“You know you are truly alive when you’re living among lions” Karen Blixen
400,000 lions were believed to exist in Africa in the 1950s. In 2013 it was estimated that 32,000 remain with “abundant evidence of widespread declines and local extinctions” even in protected areas. In 2015 the IUCN stated “we have greater confidence in the estimate of fewer than 20,000 lions in Africa than in a number over 30,000”, and estimated a decline of 43% in the 21 years from 1993 to 2014.
The African lion is subject to increasing threats from human activities. The species has evolved social and reproductive behaviours that require space, the greatest threat, therefore, being an increasing human population and the subsequent conflict with lions as a result of land conversion and prey base depletion to meet the needs of people. Humans, however, have induced additional threats by introducing disease, unsustainable trophy hunting practices, and the impacts of climate change to lions, whose populations continue to decline.
African lion populations might still exist in theoretical numbers to support their conservation status as “vulnerable” by IUCN standards, but analyses of population structure, geographical fragmentation, risks from inbreeding depression and subsequent loss of evolutionary potential, and probable/actual disease threats, provide many additional causes for concern for the long-term viability of this species.
The conservation of wild lions in their natural range must remain at the core of efforts to ensure viable populations of lions are maintained as an integral part of functional ecosystems. To that end, ALERT engages in and supports projects to:
- protect and restore habitat for lions;
- assess and monitor population size and health;
- mitigate the conflict between lions and communities;
- improve our understanding of lion ecology and behaviour, and;
- assist wildlife authorities to develop and implement appropriate policies to conserve lions.
Our responsible development approach also ensures that our lion conservation efforts extend beyond the species itself to incorporate inter-related ecological, social and economic issues.