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

Number of wild source lions estimated in international trade, 1999-2008:  520

Average annual wild source trade as percent of population size*:  2.2%
* Used average of Chardonnet (2002) and Bauer & van der Merwe (2004) studies

“Between 1999 and 2008, Zambia exported 567 lion specimens, the vast majority of which were trophies (498). This represents at least 530 lions (adding skins (29), live animals (3), and trophies (498)).  All but nine specimens (three live animals plus six trophies) were from wild sources.  The parts of at least 521 wild source lions were traded during the decade (adding wild source trophies (492) and skins (29)).  However, one of the trophies of wild source originated in South Africa; thus the total number of wild source lions of Zambian origin exported is 520. 

The main purpose of this trade was hunting trophies (470 of 567 specimens) and the U.S. was the main importer of these (262 of 470).  Only 26 specimens were traded for other purposes including personal, commercial and scientific.  Thus, it is of concern that 520 wild source lions were exported from Zambia during the decade; this is 22 percent of the population (520 of 2,350).  Annualized, these exports represent over 2 percent of the population.

Packer et al. (2009) discussed the historic over-utilization of lions in Southern Africa, stating that off-take 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 reflects declining population sizes: success rates (as measured by harvest/quota) have fallen” for lions (Packer et al., 2009).  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.  The steepest declines in lion harvests occurred in jurisdictions with the highest harvest intensities.  Packer et al. (2009) identified Zambia 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)

Packer C, Kosmala M, Cooley HS, Brink H, Pintea L, Garshelis D, Purchase G, Strauss M, Swanson A, Blame G, Hunter L, Nowell K (2009) Sport hunting, predator control and conservation of large carnivores. PLoS ONE 4(6): e5941. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005941 (pdf).


Lions in Culture


Governing Body

Department of National Parks and Wildlife
Private Bag 1

To download Zambia’s Conservation Strategy and Action Plan for the African Lion click here.

This conservation strategy and action plan for the African lion in Zambia will assist the country in ensuring that the long-term survival of the species is guaranteed based on stakeholder partnerships and harmonization of the needs of lion conservation and various facets of socio-economic development (including tourism). It is hoped that ZAWA will in the foreseeable future provide holistic population estimates and maintain viable populations in all the key lion range areas.


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