Hunters steered clear of Zimbabwe after Cecil the lion's death ignited worldwide anger towards the American dentist who shot him in 2015. This resulted in the overpopulation of lions in the country's biggest wildlife area.

More than 500 lions are now living in Bubye Valley Conservancy, the biggest number by far. The overpopulation is dubbed "the Cecil effect."

Unfortunately, the sudden surplus makes the lion population unsustainable. This could lead to the culling of about 200 lions if other institutions or sanctuaries will not help take care of the lions outside of Bubye.

"I wish we could give about 200 of our lions away to ease the overpopulation," said Bubye Valley Conservancy's general manager Blondie Leathem.

The conservancy is appealing to groups and looking for suitable places for their transfer where they will not affect human activities. The search for a new home should also consider the existing prides that can potentially beat up the Bubye lions.

Rancher Charles Davy founded the conservation 22 years ago. Today, Bubye lions are reducing the antelope populations as well as cheetahs, giraffes, wild dogs and leopards. They are also reproducing at an increasing pace.

UK-based charity Lion Aid director Peter Kay said that officials should have introduced contraception at the Bubye conservancy years ago. Kay expressed that it is too late for contraception now and that there is no area in Africa that could take in so many lions.

Wildlife scientist Paul Bartels from the Tshwane University of Technology in South Africa said that contraceptive implants for the female lions are impractical for some clans in the Bubye conservancy. These implants are used in other smaller reserves.

"There are a lot of lions on that [Bubye] conservancy. It would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for contraception to make any real difference," Bartels added.

Cecil lived in the Hwange national park in Zimbabwe. One day, the lion wandered out of the national park but some claimed he had been lured out by the American dentist Walter Palmer who eventually shot him.

A research from the Universities of Southern Denmark and Oxford came up with a demographic model for the estimated risks the lions in Hwange face. They estimated that 69 out of 100 male lions died of "age-independent causes."

Finding suggested that many male lions die from hunting-related activities or from protection of farmers who guard their herds. The study was published in the Journal of Applied Ecology on Feb. 22.

Photo: Edge Earth | Flickr

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