African lion - Facts & Figures
Did you know we have lost 90% of wild lions over the past century? If we don't help protect the landscapes that lions live in, it won't be long before they become extinct in the wild. We can't let that happen. Learn more about lions and what we do to save them.
DID YOU KNOW?
Over 50% wild lions remaining today share their landscape with people, outside formally protected areas like national parks.
Lions can survive outside fenced areas within pastoral regions if communities gain benefits from wildlife. This principle lies at the heart of all our conservation efforts.
Today, only 6 countries are known to each contain over 1.000 lions and only 10 areas have been identified as offering lions a secure future of lions. Lion Landscapes operates in 3 of these countries: Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia.
The territories of lions can spread over hundreds of kilometers: that is why they need protection at a landscape scale.
Lions can live almost anywhere, having been recorded in open grasslands, woodlands, thick bush, and thick, scrubby areas, provided sufficient prey is available. Read more about their habitat requirements.
Male lions stay in their birth pride for about two years and then are kicked-out. These dispersing males are vulnerable to conflict with people in their search for a territory of their own.
Related lionesses in a pride will communally protect and suckle each others cubs, sharing the burden of childcare.
Play is incredibly important to lion cub development. They learn vital hunting skills through wrestling and stalking each other.
Lions are highly social cats, living in prides of up to 40 members. Each female tends to stay in her birth pride, whereas most young males leave the pride in small groups (coalitions) to create their own.
The African lion is a member of the genus Panthera, joining tigers, jaguars and leopards. What is special about this genus is that all species are able to roar.
A lion's roar can be heard 5 miles (or 8 km) away. Male lions use their roar to scare off other males and to warn members of the pride of potential danger.
Although lions are apex predators, at the top of the food chain, they aren’t great hunters. The success rate of hunts is less than 30%.
The average weight of a male lion is 180kg and that of a female lion 130kg. This is 40-50x the weight of a domestic cat!
When first born, vulnerable cubs are kept safely hidden by their mothers in a thick and dense habitat for up to 6 weeks.
Lion cubs will have lots of friends in their pride. Lionesses synchronise their fertility cycles, resulting in cubs being born around the same time.
Lions can be found on beaches, especially in Tananzia's Saadani National Park and on Namibia's Skeleton Coast. And in Namibia you can even find desert-adapted lions. Read more about lion habitat requirements.
Historic and present lion range
The African lion was once widespread across most of Africa and even parts of Europe and Asia. Sadly, African lions have since undergone catastrophic declines, from as many as 200,000 wild lions in Africa a century ago to about 24,000 today.
As a result, African lions are now confined to a number of isolated areas as shown on the map (in red), amounting to only about 8% of its historic range. Much of this shrinking distribution has been due to illegal hunting and habitat destruction.
IUCN Population Status of African lion
The population status of the African lion according to the IUCN Red list of Endangered species is Vulnerable, population decreasing. This means they have a high risk of extinction in the wild. There are regional differences and IUCN assesses lion population status in East Africa as Endangered.
The need for coexsistence
Today, over 50% of the wild lions remaining live in unprotected range lands, shared with people and livestock. To secure lions and other large carnivores in the wild, we must therefore make their conservation valuable to the people who share the landscape with them. We work with local communities and conservation partners to create landscapes where both large carnivores and local people can thrive. Read more about our innovative Coexistence Co-op Program.
Viable lion populations need Lion Landscapes
Viable populations of wild lions, or any other pinnacle carnivore species, need a healthy habitat, abundant wild prey populations and tolerant people and livestock. This is what we call a Lion Landscape. Our lion conservation and research work focusses on how local communities, their livestock and lions can co-exist in a lion landscape. Learn how collaring lions helps to protect them.
African lions prefer wild prey
The preferred prey of African lions are medium and large herbivores like wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, gemsbok and giraffe. Due to the large size of these species, lions often require teamwork to take them down.
However, when wild prey populations decrease, lions turn to livestock which creates human-wildlife conflict. Our Co-existence programmes help local communities to better protect their livestock to avoid predation.
REDD+ and lions
Did you know that REDD+ is improving biodiversity in Zambia and protecting one of the remaining strongholds of African lions?
In Zambia we have partnered with BioCarbon Partners, the Lion Recovery Fund, National Geographic's Big Cats Initiative and the Darwin Initiative to develop Lion Carbon - a premium carbon offset, which gives local communities meaningful income in return for long-term wildlife and habitat protection agreements.
Giving biodiversity value to local people and increasing the capacity to sustainably manage that diversity is at the core of this program.