Lions critically endangered in West Africa

| January 11, 2014 | Reply

The Lion is declining over much of it’s range and today there are fewer than 35,000 Lions left in Africa according to cat conservation NGO Panthera.

The situation is particularly bad in West Africa as a new study new published on PLOS ONE called The Lion in West Africa Is Critically Endangered (also available as a PDF download on that website).

In a massive effort which took 6 years and spanned 11 countries, the researchers undertook surveys for Lions in 13 large protected areas (each larger than >500 km2) in West Africa to look for Lions. The results were devastating. They could only confirm Lions in 4 of the 13 protected areas and only find only about 406 (range 273-605) Lions. This low number mean less than 250 mature individuals. Only one of those populations contains more than 50 lions making the other 3 even more endangered as very small populations are always very easy to wipe out through poaching or they can just die out from a disease.

The researches now call for listening the Lion in West Africa as Critically Endangered.

Many of the protected areas are in very bad shape as Dr. Philipp Henschel from Panthera explained in a Panthera Press Release.
He said: “all but a few of the areas we surveyed were basically paper parks, having neither management budgets nor patrol staff, and had lost all their lions and other iconic large mammals“.

The research also showed that the Lions in West Africa are genetically closer to the extinct Barbary Lion and the Asiatic Lion (which survives in only one reserve in India).

All is not lost as long as there are Lions in West Africa but immediate action is necessary. Dr. Luke Hunter from Panthera explained:
“To save the lion – and many other critically endangered mammals including unique populations of cheetahs, African wild dogs and elephants – will require a massive commitment of resources from the international community”..

Conservation efforts in West Africa ensuring the survival of the Lion will also benefit many prey species, vultures (who benefit from lion kills and high ungulate numbers) and other animals that share the habitat with Lions like the Martial Eagle.

Lions (and other big cats) can recover quickly if the situation allows it (good habitat, enough prey, no persecution and poaching). Let’s hope that it is not too late for the African Lion.

More information:

PLOS ONE paper:
The Lion in West Africa Is Critically Endangered

Panthera Press Release:
Panthera Press Release: Lions are Critically Endangered in West Africa.

Panthera Project Leonard to save the Lion across Africa:
Project Leonardo.


Category: cats, conservation

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