Latest lion population estimates

Throughout Africa many people and organizations are working to assess the numbers of lions in a variety of areas.  The most complete continent wide assessment showing the lion population in 2012 can be found here.  

On this page we will bring you the latest news as we get it about the remaining lions in Africa.  

In 2015 the IUCN stated that “The Lion population is inferred to have undergone a reduction of approximately 42% over the past 21 years (approximately three Lion generations, 1993-2014)” and estimated that fewer than 20,000 lions remain.

Bauer, H., Packer, C., Funston, PF, Henschel, P. & Nowell, K. 2015. Panthera leo. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2

February 2014:  Surveys of lions in protected areas in Zimbabwe yield disturbing results: what is driving the population collapse? 

Direct estimates of lion populations from surveys in Gonarezhou suggests a total population of 33 lions (95% CI 28–39).  In Tuli, no lions responded physically or vocally to calling stations, and no lion tracks were observed on the roads during 4 days of searching.

Biomass density of preferred lion prey in Gonarezhou was calculated to be 494 kg km−2, which could support 357 lions (7.2 per 100 km2).  Alternative calculation methods suggest the area could support 115 lions and 248 lions.

Groom RJ, Funston PJ, Mandisodza R (2014) Surveys of lions Panthera leo in protected areas in Zimbabwe yield disturbing results: what is driving the population collapse?  Oryx, available on CJO2014. doi:10.1017/S0030605312001457 (pdf)

January 2014:  The Lion in West Africa Is Critically Endangered (read online article here)

"Lions were confirmed in only 4 PAs ... results suggest that only 406 (273–605) lions remain in West Africa, representing <250 mature individuals. Confirmed lion range is estimated at 49,000 km2, or 1.1% of historical range in West Africa. PAs retaining lions were larger than PAs without lions and had significantly higher management budgets."

Estimates for four areas containing lions in West Africa were given as:

16 (0 - 54) in Niokolo-Koba NP, Senegal
356 (246 - 466) in W-Arly-Pendjari Lion Conservation Unit, Benin / Burkina Faso / Niger
32 (23 - 63) in Kainji Lake National Park, Nigeria
2 in Yankari Game Reserve, Nigeria

Henschel P, Coad L, Burton C, Chataigner B, Dunn A, et al. (2014) The Lion in West Africa Is Critically Endangered. PLoS ONE 9(1): e83500. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0083500

October 2013: King of Beasts Losing Ground in Uganda's Paradise (read online article here)

"According to the results of a recent survey, African lions in Uganda have decreased by more than 30 percent over the past 10 years in some areas of the country, mostly the result of poisoning by local cattle herders, retaliations for livestock predation, and other human-related conflicts. The downward trend in lion numbers has conservationists concerned about the species' long-term chances in the country, often described as the "Pearl of Africa" for its natural wonders." 

Estimates for five areas containing lions in Uganda given as:

144 +/-22 in Queen Elizabeth Protected Area
132 +/-24 in Murchison Falls Conservation Area
132 +/-77 in Kidepo Valley National Park
2-8 lions in Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve
up to 5 lions in Lake Mburo National Park

Edward Okot Omoya, Tutilo Mudumba, Stephen T. Buckland, Paul Mulondo, Andrew J. Plumptre. Estimating population sizes of lions Panthera leo and spotted hyaenas Crocuta crocuta in Uganda's savannah parks, using lure count methods. Oryx, 2013; : 1 DOI: 10.1017/S0030605313000112 (pdf)

For more on lions in Uganda click here.

March 2013: A study of lions in northwest Tete Province of Mozambique suggests 185 lions (range 136 - 227) exist in the region, down from a previous estimate of 295 lions made in 2009.

"In the west, lion range is continuous with Zambia along much of the Luangwa River. Range extends along most of Lake Cahora Bassa and expands northwards into pockets of Marávia and Chifunde districts. We suspect the lion range extends eastward into the neighboring Macanga and Chiuta districts as it is contiguous with habitat in Chifunde. Distribution should be viewed with caution, as presence was not confirmed in all locations. Interviews, particularly in northern Zumbo, northeast and southeast Chifunde, and northern Marávia, would increase confidence of the lion distribution in these areas. It is possible that lion range in these areas is overpredicted and the true amount of habitat is smaller.

Lion populations in Tete Province are likely isolated except in the west where they connect with lions in Zambia. Several villages on the western border with Zambia noted weekly lion presence, suggesting that a transfrontier lion population may exist. Lions may also disperse from our study area to/from Zimbabwe when they cross the Zambezi River (Gianetta Purchase 2011, pers. comm., Nov 22). However, it is unlikely that lion range connects to the rest of Mozambique (e.g., to Gorongosa National Park) because of extensive human populations and disturbance to the southeast of the study area.

Lions in Tete Province are likely remnants of a low-density population once continuous with and ecologically part of neighboring protected areas. Although it is possible that the population is composed entirely of nomads, or dispersers, from abutting protected areas (e.g., Lower Zambezi and Luangwa Valley National Parks) or the Zambezi valley floodplains, interviewees from two separate villages indicated seeing more than one lion and cubs. This suggests that the area has a resident lion population.

We estimate 185 lions in the study area with a range from 136 – 227. Our estimate of 185 lions is greater than previous estimates from more geographically comprehensive reports. However, it is less than the most recent estimate by Chardonnet et al., which suggested 507 lions for all of Tete Province with the majority, 295, concentrated in the study area. Any estimate of lion numbers relying on density extrapolations to suspected habitat must be viewed with an appropriate amount of caution. While we feel this number is the best estimate possible given the available data, we also recognize that our results may overestimate lion range, and in turn population size"

Jacobson AP, Cattau ME, Riggio JS, Petracca LS, Fedak DA (2013) Distribution and abundance of lions in northwest Tete Province, Mozambique. Tropical Conservation Science Vol. 6(1):87-107.  To read the full report click here.

For more on lions in Mozambique click here.