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

Hunting is restricted to problem or dangerous animals.

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

Lion-hunting is only possible with permission from the President of Senegal. 

“Between 1999-2008, Senegal exported six captive-bred live lions to South Africa for commercial purposes (three in 1999 and three in 2000), and two captive-bred live lions to Mauritania for zoological purposes (both in 2000).  All originated in Senegal.”

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


Senegal’s coat of arms (Senegalese) displays a gold lion in profile. A baobab tree is on the other side, which is the traditional place for political meetings to take place.  The coat of arms has the inscription: "One people, one aim, one faith." (html)

The nickname for Senegal’s national football team is The Lions of Teranga

The story of the Simb

Once upon a time, an elderly man desperate to feed his starving children, leaves his village in hopes of gathering food. Upon crossing the jungle to get to the next village, the man suddenly came face to face with a lion. When faced with the hungry lion, the man was seized by anguish and feared for his life. Inexplicably, this lion seemed different to him somehow; something set him apart from the others he had seen. Realizing he had no way of escaping him, the man distressed at the thought of his family, who was dependent on him for food. He had no other option but to fight the lion. Suddenly, the beast pounced and lunged at him. This is all he remembered after he awoke some hours later...

Upon opening his eyes for the first time after the fact, the man was incredulous to find the lion, lying dead beside him. His own body was covered in blood and his clothes were torn to pieces, but he had somehow survived. "How was it possible to defeat a lion without a weapon?" he thought. After regaining his strength, the man arose and brought the beast back to his village.

As he arrived home the villagers noticed his triumphant victory over the lion and ran in all directions. His wife asked the griots [medicine men] to announce his honourable return through celebratory drumming. The "sabar" and "tabala" drums, which were then used as a means for long-distance communication and celebration, were played on mountain tops to announce the man's victory.

A few days after the mysterious battle, the man began to morph into a lion when angered or dreaming. During these episodes, his body would cover with hair and his human features would change. He began attacking the villagers.  His offspring, born after the battle, were also affected by these phenomena, and they also became dangerous as they too began violently attacking people.

In order to stop the attacks and to protect the people, the griots began dancing, drumming, singing and doing various acrobats. They also tamed the lions by performing feats of strength and endurance, such as walking on glass, dancing on fire and lying on beds of nails. This ritualistic ceremony is called "Simb".” (html)

Maneless Lions in Senegal

Maneless lions have been reported in Senegal.  It is thought that the first lions were maneless, evolving 320,000–190,000 years ago.  The lions’ mane is a sign of sexual maturity and testosterone level, and as such has been sexually selected.  However, it is thought that the lack of mane in Senegal lions is an adaptation to its thorny habitat. (html)

A page from the Royal Natural History volume I, edited by Richard Lydekker (1893-1894)

Governing Body

Ministry of Environment and Conservation
Building administratif, 2ème étage
BP 4055, Dakar

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