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.


Trade in Lions

Trophy hunting of lions is currently prohibited.

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

From 1999 to 2008, Nigeria exported two lion teeth to the U.S., derived from an illegal source for personal purposes… Niger exported [seven] live lions [to Nigeria]: two wild source lions … for commercial purposes; two ranch-raised and three captive-bred lions … for zoo purposes.

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

The Friendly Lion – A Hausa story

There was once a hunter who would bring a beast back from the forest for him and his wife to eat.  One day he returned with nothing and they went hungry.  He visited the forest the following day but again returned with nothing.  At last he caught a locust and wrapped it in leaves.  When his wife saw the parcel of leaves she thought it was meat and lit the fire to put a pot on to boil.  She undid the leaves but the locust immediately jumped away.

“The thing that you brought has disappeared” she said to her husband who replied “You too must go, follow it and bring it back”.

The wife was with child, but she followed the locust, but every time she tried to catch it the locust would jump out of her reach.  At last she became tired and night was drawing in.  She looked for a hollow tree and on entering one her labour pains started.  She gave birth to a son in the hollow tree.  The following morning she put her son on her back and went to seek food.

The wife and her son lived in that tree for some time, seeking food by day and sheltering in the tree at night.  The son grew and soon was walking around and learning to talk.  The young boy would visit the den of a lioness who had a cub, and whenever she brought meat to her cubs the boy would get his share and take some for his mother.  The boy and the cub would often play together.

One day the lioness was out hunting and saw the boy’s mother.  She sprang on the woman and killed her, taking the corpse to her den.  The cub recognized the body and refused to eat.  The cub and the boy dug a grave and buried the boy’s mother.  When the cub had grown into a young lion he killed his mother, the lioness and brought the corpse to the growing boy, now a youth.  He refused to eat and the two buried the lioness.

After a time the youth told the young lion “I am going to the town to live and marry.  I want a robe, trousers and a turban, also money and other things”  The young lion said “very well” and went to the edge of the forest and lay in wait.  When some traders passed by the lion killed them and returned with their goods to the youth, who left to town with them.

When the youth had settled in town and married the lion used to visit.  One day the wife saw him and ran away crying “there is a lion in our house”.  The lion’s heart was broken.  He said to the youth before he left to return to the forest “if you hear me roar once I am dead  If you hear me roar twice I am still alive”.  The lion left for the forest.

Soon the youth heard one roar.  He followed the lion’s paw prints and discovered the body of the dead lion.  He said “since the lion is dead my wife is no longer of use to me”  He took his knife and stabbed himself, falling on the body of the lion.  So they were quits.

In a variant of the story, when the youth went to look for the lion, a guinea fowl told him to take her excrement from the foot of a tamarind tree and mix it with water.  She told him to give the drink to the lion that was revived.  The lion told the boy to return to the town, saying that he would remain in the forest.

Tremearne AJN (1970) Hausa superstitions and customs: an introduction to the folk-lore and the folk (book – purchase required).

Body parts of lions, including fat, skin, organs and hair are highly valued for treatment of a variety of different ailments in Nigeria, with lion fat being the most highly valued. A household

questionnaire in rural communities found that 62 percent of respondents described using lion fat in medicine, with just over half of those respondents reporting to have used it in the last 3 years.  The putative medicinal benefits included were the healing of fractured and broken bones, back pain and rheumatism


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)



Governing Body

Nigeria National Park Service
Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Expressway,
P M B 0258, Garki-Abuja

The establishment of a network of National Parks in Nigeria is a very recent development. The concept of National Parks was first introduced in 1979 by the then Head of State and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, General Olusegun Obasanjo (GCFR), who through Decree No. 46 of 1979 approved the establishment of Kainji Lake as the nation’s premier National Park. This was followed by Decree No. 36 of 1991, which led to the establishment of the National Parks Governing Board and five new National Parks.

In 1992, Yankari Game Reserve was upgraded to the status of a National Park bringing the total to six National Parks. With the promulgation of Decree 46 of 1999 (now an Act), two additional Parks, Kamuku and Okomu, were established. However, Yankari was later handed over to the Bauchi State Government at its insistence in June 2006, leaving seven National Parks currently in existence.

In the present democratic dispensation, Act 46 of 1999 is the legal instrument under which these unit Parks and their Head offices are being administered. As in many other parts of the world, the seven National Parks are on the Exclusive Legislative List of the Constitution and are therefore controlled and managed by the Federal Government being the highest legal authority in the land.

Each of the Unit Parks is headed by a Director under the guidance of a Park Management Committee. Administratively, however, the Conservator-General is the Chief Executive Officer of the Park Service and administers on day to day basis the affairs of the National Park Service. There is a 14-member Governing Board led by a Chairman, and is responsible for determining the policy direction of the Service. The Federal Ministry of Environment, Housing & Urban Development supervises the Park Service as its agency.

The seven National Parks which span across the various ecological zones of Nigeria (with the exception of the marine ecosystem) are some of the few remaining natural ecosystems capable of enhancing ecological processes and life support systems. Each of them has its own unique attributes in terms of biophysical and anthropogenic resources to offer to visitors. They cover a total land area of approximately 20,156 sq. km, i.e. about three percent (3%) of the country total land area (i.e. 932,768 km2).


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