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Africa’s Lions in Steep Decline

Credit: Christian Sperka/Panthera

A surprising new study released this week finds that Africa is losing its lions, fast.  The lion population in Africa declined from 100,000 to about 32,000 over the last 50 years, according the Duke University researchers who conducted the study.  It finds that 6,000 lions face a high risk of extinction and that the lions of West Africa have declined by half in the last ten years. 

 The main culprit is the loss of the African savannahs. The study, which used satellite imagery from Google Earth, finds that the biologically diverse grasslands that sustain lions and thousands of other species have declined by 75 percent since 1960.  The loss is so severe that it is outpacing the loss of tropical rainforests. The study finds that there are only 67 isolated areas suitable to lions in Africa, and that lions have a high chance of survival in only ten of these. 

 What happens in Africa in the next 10 years will decide the future of lions, according to scientists familiar with the study. Giving lions “a fighting chance” will require substantial increases in effort. 

Aid for Africa members are doing just that.  Panthera is working to create the Pan-African Lion Corridor to protect key lion habitat and connect core lion populations so that the species’ genetic diversity is preserved. Panthera is also training Maasai warriors in Kenya as a “front line” in reducing human-lion conflict.  Aid for Africa member Wildlife Conservation Network supports programs to enhance lion habitat in the undeveloped areas of Mozambique as a stronghold for lion survival. 

Learn more about Aid for Africa members providing support to wildlife in Sub Saharan Africa.