|The number of black-maned lions in Ethiopia
has fallen to around 1,000
Ethiopia’s black lions are being culled and sold on to taxidermists by an Ethiopian zoo, despite the continuing threat to the long-term survival of the species.
A lack of finances and zoo space has resulted in the cull of the Abyssinian lion population, according to the administrator of Addis Ababa’s zoo.
Experts say only 1,000 Abyssinian lions remain in Ethiopia. Despite concern among by conservationists, the 60-year-old zoo is selling lion cubs to taxidermists because it is unable to feed the big cats and lacks room to house them.
Muhedin Abdulaziz, the zoo’s administrator, said his US $64,000 budget was simply not enough to provide for more than 16 adult lions, which cannot be reintroduced to the wild.
“There is a shortage of place and a shortage of budget and when they are over-populated, most of the time we send them to taxidermists,” Muhedin said.
“It is not really good, but we do this is because of the problems we have,” he said.
“For the time being our immediate solution is to send them to the taxidermists, but the final and best solution is to extend the zoo into a wider area,” Muhedin said.
The Abyssinia lions, or panthera leo abyssinica, are smaller than their east African cousins and the males have distinguishable black manes.
The culling is done by a vet who kills the cubs with poison. The bodies are sold for about US $175 each to taxidermists who then retail the stuffed lions for US $400.
The zoo, built in 1949 during the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie, was intended to rear the animals for exhibition as symbols of his rule. Selassie was ousted in 1974 by a pro-Soviet Marxist-Leninist military junta.
“We have two rooms for eight cubs, but when they grow we have to send them to the taxidermist, we don’t have any other alternative”
Currently, there are 15 adult lions and three cubs at Addis Ababa zoo, which receives up to 1,200 visitors daily.
The director of the wildlife division of Ethiopia‘s agriculture ministry said he had no idea the lions were being culled.
“We are not aware that this is happening,” said Tadese Haile, refusing to comment further on the matter.
A wildlife expert said he was offered 11 cubs last year but declined because he did not have enough land.
“[The government] have to create public awareness, there should be a lot of people interested in seeing lions,” said the expert on condition of anonymity. “In Addis Ababa, there is no proper zoo.”
“Some experts say these lions are no more in the wild and they should not be killed every year,” he said. “They are part of our natural resources and we need to keep our natural resource.”
However, it costs about $4,000 US per month to feed the 16 lions at the zoo and the government has refused to send them to foreign conservation facilities because they are only found in the Horn of African country.
“They are endemic lions,” Muhedin said. “They are not present anywhere else in the world so the government says you can’t give them to other places.”
“Our maximum capacity is for eight pairs of lions. We have two rooms for eight cubs, but when they grow we have to send them to the taxidermist, we don’t have any other alternative,” he added.