“Now that this massive survey effort has been concluded, we finally know where lions remain and where we need to invest our efforts to save them. This was a vital first step, but the real work of saving them is only just beginning. Even the protected areas that retain lions are understaffed and underequipped. We intend to assist lion range countries in improving management effectiveness of the areas containing lions by helping them to increase the numbers, expertise, and operating budgets of enforcement personnel in protected areas with lions.” — Philipp Henschel, Lion Program Survey Coordinator, Panthera.
A survey studying the population of West African lions in protected areas of Africa delivers some shocking news: the population of West African lions is only about 400 animals. The findings of the six year survey were published in the open-access paper, “The Lion in West Africa Is Critically Endangered.”
As described in the paper, the African lion is in a dire situation right now with at least 75% of its original habitat gone. In total, there are fewer than 35,000 wild African lions remaining. The main causes of population decline are most likely: large-scale habitat conversion (land is converted for agriculture and cattle); unsustainable hunting, e.g. the bushmeat trade; the retaliatory killing of lions due to perceived or real human-lion conflict. The populations of West African lions are isolated — out of 21 prospective areas for habitat, only 4 had populations. West African lions are genetically unique from other lions, which increases their conservation value. West African lions are populated throughout some of the poorest nations on earth; to save them, the international community must work together and take action. The extinction clock is ticking — time is running out.
For more information, please see Panthera‘s West African lion page.