Did you know that lions have now disappeared from as many as 16 African nations? Populations of African lions have declined by 42 percent over the past 21 years, according to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). These lions are faced with a myriad of pressures that are slowly pushing them to extinction and they include habitat loss (mainly to agriculture) and increasing cases of depredation leading to retaliatory attacks as was the case with the famous Marsh-Pride Lions of Maasai Mara. There is also an alarming new development being the growing international trade in lion parts and in particular lion bones that are used in traditional Asian medicine.

The IUCN Red List, which continues to identify lions as “vulnerable to extinction” (one step short of endangered). That’s mainly because conservation efforts have resulted in an 11 percent growth in lion populations in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Most of these southern populations live within fenced reserves which have reached their carrying capacity and can’t support additional lion numbers.

Outside these Southern Africa countries, the fate of lion populations is dire, with an average decline of 60 percent. Matters are particularly bad in Western Africa where studies have shown that approximately 400 lions remain in the 17 nations of West Africa.

To ensure the reversal of this trend, there is need for improved funding for big cat conservation, better community-led lion conservation initiatives and a push to have CITES enact greater restrictions on the international trade in lion parts. Source: IUCN and Scientific American