Lions, and Tigers and Global Collaboration, Oh My!

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the GTI efforts, it’s that we shouldn’t wait until there are fewer than 4,000 individual animals left in the wild to form a coalition united under a flag of saving them.

The IFAW "Will Only Words Remain?" Lion

The plight of the wild tiger is dire, with only 3,200 individual animals remaining in the wild, and we at the International Fund for Animal Welfare have advanced a global effort to help save the species.  Much of that work has been done in coordination with the Global Tiger Initiative (GTI), an alliance of governments, international agencies, civil society and the private sector, all united to save the wild tiger from extinction and double the current population by 2022.

IFAW has been a proud and active member of GTI since the Initiative’s inception in June 2008.  In that time, IFAW has worked on providing enforcement trainings in tiger range countries, outfitted local rangers with the goods they need to survive in harsh conditions, conducted demand reduction activities and helped preserve critical tiger habitat.

It’s too early to tell whether the efforts of all the GTI stakeholders will be successful, but the model of effective collaboration between cross-sectoral partners both big and small, is likely the best shot we have at reversing the tiger’s trend towards extinction.

Now, an editorial in the IUCN publication “Cat News” argues that a similar coalition might be necessary to save African lions.  The authors of that article argue that we need better political support for lion conservation throughout range states and that the lion conservation community needs to come to some sort of consensus on questions ranging from lion population numbers to areas of urgent need to conserve the species.

I think it’s hard to argue with the editorialist’s persuasive position.  Lion populations are declining at an alarmingly rapid rate.  Two publications estimate that only 23,000 to 39,373 lions remain in the wild, and more recent surveys show that lion populations are generally much smaller than researchers expected.

In light of this dramatic and troubling decline, IFAW, in coalition with a number of other US animal protection organizations, recently filed a petition with the US Fish & Wildlife Service to have the species listed as endangered under the US Endangered Species Act. By listing the species, the import of lion trophies into the US will become prohibited.

That action, by itself, is clearly not enough to save the lion. The hardest work needs to be accomplished in and by lion range states themselves. A coalition of experts working towards a common goal through a Global Lion Initiative may not be everything we need to save lions in the wild, but at least it would coalesce stakeholders around a common set of goals.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the GTI efforts, it’s that we shouldn’t wait until there are fewer than 4,000 individual animals left in the wild to form a coalition united under a flag of saving them.

-- FO

For more information on the International Fund for Animal Welfare effort to save animals in crisis around the world, visit

Comments: 2

6 years ago

Well, at long last - someone with sense. There are ways of dealing with ego's of all ngo's in the same field - find an overarching org and have them all partner the universal strategic direction. I'll take the job!!! Michelle Cohen

6 years ago

Can I ask what is being done to help the animals in Tripoli Zoo and the zoo in what was Gaddafi's compound in Tripoli? There are elephants, bears, wild cats and countless other animals who must be suffering hugely as there is no water and total chaos. Please could IFAW try to organise some kind of help for these animals in this appalling situation? Thanjs

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