said.
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A new website, Bethepride.com, offers the public multiple ways to engage with lion conservation, encouraging them to use a Tweet tool embedded on the campaign website.
Other content includes a series of social media videos called "Unsung Heroes," which spotlights the men and women working tirelessly to protect lions; and a public service announcement featuring several prominent Tanzanians, including the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism Dr. Hamisi Kigwangalla, singer-songwriter Ben Pol and business mogul Mohammed Dewji.
Across Africa, the number of wild lions has halved in just the last 20 years to about 20,000. Despite the positive steps that Tanzania has taken to protect its lion populations, much work has yet to be done in safeguarding the future of this species, which scientists consider "vulnerable" to extinction.
Tanzania received 1.5 million tourists in 2018, which generated $2.4 billion for the economy. Tourism accounts for 17% of the country's GDP, most of which is driven by the country's wildlife-rich parks like the Serengeti, Tarangire, Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Crater.
"When tourists come on safari to Tanzania, they always expect to see a lion. And they usually do because today our parks hold nearly half of the continent's population of wild lions," she said.
Peter Lindsey, Director of Lion Recovery Fund believes these are assets that Tanzanians should rightly feel incredibly proud of.
"However , in Tanzania, as elsewhere, lions and other wildlife are almost certainly declining in number and distribution, and are extremely vulnerable to a wide range of human threats. Tanzania's lions and wildlife landscapes need support now to help shield them from the human pressures and threats facing them.
If Tanzania chooses to invest in the protection of lions and other wildlife, and keeps setting aside the wilderness blocks on which they depend, future generations will benefit from their existence in perpetuity."