Historic & present range
Laetoli - First interactions between humans and lions
Fossils discovered at Laetoli in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania, revealed that early humans and lions were co-occurring around 3.5 million years ago. The world-famous site of Laetoli is not only famous for its hominin footprints, preserved in volcanic ash, but fossils of lions, hyaena, baboon, giraffe, rhino, birds and many more!
Extinction in Europe
Lions were once widespread across most of Africa and even parts of Europe and Asia. Lions even once lived in the South of Greece - check out the red dots on the map displaying the location of confirmed lion remains. The orange and yellow dots are locations according to ancient Greek authors resp. Greek legends.
Lions became extinct in Greece approximately 3,000 years ago. It’s difficult to know exactly why, but there were likely multiple causes. Key threats included over-exploitation, particularly hunting for sport and entertainment, There are still some free-ranging lions outside Africa, though, with perhaps 650 Asiatic lions still found in India’s 1,400 km² Gir Forest National Park and surrounding areas.
Decline to 8% of range
Sadly, African lions have also undergone catastrophic declines in Africa, from as many as 200,000 wild lions a century ago to about 20,000 today. As a result, African lions are now confined to a number of isolated areas as shown on the map on the right, amounting to only about 8% of its historic range (left). Much of this decline in distribution and numbers has been due to habitat loss, the loss of wild prey and conflict with local people.
Presence outside formally protected areas
African lions live on both protected and private lands - although protected areas are critically important, a considerable extent of remaining lion range is in unprotected areas, where they co-occur with people and livestock. To secure the future of lions and other large carnivores in the wild, we must therefore make their conservation valuable to the people who share the landscape with them.
Camera-trap image of a lioness passing by, only 3 minutes after a herd of cattle. There was no conflict reported, showing that people, livestock and lions can often coexist without even being aware of each others’ presence
Unlocking the benefits of living with wildlife
Wildlife has immense global value, but this is rarely channelled to local people most affected by its presence. We are working with local communities to find meaningful ways of incentivising the conservation of their wildlife and wild places.
Our programmes have so far delivered wildlife-related benefits to over 250,000 people, which we are very proud of. We focus on what is most important for local people, so for example we have developed a ‘porridge project’ to provide food to over 1,000 school children daily, improving both attendance and attainment at local primary schools.