Historically lions have been distributed across various continents and regions, including Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia. However, human pressures hinder their survival to the point where populations reach a recession of more than 30% and their range of distribution has been reduced by 80% in recent decades.
Do you wonder how many African lions are left in the world? Do you have doubts about whether the lions of Africa are going extinct? In this AgroCorrn article we will help you resolve these and other questions about why lions are in danger of extinction and what are the threats that make them vulnerable. In addition, you will discover strategies that are being implemented and are intended to improve the protection and survival of lions.
Are lions in danger of extinction or not?
Today, the presence of lions is restricted to the continents of Africa and Asia, with data that reflects a significant decline in their populations. In fact, there are approximately less than 300 Asiatic lions worldwide, whose habitat has been restricted to the Gir Forests in Guajarat, India. In Africa the situation is quite similar, since with half the number of individuals compared to 25 years ago, it is possible to find lions in 26 countries of the continent, although only in 7 the populations have more than a thousand individuals (Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe).
Despite the significant decline in lion populations on both continents, they present different levels of protection.
Along these lines, the IUCN in its taxonomic classification recognizes that, of the only type of lion that survives ( Panthera leo ), there are two subspecies: the Asiatic lion ( Panthera leo persica ) whose name refers to its range and the lion of the Atlas ( Panthera leo leo ) in Africa. In contrast to this last consideration, Hass et al. (2005) distinguish in addition to these, other 5 subspecies of lions in Africa :
- Panthera leo bleyenberghi or Katanga lion.
- Panthera leo azandica or Congo lion.
- Panthera leo krugeri or Transvaal lion (which are also white lions).
- Panthera leo nubica or Nubian lion.
- Panthera l eo senegalensis or West African lion.
In any case, and despite taxonomic divergences, the entire population of the African lion is included in Appendix II of CMS , presenting a vulnerable conservation status ; while, the Asiatic lion, in danger of extinction, appears in Appendix I of the CMS, acquiring their populations a greater degree of protection. Faced with this, there are many efforts that some institutions are making to incorporate the populations of African lions in Appendix I, since the data call for considering these species in danger of extinction (more if we take into account the overestimation of individuals by part of the current counting systems and the lack of knowledge shown by the scientific community regarding the number of lions that actually exist in Africa).
In short, lions in general present a vulnerable conservation status with the exception of Asian populations, considered in danger of extinction.
Threats to lions
Humans constitute the main threat to lions . Their survival has been disrupted and hampered by:
- Human demographic growth, which leads to an increase in human settlements and the development of agricultural and livestock activities in territories that make up the habitats of these wild cats . Also indiscriminate logging and harvesting of wood destroys and fragments their habitat.
- The persecution they receive through the poaching of lions , for their consumption (commercialization of wild animal meat), the commercialization of bones or cubs. An example is trophy hunting that takes place in some sub-Saharan African countries. In this other post we explain the Causes and consequences of poaching animals .
- The indiscriminate killing due to conflicts with humans when sharing the same territory.
- The armed conflict , civil disturbances favor habitat degradation and an increase in the practice of illegal activities (such as poaching).
- Diseases or epidemics (for example: Carré’s disease or distemper disease).
- The decline in prey populations due to, among other causes, the bushmeat trade.
- Aerosol and waste contamination.
- Lions drowning in uncontrolled or unsupervised wells.
How we can prevent the extinction of lions
To resolve our doubts about how to help lions , it is necessary to provide a social and comprehensive approach to management systems. In fact, there are scientists who believe that the key lies in the coexistence of humans and lions. For this, it is necessary to recognize the importance of protecting the species, through education, environmental awareness and citizen participation . For example, it is convenient to educate in How to avoid poaching of wild animals and How to avoid illegal animal trafficking . Likewise, it is necessary to explain well to the population why it is important to protect endangered animals , here we will tell you.
The presence of lions in zoos , under a conservationist approach, can help bring these animals and humans closer together, so it plays a key role in raising social awareness of the value and importance of the species, but as long as the focus is only this.