One perspective on Barbary lion and North Africa revolves around the ‘romantic’ notion of reintroducing this charismatic species back into its former range. A second perspective is more pragmatic and equally visionary; using the species as a focus for driving the restoration of habitats in the region. A third vision, more pragmatic perhaps, would be to drive a tourist industry for economic benefit. A fourth vision is to preserve genetic diversity in Panthera leo or even selectively ‘breeding-back’ the Barbary lion, by retaining the genes held by lions from the Moroccan Royal collection (although this could still be achieved in captivity). A fifth vision would see North Africa developed as a new enclave for Panthera leo persica (currently only extant in India) – from the wild population most closely related to the Barbary lion.
Could there be a sixth vision – to provide an enclave for Panthera leo as climate change disrupts the suitability of existing habitats south of the Sahara? A recent paper shows the risk of decline in current habitats suitable for lions (Peterson et al 2014). Up in the northern strip of Africa, along the Mediterranean coast there are potentially some small enclaves of habitat. Would it be prudent to make these a refuge for lions?
If so, which lions would we put there? What sort of ecosystem should develop as a result (prey, landscape, human use)? Which might be the best locations? What controls might be needed to protect humans, livestock and lions?
Peterson A.T., Radocy, T., Hall, E., Peterhans, J.C.K., and Celesia, G.G. (2014) The potential distribution of the Vulnerable African lion Pathera leo in the face of changing global climate. Oryx 06/2014; 48(04):1-10. DOI:10.1017/S0030605312000919