Principle Threats

Pressures on land use from increasing human populations leading to continued fragmentation of the remaining suitable habitat coupled with indiscriminate killing in defense of life and livestock and prey base depletion are recognized as being the principle causes for their decline.

Conflict with humans has been significant within Malawi, although only a few cases have been documented (Mésochina et al., 2010). 

The following are given as the major threats, by order of importance, in areas of Malawi with lion presence:
1. Unintentional killing of lions (i.e. caught in snares intended for ungulates)
2. Loss of suitable habitat
3. Inefficacy of management for lion conservation
4. Lack of prey
5. Human encroachment

The following are given as the major drivers of extinction, by order of importance, in areas of Malawi without lion presence:
1. Loss of suitable habitat
2. Human encroachment
3. Lack of prey
4. Deforestation
5. Inefficacy of management for lion conservation

Malawi has the fifth highest human density in Africa, especially in the south east of the country placing significant pressure on conversion of wildlife areas for food production and resource extraction. (Mésochina et al., 2010)

Inbreeding depression should be considered a threat to lions in Malawi that exist only as small, isolated populations.

Mésochina P, Sefu L, Sichali E, CHardonnet P, Ngalande J, Lipita W (2010) Conservation status of the lion (Panthera leo Linnaeus, 1758) in Malawi. Paris: SCI Foundation, Department of National Parks and Wildlife, IGF Foundation (pdf)

Trade in Lions

The hunting of lions is prohibited in Malawi.

Number of wild source lions estimated in international trade, 1999-2008:  0
Average annual wild source trade as percent of population size*:  0%
* Used average of Chardonnet (2002) and Bauer & van der Merwe (2004) studies

Lions in Culture

The Coat of arms of Malawi is composed of three parts: the ripples blue and white in colour at the top represent Lake Malawi, the lion in the middle shows its relationship with Britain in history, and the beams of the sun at the bottom came from the emblem of Nyasaland in 1924. At the top of the emblem are an eagle, the sun, a silver helmet and a flower crown, supported by a lion and a leopard. The mountain at the bottom represents the Mlanje Mountain, and above a scroll reads "Unity and Freedom"

There is a deep fear of lions within Malawi, passed on through stories to children (Mésochina et al., 2010).

The Zulu people (originating from South Africa) living in the Mzimba District of Malawi use lion skins as a symbol of power during dances (Mésochina et al., 2010)

Although not documented it is believed that lions are killed throughout Malawi for medicinal purposed (Mésochina et al., 2010)

A history of man-eating lions impacts perception of the species

“The memoirs of early missionaries and administrators invariably contain a section on attacks of people by lions (Morris, 2000).  During the first half of the XXth century, it has been estimated that in some Districts, an average of fifty people was killed annually by lions (Morris, 2000).

Robert Laws, an early missionary at Livingstonia, noted that eight people were killed by lions in his first year at the mission (Laws, 1934).  Between 1929 and 1930, a lion was responsible for at least 36 deaths in 24 villages of the Mchinji District (Morris, 2000). In the 1940s, one notorious lion killed 14 people in one month near Msimba (Muldoon, 1955)…

...During the 1940s, lions coming from Mozambique frequently roamed in the Namwera Hills District of Mangochi.  Because the area was already well-populated and game was scarce, outbreaks of man-eating lions used to occur from time to time in the area (Carr, 1969).  One notorious case involved two lions in prime condition known as the Namwera lions: it has been suggested that a conservative estimate of human deaths attributed to them was around 50 in a period of little over three month s(Hayes, 1979).  During the 1950s, a lion known as “the man eater of Kasungu” killed at least 60 persons before being shot by an administrative officer of Kasungu District (Debenham, 1955).

…lions killed at least 21 persons and injured a minimum of 8 persons in Malawi between 1970 and 2005.”

Mésochina P, Sefu L, Sichali E, CHardonnet P, Ngalande J, Lipita W (2010) Conservation status of the lion (Panthera leo Linnaeus, 1758) in Malawi. Paris: SCI Foundation, Department of National Parks and Wildlife, IGF Foundation (pdf)

Flag of the President of Malawi

Established in 1967 and awarded to military or civilian personnel, as well as by foreigners, for distinguished and outstanding service to the Republic of Malawi. The Order of the Lion has five classes plus a medal (far right below): Grand Commander (below left), Grand Officer (both middle images below), Commander, Officer and Member.


Governing Body

Department of National Parks and Wildlife
A department of the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife & Culture
Munif House
PO Box 30131
Lilongwe 3

Malawi National Parks & Wildlife Act (1992) (html)

Lions in the News




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