The extinction of Lions in Europe coincides with the advent of larger scale farming, increasing populations and subsequent massive hunting and climate change. Thousands of years later, this pattern is continuing world-wide.
In Ruaha National Park in Tanzania, which holds more than 10 percent of the world’s remaining lions, the big cats rely heavily on adjacent communal lands. In such areas, retaliatory or pre-emptive killing to protect humans and livestock, are driving down populations.
To mitigate human-wildlife conflict in this protected area, African Wildlife Foundation works with local communities to fence off their livestock enclosures, reducing attacks on livestock by 60 percent. The killing of lions and other livestock predators such as wild dogs also declined by 80 percent.
Almost 200,000 lions roamed Africa one century ago, but recent studies show that the species is extinct in 26 countries across the continent and occupies a fraction of its historical rangeland. With lion populations plummeting by a staggering 43 percent in just the last two decades, the King of the Jungle is now a vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List.
Approximately 23,000 of this iconic big cat remain in the wild, although researchers warn that the estimate is optimistic — the actual figure being more likely between as low as 16,500 and not higher than 30,000. Over the last century, the species has been a victim of poaching, trophy hunting, and human-wildlife conflict. More recently, lion bone trade for use in traditional medicine and wine, as well as climate change are growing threats to its survival.
Extinct in North Africa and severely depleted in West and Central Africa, remaining populations could face a similar fate by 2050. The highest densities are found in the savannah woodland plains of eastern and southern Africa, but conservationists face complex issues when protecting lions across transboundary rangelands while also addressing the international demand for lion products.