By Daniel Chigundu
ANTELOPEPark located on the outskirts of Gweru is a three-star bush camp that offers about 20 activities which are centred on its 120 African lions.
In 1970, there were about 300 000 African lions on the continent but the figure has reduced sharply to a measly 15 000 and according to Antelope Park, if the trend is allowed to continue, this type of lion will be extinct in the next 100 years.
Lions play a pivotal role in the food chain as they are the head of the ecosystem and are a biological filter that takes away the weakest and sick animals and ensures that only the fittest survive in the jungle.
Addressing the media during a tour of the park organised by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), Antelope Park operations manager Irikidzai Ndandazi said the African lion is in trouble hence his park is focusing on its conservation.
“We believe that whatever we have is not an inheritance from our forefathers but borrowed from the future generation which means sustainable should always be on board. If these lions are not conserved for about minus or plus 100 years to come they might come to extinction and we wouldn’t want these lions to become extinct to the future generation.
“Also the lions have been known to hold a very important role in the wild because they are on the top of the food chain, so once you take them off the ecosystem, then the whole system becomes imbalanced that is why we are focusing on the lion conservation,” he said.
Ndandazi said one of their major problems in wildlife management system was to do with human encroachment into where the animals stay.
These encroachments have resulted in some of the predators killing livestock and threatening human lives around the conservation areas.
In some cases, humans have reacted by poisoning water sources with cyanide in an effort to kill the predators but end up killing a whole lot of animals, fish and birds that benefit from the sources.
In 2015, more than 62 elephants died of cyanide in Kariba and Hwange Park.
Speaking at the same occasion, Antelope Park general manager Gary Jones said the lions are a symbol of African and therefore need to be protected urgently.
“The lion is a symbol of Africa. However, the African lion is in trouble and if nothing is done as a matter of urgency, future generations might not be able to see the species. We are trying to conserve this species,” he said.
Jones added that they have a pilot project towards addressing the conflict between humans and wildlife in Chizarira where lions were killing livestock.
Meanwhile, Gary Jones has revealed that they are trying to train surrounding communities in their work to prevent future conflicts and encroachments.
“There is a need to engage surrounding communities so that they can understand what we are doing and we are building training rooms for that.
“Apart from that we provide employment for the communities and we also buy our produce from them so that they also benefit.
“We have about 70 similar conservation projects across Africa and Burundi has since approached us with the view to implement the same project in their parks, they no longer have lions in their parks,” he said.