Just over a century ago, there were more than 200,000 wild lions living in Africa. Today, there are only about 20,000; lions are extinct in 26 African countries and have vanished from over 95 percent of their historic range. Join the Pride and Helps Us Save Lions
In celebration of World Lion Day on August 10th, we are proud to share the story of the lion ‘Shy’ and his quest for a safe and lasting home in the vast landscape of Kafue National Park, Zambia. Panthera, Zambia's Department of National Parks and Willdife and the Zambian Carnivore Program, together with partners, are transforming this park into a stronghold for lions like Shy along with leopards, cheetahs and wild dogs.
Match Your Gift
Check here to see if your company participates in a matching gift program. You may be able to double, or even triple, the impact of your gift! Contributions of any amount help you take action to ensure a future for wild cats and the landscapes they protect.
Lion Experts Answer Your Questions
On August 10th we celebrate World Lion Day! Panthera’s team of big cat experts has answered some of your most frequently asked questions about lion behavior, conservation and culture. Click here to continue reading
The State of the Lion
Lions have indeed undergone catastrophic declines since the commercialization of livestock ranching and agriculture in Africa, and are now only secure in a handful of and are on the brink of extinction in all but the largest and best-managed protected areas. Outside of these places, lions are in grave trouble. However, with funding, capacity improvement and strong policy, they could make a spectacular recovery and become important assets to rural economies.
We will never know just how many lions there were, but measured trends in recent decades are alarming. Today, lions are extinct in 26 African countries, have vanished from over 95 percent of their historic range, and experts estimate that there are only about 20,000 left in the wild. Though lions still exist in 28 African countries and one Asian country, only six protected area complexes are known to support more than 1,000 lions. Thankfully there they remain safe for the foreseeable future, but in about 60 other protected areas the situation is far less secure.
Lions are currently listed as "Vulnerable" on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. In West Africa, the species is now classified as "Critically Endangered”. Any further rapid reclines may see lions listed as “Endangered” across their range.
Lions are most significantly impacted by illegal bushmeat hunting and body part trade, conflict with local people due to livestock depredation, habitat loss and fragmentation and to a lesser extent by unsustainable trophy hunting. The rise of poaching for body parts is especially alarming and might mean the end of many smaller less well-protected lion populations.
“Protected areas are at the heart of the formula to save Africa’s lions, and to ensure the species lives on, lions and their wild landscapes require nothing short of a wealthy and immediate investment from the global community and a restructuring of the policy environment in most range states," - Dr. Paul Funston, Lion Program Director.
Across the vast continent of Africa, lions have been extirpated from over 90% of their historic range.
As Africa’s human population increases and lion habitat is converted for their use, lions and humans come in increasingly closer contact. Livestock replaces the lion’s natural prey, fueling human-lion conflict in which lions are killed in response to the real and perceived threat they pose to human lives and livelihoods.
Poachers focus on the large bodied prey species that lions favor leading to starvation of cubs and subadults and lions getting caught in snares or gin traps as indirect bycatch. However, increasingly poachers are also specifically targeting lions for bones and body parts for limited local trade but hugely expanding Asian trade. Without adequate protection of lions in Africa’s protected areas against poaching, all other threats will become obsolete as there won’t be any lions left.
Obliterated in most human landscapes more than a century ago there are nevertheless many areas in Africa and Asia where lion populations either interface with or rarely exist amongst humans and their livestock. With human and livestock population increasing, this interface is possibly more fraught than ever and in the equation lions are generally the losers. In severe cases livestock replace the lion’s natural prey, fueling human-lion conflict with lions killed in response to the real and perceived threat they pose to human lives and livelihoods.
Habitat Loss and Conversion
As Africa’s human population grows and land is converted for agricultural and other developments, lion habitat is fragmented and lost. Communities whose livestock graze within protected areas present a real concern in many localities. Nevertheless, enough undisturbed lion range exists for lion numbers to bounce back if we can implement changes to policy and successfully mitigate poaching and conflict.