African lion populations have plummeted to an estimated 20,000, and are now facing a crisis

Over the last 50 years, the number of wild lions across Africa has fallen from 200,000 to an estimated 20,000. The decline is largely due to habitat loss from agricultural expansion and increased human settlement in the savannah landscape. This has, in turn, led to more frequent interactions between lions and humans. Livestock herds grazing in or near protected areas compete with lion prey species, and put livestock in close proximity to lions. When lions attack livestock, this can provoke retaliatory killings. At the same time, prey populations are undergoing drastic declines throughout Africa as a result of bushmeat poaching. Snares and traps set for their prey also often inadvertently catch lions and other predators. An emerging threat is lion poaching for a new trade in lion bones to Asia, used as a substitute for tiger bones.

  • -43%
    Africa’s lions have declined by 43% in the past two decades.
  • -60%
    Populations in West, Central and East Africa have declined by 60%.
  • 8%
    Lions currently occupy only 8% of their historical range.

Making an impact

The poaching of lions for their bones and other parts has emerged as a more recent threat. Although lion bones are not part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, as tiger populations decline, these more readily available products are entering illegal wildlife markets as substitutes. WildAid is working to raise global awareness of lion conservation priorities, and to increase local awareness in order to build public and political will for lion conservation in key countries, including Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda.

In collaboration with Panthera and WildCru, WildAid published “Beyond Cecil: Africa’s Lions in Crisis” on the first anniversary of the infamous killing of Cecil the lion. The report summarizes the major threats to lions and outlines key actions needed to save the remaining 20,000 individuals. The report is also available in Swahili.

WildAid and Panthera launched as a way for users to pledge never to eat bushmeat. The site also urges leaders to prioritize financial support for protected areas in Africa and promotes co-existence between people and wildlife.