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.

“In addition to Kenya and Uganda, lion poisonings from carbofuran have been suspected in Namibia...”

“Namibia actively promotes Community-based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) programmes that give local communities the right to sustainably utilize wildlife resources, through participation in the management of these resources and deriving of direct benefits. To date 31 Communal Conservancies have been registered, covering a total area of 82,000 km2. Most of these conservancies border on areas with resident lions, and at least 12 conservancies share their land with free-ranging lions. To varying degrees, these communities suffer livestock losses due to lions, and therefore bear the costs of conserving lions. These communities can only be expected to tolerate and conserve lions when the benefits they derive from lions outweigh the costs. Through declaring lions that cause excessive livestock losses as problem animals, 'these individuals are then sold for trophy hunting, with fees payable to conservancies, The trophy -hunting of lions outside of protected areas, and along the borders of protected areas, is thus critical to maintaining a viable balance between cost and benefit of conserving the species.”

Place J, Flocken J, Travers W, Waterland S, Telecky T, Kennedy C, Goyenechea A (2011) Petition to list the African Lion (Panthera leo leo) as endangered pursuant to the US Endangered Species Act.  The International Fund for Animal Welfare, The Born Free Foundation, The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International, Defenders of Wildlife (pdf)

The Desert Lion Conservation program focuses specifically on threats to desert-dwelling lions in Namibia, reporting human-lion conflict to be a significant threat to their future:

“Namibia supports a unique population of desert-adapted lions that survive in the harsh Namib Desert....Namibia has received international recognition (e.g. CITIES) for successful conservation efforts, such as the communal conservancy program, that led to significant increases in wildlife numbers, especially in arid areas.  With the growing wildlife populations the conflict between lions and the local people has intensified as lions are killing livestock more regularly.  In protection of their livestock, farmers often shoot, trap, or poison lions.  These local communities bear the costs of living with lions, but do not share equally in the benefits from tourism, and they receive little assistance in managing conflicts.”

The goals of the Desert Lion Conservation program are to:

1. Collect baseline ecological data on the population dynamics, behaviour, and movements of lions.
2. Monitor the key ecological & biological parameters of the desert lion population.
3. Monitor the frequency & impact of conflicts between people and lions.
4. Develop & implement human-lion conflict management plans at local community level.
5. Develop & promote specialised lion eco-safaris and other forms of sustainable utilisation.
6. Collaborate with Government, local communities, and NGOs to further lion conservation.
7. Make important information available to the world, through publication and the internet. (html)

Distefano (2005) reports that between 1991-1994, lions had a major financial impact on the Caprivi region as a result of livestock depredation.  It is estimated that they accounted for a loss of US$70,570.

Distefano E (2005) Human-wildlife conflict worldwide: collection of case studies, analysis of management strategies and good practices. (pdf)

Trade in Lions

Lions have no legal protection in Namibia, and trophy hunting is permitted.

Number of wild source lions estimated in international trade, 1999-2008:  204
Average annual wild source trade as percent of population size*:  2.5%
* Used average of Chardonnet (2002) and Bauer & van der Merwe (2004) studies

“Between 1999 and 2008, Namibia exported 1,013 lion specimens including 683 scientific specimens, trophies (168), skins (42), live animals (5) and bodies (2). This represents the export of at least 217 lions (adding trophies, skins, live animals and bodies).  Of the 1,013lion specimens exported from Namibia, 1,008 or 99.5 percent, were from wild sources. This represents the export of at least 212 wild lions (adding trophies (167), live (1), skins (42) and bodies (2). However, of these, the one live lion originated in South Africa, two trophies came from Tanzania, two from Zimbabwe and three from South Africa. Thus the total number of wild source lions of Namibian origin exported during the decade was 204. Very few specimens from non-wild sources were exported from Namibia.  Of the 1,008 wild source lion specimens in trade, 305 or 30 percent, were traded for hunting trophy purposes. These included 7 skins and 133 trophies. The U.S. was the main importer of lion specimens from Namibia for hunting trophy purposes.  Of the 1,008 wild source lion specimens, 78 or 7.7 percent, were for personal purposes.  These included two bodies, 29 skins, and 38 trophies. Wild source specimens were also traded for the additional purposes including: circus /travelling exhibition (1), commercial (72) and skins (5). Thus, it is of concern that 204 wild source lions were exported from Namibia during the decade; this is 25 percent of the population (204 of 801). The number of trophies exported from Namibia grew from 10.4 per year on average between 1999 and 2003 to 23.2 per year on average between 2004 and 2008. Packer et al. (2009) discussed the historic over-utilization of lions in Southern Africa, stating that “…off-takes peaked then fell sharply in the 1980’s and 1990’s in Botswana, CAR, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe”. This downward harvest trend “most likely reflected declining population sizes: success rates (as measured by harvest/quota) have fallen” for lions (Packer et al., 2009, p. 2). This occurred even as demand for lion trophies has grown in the U.S. and has held stable in the European Union since the mid-1990s. Packer et al. (2009) identified Namibia as one of the countries where trophy hunting is likely to have contributed to the decline in lion populations in the 1980s and 1990s.”

Place J, Flocken J, Travers W, Waterland S, Telecky T, Kennedy C, Goyenechea A (2011) Petition to list the African Lion (Panthera leo leo) as endangered pursuant to the US Endangered Species Act.  The International Fund for Animal Welfare, The Born Free Foundation, The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International, Defenders of Wildlife (pdf)

Lions in Culture

Knappert (1981) gives an account of some of the myths and fables embedded in Namibian culture.  Lions featured in the San Bushmen’s stories.  One tells of a lion who found a man sleeping in the desert.  He carried the man away and kept him as his slave.  The man dutifully served the lion for many years.

The Bushmen believed that if humans were unhappy living with other humans, they would wander into the wilderness and eventually turn into animals.  Many of the Bushmen’s stories were of such people.  For example, one lion was a former Great Chief who had retreated from human society.  An attractive woman would turn herself into a lion whenever she wanted to eat zebra meat.  There is also the tale of a woman who was proposed to by a lion.  The lion used to be a man but had grown a mane and a tail. 


Knappert J (1981) Namibia, Land and Peoples, Myths and Fables. (html)


The characterisation of lions is present in the Bushmen cave paintings within Namibia. (html)

The Herero people of Namibia have a proverb: It is easier to fight one lion than a pack of hungry hyenas (html)

Namibia’s inline hockey team is called the Namibian Lions. 

Governing Body

Ministry of Environment and Tourism
Capital Centre, 6th floor
Levinson Arcade
Independence Avenue


The main functions and objectives of the Directorate are to: promote sustainable development; protect biological diversity; improve environmental awareness; encourage democratic environmental planning and management and involve Namibia in regional and global environmental issues, programmes and treaties.”

Lions in the News




Facilitated Research

Join us