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Despite being synonymous with wild Africa, lions (Panthera leo) have undergone a catastrophic decline and are on the brink of extinction in all but the largest and best managed protected areas.

IUCN Red List Status
Least concern Near threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically endangered
Status on CITES Appendices
  Lions exist in 27 African countries and one Asian country, but only 7 countries are known to each contain more than 1,000 lions
Lions have vanished from over 80 percent of their historic range in just the last 100 years.   Lions are extinct in 26 African countries


Over a century ago there were more than 200,000 wild lions living in Africa. Recent surveys estimate that in the last two decades, lion numbers have declined from approximately 30,000 to about 20,000.

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.”

Main threats

As humans develop wild habitats, lions and humans come in increasingly closer contact. Livestock begins to replace the lion’s natural prey, fueling human-lion conflict in which lions are killed in retaliation or because of their perceived threat to human livelihood.

Rampant bushmeat poaching depletes prey populations and poses a threat to lions themselves; they are often caught and killed in wire snares and traps set for their prey.

Dramatic habitat loss and fragmentation due to human development confines lions to isolated islands of land, increasing their risk of extinction.

Poorly managed trophy hunting and the illegal hunting of lions for body parts used in local and international (primarily Asian) traditional medicine are both contributing to lion population declines.

Conservation efforts

Since 1975, lion has been included in CITES Appendix II, and the Endangered Asiatic Lion, i.e. subspecies P. leo persica, in CITES Appendix I.

In Africa, lions are present in a number of large and well-managed protected areas. Most range states in East and Southern Africa have an infrastructure which supports wildlife tourism, and in this way lions generate significant cash revenue for park management and local communities and provide a strong incentive for wildland conservation.

Regional conservation strategies have been developed for lions in West and Central Africa and Eastern and Southern Africa. By setting out common priorities to guide action on both national, community and landscape levels, the regional conservation strategies have the potential for broad and significant improvement of lion status and management. These regional strategies have been used in many countries to develop Lion Conservation Action Plans.