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

Lions have no legal protection in Swaziland

Number of wild source lions estimated in international trade, 1999-2008:  7
Average annual wild source trade as percent of population size*:  3.3%
* Used average of Chardonnet (2002) and Bauer & van der Merwe (2004) studies

“Between 1999 and 2008 Swaziland exported 46 live lions to South Africa for breeding and circus / travelling exhibition purposes: seven were from wild sources (all for breeding purposes), 30 from captive-bred sources and nine from captive-born sources.  In addition, one trophy from a wild source lion that originated in South Africa was exported to Greece for personal purposes.  This means that at least seven wild lions of Swazi origin were exported during the decade; this is 33 percent of the population (7 of 21).  Annualized, these exports represent 3 percent of the population.  Swaziland has such a small population of lions that even this number cannot be sustainable.”

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

In Swazi culture, the lion is associated with the King.  The new Royal Standard of Swaziland (since 1986, under King Mswati III) replaced that which was used under the former King’s reign (King Sobhuza II).  The lion featured on both flags and is the symbol of Swazi kingship. The King himself can be called Ingwenyama, meaning ‘lion’.  The main difference between the old and new Royal Standard flags is the position of the lion.   On the new flag, the lion faces its audience with all four legs on the ground.  On the older version, the lion faced to the right, and had its’ front left leg raised off the ground.


The ‘new’ Royal Standard (1986 - )                                                                                        The Royal Coat of Arms

Swaziland’s royal coat of arms depicts a lion and also an elephant holding a Nguni shield for protection.    The inscription Siyinqaba means “we are the fortress”.  The crown of feathers above the shield is normally worn during the harvest festival (Ncwala).  The royal coat of arms is emblazoned on the national currency.

The song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” released in 1961 by The Tokens, was originally entitled ‘Mbube’ (meaning ‘lion’).  This was a Zulu hunting song from Swaziland (html)

At the time of summer solstice (December – January), Incwala is the most sacred ceremony of the Swazi takes place.  This symbolizes renewed strength and growth.  The King’s elaborate ritual dress made of animal skin includes a headband made from lion’s skin, which he wears under a head-dress of long black feathers. (html)


Governing Body

Swaziland Environment Authority (SEA)
Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Communications
PO Box 2652
Email: (html)


“To ensure that Swaziland’s development is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable, by means of promoting sound environmental policies, practices and development, which meets appropriate national and international standards.”

 “The main objective for SEA is to ensure that the environment in the Kingdom of Swaziland is treated in a proper way now and in the future.  "Environment" means, without being limited to, the atmosphere, water in all its forms, land, soil and subsoil, flora, fauna, energy sources, mineral, topographical formations with energy potential, geothermal resources, living resources, landscape resources and other elements, and factors such as residues, garbage, waste and refuse, noise, living conditions in human settlements, and man-made products. SEA controls that the environment is treated properly and monitors the development in the state of the environment.”

Lions in the News




Facilitated Research

Join us