19 May

Let Lions Live Campaign - Letter from Dr. Philipp Henschel


The end of the 'Let Lions Live' campaign is just one week away, and thanks to you, we are just $4,500 from our goal of raising $30,000 to protect the fewer than 30,000 lions that remain in Africa.

As Panthera's Lion Program Survey Coordinator, I have spent the last 4 years conducting surveys in West and Central Africa to determine the status of the lion populations in this region, so we can better design conservation measures. Unfortunately, this has been an arduous task particularly in West Africa, where the lion is listed as 'Regionally Endangered' by the IUCN. 

Just last month, while searching for evidence of a viable lion population in Senegal, my first signs of lions were discovered in a market in Dakar, Senegal's capital - where I found the skins of at least four lions, along with a lion's jaw bone, openly for sale.  (These photos contain graphic images.)  

Their skins and other parts are sought after for medicinal purposes across West and Central Africa, similar to tiger bone in parts of Asia. Lions have historically been hunted because of conflict with people, but more recently an increase in consumer demand due to the growth of human populations and increases in relative wealth has resulted in lions being targeted specifically for the illegal wildlife trade. More and more people can now afford these revered remedies, and readily available modern rifles and poison allow ruthless poachers to feed this demand at minimal personal risk. For lions, this is a recipe for disaster.

Based on what I saw in Dakar, I did not have high expectations heading into the bush. However, after one month of surveying Senegal's Niokolo-Koba National Park in search of any sign of lion presence, I was overjoyed to finally come face to face with two rare West African lions - one adult female, accompanied by an adult male. A few days later, in the same area, I came across the tracks of a female with cubs. Lions were still there, and they were breeding - there was hope.

After Senegal, I headed to Nigeria to survey Yankari Game Reserve. There, I encountered a group of three lions, including an old adult male, one female, and an 8 to 10 month old cub. They lay there resting and calm, after having just fed on a waterbuck.

These observations give me hope for the future of Africa's lions, but out of the 12 protected areas I surveyed in West and Central Africa in the past four years, only three still harbor lions. The lion is a resilient species, but after decades of persecution, the few individuals that I encountered make up some of the last remaining pockets of lion populations in West and Central Africa. They still exist. They are surviving. But they need your help.


With your support, Panthera is working hard to survey little known areas across West and Central Africa to assess the status of lions in this region, and to pull them back from the brink of extinction. We need to implement effective conservation measures, to maintain and increase lion numbers in these landscapes.

Please continue to support Panthera's lion conservation initiatives by donating to the 'Let Lions Live' campaign. Your contribution will provide support for lions in the following ways:

$100 a month supports the salary of a local guardian protecting lions

$350 a month pays a well-trained park guard to secure and help survey an area

$600 covers the costs for a handheld GPS unit and camping equipment for a lion survey team

$1,000 helps cover the costs of an aerial flight to survey or track lions


 Donate Now 


Thank you for your support in helping us 'Let Lions Live.'




Dr. Philipp Henschel



Recent survey results: Lion status updates from five range countries in West and Central Africa