Project Leonardo: Saving Africa's Lions


We are developing novel methods for surveying lions. While lions in protected areas are easy to study, lions outside of these landscapes are more heavily persecuted and shy because of it. Panthera is driving the development of new methods to monitor lion populations, including the largest-ever attempt to calibrate cameratrapping to a known lion population in the Serengeti with the Serengeti Lion Project. This is the first rigorous attempt to assess whether camera-trapping will be an effective method to estimate lion numbers.


We advised the Ugandan Wildlife Authority in developing a National Strategy Plan for the Lion. As one of its top priorities, we are now working with WCS-Uganda to understand the conflict between traditional fishing communities and lions inside protected areas in Uganda, and to develop the techniques to solve their problems.


At 2.25million hectares, Zambia's Kafue National Park is one of Africa's largest and most untouched wildlife areas, and potentially a stronghold for lions in the country and the region. The Kafue Lion Project aims to determine the status of the park's lion population, as well as to investigate the conservation issues faced by the cats in this magnificent wilderness.


In cooperation with the Nigeria National Parks Service and Wildlife Conservation Society, we inaugurated the Nigerian National Lion Survey to establish the status of the species across the country, where it is now critically endangered. With the lion definitely present in only two areas, we are now focusing on the issue of lion-killing by nomadic herders; how do we prevent conflict when the herd is vast and mobile?


With our partners at Oxford University–WildCRU, we are assisting a long-term study to examine the impacts of trophy-hunting on lions in areas adjacent to a national park, Hwange. We are now helping WildCRU build a lion 5,000 km2 corridor from northern Hwange to the Zambezi River on the border with Zambia.


With lion researchers Colleen and Keith Begg, we are working to help the communities living inside the vast and remote Niassa Game Reserve, and who share space with lions. The key is building barriers or ‘living fences’ to prevent warthogs and bushpigs- lion prey- from entering crops. Lions follow them and kill both people and their stock.

Democratic Republic of Congo

We are surveying the only possible strongholds of the lion in the savanna areas of the troubled DRC. The evidence for lions in the country is unfortunately very slim but we are continuing to target the most recent reports in the hope we can confirm that the Congo lions still exist.

West Africa

We are surveying the last remaining areas in West Africa that might still hold lions. Sadly, most of our efforts to date reveal that lions are in far worse shape than we realized, raising the prospects that lions are now extinct or verging on extinction in Cote D'Ivoire, Ghana, Gabon and the Congo. We are more hopeful of their prospects in Senegal and Benin.

Africa - wide

We have provided scholarships and research support to 12 graduate students working on lions in 9 countries.

lion Programs

lion Project Leonardo | Saving Africa's Lions

Panthera on the Ground

In addition to its notoriety for three spectacular volcanic craters and the Olduvai Gorge archaeological site where the unearthing of hominid fossils helped to establish Africa as the ‘cradle of mankind,’ Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) is particularly renowned for its ubiquitous wildlife. Drawing in thousands of tourists from around the world every year, the Ngorongoro region hosts one of the world’s most superb natural phenomenons – the annual great migration of over 1 million wildebeest, zebra, gazelle and other herbivores...

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