Trudging through the hot, dry and dusty landscape here, it is hard to convey both the impact of the majesty of magnificent African animals seen up close and the tragic sense of loss that any conscientious person has to feel, knowing that in our lifetimes, or the lifetimes of our children, this rich trove of biological treasures may be gone.
As I enter the second week of my travels across the continent, exploring new opportunities for American Humane to protect and preserve the magnificent animals who enrich our world, it is impossible not to be acutely aware that time for many of the most iconic species on our Earth is running out. One million species are in danger of disappearing forever in what scientists call a “Sixth Mass Extinction.” Fewer than 25,000 lions are left in the wild and in fact have already vanished in 26 African countries. The great Circle of Life is being disrupted. Since 1994, when “The Lion King” premiered in theaters, the numbers of real-life lions in the world has dropped by half because of poaching to feed the terrible trade in animal parts and because of human encroachment and the dangers and difficulties of living side by side with wildlife. When lions occasionally prey upon cattle, they are too often killed, often with poison – a sad ending for the creatures we call the Kings of the Jungle. Ninety-five percent of the 10 million elephants who roamed the Earth just a century ago are gone, and there are fewer than 30,000 rhinos left.
Valiant efforts are being made to protect Africa’s disappearing species and help lions, elephants, rhinos, and other wildlife coexist with people, but even more must be done as the battle is being lost – and rapidly. As I continue my survey of these critically challenged environments and their magnificent flora and fauna, I will keep sharing a stream of photos, videos and reports on the animals and those working to save them to our scientists, supporters, and conservation team. I hope you will feel inspired to join the cause as we continue our 142-year quest to protect and preserve the animals of the Earth.
Robin R. Ganzert, Ph.D.
President and CEO, American Humane