Lion attacks rise

Lion attacks rise lions are killing people in Tanzania three times more frequently than 15 years ago. Since 1990, they have killed over 563 Tanzanians and injured another 308, says a survey published in the August 18, 2005, issue of the journal Nature. Tanzania has the largest lion population in Africa.

Craig Packer, an ecologist at the University of Minnesota, the us, who led the survey, links the problem to rising human population and widespread poverty. The country's population has grown from 23.1 million in 1988 to 34.6 million in 2002 and, with it, the number of natural preys for the lions has declined sharply. Also, villagers sleep in their farms to protect their crops from bush pigs. Lions enter the farms in search of bush pigs and villagers fall prey to them. Nearly 39 per cent of the lion attacks occur in the harvest season. About releasing preys in the forests, Packer says: "It is not feasible, as the attacks are near agriculture areas. Rather, controlling the bush pig population would be the best strategy...' He also suggests digging trenches around fields. But the attacks may still continue, as lions "even pull people out of their homes'. Another remedy could be relocation, but Packer says poverty and rising populations make this difficult.

The conflict has also taken its toll on lions as villagers are killing them. Packer admits that attempting to sustain the lion population places rural people at risk. "Mitigation of this fundamental conflict must take priority for any lion conservation strategy in Tanzania.'

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