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Lions extinct in 25 African countries & populations in more trouble than previously thought

07/01/2013 16:38:56

African lions may well be much worse off than previously thought, and are already extinct in at least 25 African countries. Photo courtesy of Paul Goldstein.

Lions virtually extinct in 10 countries
January 2013. LionAid, the charity dedicated to lion conservation, has made a new assessment of remaining lion populations on the African continent. The assessment reveals a catastrophic decline from previously held extrapolated estimates.

Just 15,000 lions left in Africa
LionAid estimates that only 15,244 lions remain on the entire continent with only 645-795 wild lions remaining in western and central Africa and 14,450 wild lions remaining in eastern and southern Africa.

Just 5 populations are likely to number over 1,000 lions - located in: Tanzania/Kenya (3); South Africa (1); Botswana/Zimbabwe (1). LionAid believes that lion populations have declined for a variety of reasons including habitat loss; destruction of natural prey due to poaching for households and the bush meat trade; human/livestock/predator conflict; impact of diseases like canine distemper, bovine tuberculosis and feline immunodeficiency virus; illegal wildlife trade in lion products and live animals, and excessive trophy hunting.

West Africa lion on the verge of extinction
Western and central African lions are highly genetically distinct from their eastern and southern African counterparts - in fact analyses have shown that western and central African lions are more closely related to remaining lions in India. Their alarming decline has not received the highly dedicated corrective conservation attention needed from any major conservation agency. These lions could be extinct within the next 5 years, especially as they currently exist in small and highly isolated populations. Lions are thought to survive in just 5 West African countries, Benin, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal, and 2 in Centrl Africa, Cameroon & Democratic Republic of the Congo, having become extinct in Algeria, Cote d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, Togo & Tunisia.

One of 2 lions speared near Amboseli National Park in Kenya during the drought of 2010. Photo courtesy of lion guardians.

One of 2 lions speared near Amboseli National Park in Kenya during the drought of 2010. Photo courtesy of lion guardians.

East African lions in serious decline
Eastern and southern African nations have largely remained complacent about remaining lion populations, perhaps lulled into a false sense of security by lion "surveys" conducted by vested interest (read pro-trophy hunting) groups. Indeed, Tanzania - a major destination for trophy hunters - estimates over 16,000 lions remaining in the country. Without doubt Tanzania is highly crucial for the survival of the species. Yet there seems little will on the part of Tanzanian decision makers to ensure the survival of this species - they seem more concerned with milking whatever profit can be made by consumptive use. LionAid estimates that perhaps 7,000 lions remain in Tanzania. Kenya estimates over 1,900 lions remaining, but LionAid would place this number closer to 1,200-1,400. No authoritative lion counts have taken place in Kenya for many years despite the importance of this species to the nation and tourism. Poisoning and retribution killing of lions as a result of predator-human conflict remain very high. Uganda could lose all lions over the next five years.

Of 49 continental African nations:

  • Lions are extinct in 25 nations
  • Virtually extinct in 10 nations
  • Only some possible future in 14 nations

Dr Pieter Kat, Director LionAid the author of the new report said: “Lions are not only an iconic species important to very many people all over the world, but they are also a vital component of African ecosystems. The lion is threatened by a diversity of challenges to future existence including loss of habitat, loss of natural prey due to commercial and subsistence poaching, unsustainable levels of trophy hunting, human/wildlife conflict and a whole new level of threat involving substitution of lion bones for tiger bones to supply the demands of Asian Traditional Medicine. We are currently paying lip service to the conservation needs of a species so greatly important to our cultures, history, and indeed the health of wildlife biodiversity in Africa.”

countries that still have viable lion populations in Africa

  • Angola
  • Botswana
  • Burkina Faso
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Ethiopia
  • Kenya
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • South Africa
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe 

African countires that possibly have small, scattered populations, or they may even be extinct

  • Benin
  • Cameroon
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Guinea
  • Malawi
  • Mali
  • Nigeria
  • Senegal
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan 

African countries where lions have become extinct

  • Algeria
  • Burundi
  • Cote d’Ivoire
  • Djibouti
  • Egypt
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Eritrea
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea Bissau
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Mauritania
  • Morocco
  • Niger
  • North Sudan
  • Republic of the Congo
  • Sierra Leone
  • Swaziland
  • Rwanda
  • Togo
  • Tunisia
  • Western Sahara

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