Publications on Lion Conservation

Threat analysis for more effective lion conservation

Hans Bauer, Amy Dickman, Guillaume Chapron, Alayne Oriol Cotterill, Samantha K. Nicholson, Claudio Sillero Zubiri, Luke Hunter, Peter Lindey and David W. Macdonald, 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Fauna & Flora International doi:10.1017/S0030605320000253

We use comparable 2005 and 2018 population data to assess threats driving the decline of lion Panthera leo populations, and review information on threats structured by problem tree and root cause analysis. We define 11 threats and rank their severity and prevalence.


Two threats emerged as affecting both the number of lion populations and numbers within them: 

  • livestock depredation leading to retaliatory killing of lions, and

  • bushmeat poaching leading to prey depletion.


Our data do not allow determination of whether any specific threat drives declines faster than others. Of 20 local extirpations, most were associated with armed conflicts as a driver of proximate threats. We discuss the prevalence and severity of proximate threats and their drivers, to identify priorities for more effective conservation of lions, other carnivores and their prey.

The New Lion Economy - Unlocking the value of lions and their landscapes

Stolton, S. and Dudley, N. 2019. The New Lion Economy. Unlocking

the value of lions and their landscapes, Equilibrium Research, Bristol, UK

The lion has become symbolic of the rapid economic growth experienced by some African countries. Labelled the ‘lion economies’ by policy makers and the press, commentators have had fun with wordplay related to ‘lions’, ‘prides’ and ‘roars’. But despite the iconic place that the lion holds in African society, and the conscious linking of economic development with the power of lions, there has been little notice taken of the risks that this development agenda brings for the lion itself. As conservationists we need to plan, govern and incentivise our actions effectively.


The focus of this report is on the last of these actions, providing effective incentives for lion conservation and an overview of the cumulative, often overlooked, benefits associated with the landscapes that lions inhabit across Africa. Relentless pressure for land use change is challenging traditional models of protection and conservation. But the more we remove or degrade natural ecosystems, the more we are likely to lose in terms of both ecosystem services and the associated economic and social benefits that they bring. 


This report provides evidence that lions are a perfect flagship or umbrella species on which to focus policy and development decisions. Investing in lion conservation confers a range of benefits which are outlined in the following pages.

Behavior-specific habitat selection by African lions may promote their persistence in a

human-dominated landscape

Suraci, J. P., L. G. Frank, A. Oriol-Cotterill, S. Ekwanga, T. M. Williams, and C. C. Wilmers.

2019. Behavior-specific habitat selection by African lions may promote their

persistence in a human-dominated landscape. Ecology 00(00):e02644. 10.1002/ecy.2644

Co-occurrence with humans presents substantial risks for large carnivores, yet human-dominated landscapes are increasingly crucial to carnivore conservation as human land use continues to encroach on wildlife habitat.


Flexibility in large carnivore behavior may be a primary factor mediating coexistence with people, allowing carnivores to calibrate their activity and habitat use to the perceived level of human risk. However, our understanding of how large carnivores adjust the timing and location of behaviors in response to variations in human activity across the landscape remains limited, impacting our ability to identify important habitat for populations outside of protected areas.


Here we examine whether African lions (Panthera leo) modify their behavior and habitat use in response to risk of a human encounter, and whether behavior-specific habitat selection allows lions to access feeding opportunities in a human-dominated landscape in Kenya. We determined fine-scale behavioral states for lions using high-resolution GPS and accelerometer data, and then investigated behavior-specific habitat selection at multiple temporal and spatial scales (ranging from 15 minutes to 12 hours and from approximately 200 meters to several kilometers). We found that lions exhibit substantial differences in habitat selection with respect to humans based on behavioral state and time of day. During the day, when risk of human encounter is highest, lions avoided areas of high human use when resting, meandering, and feeding. However, lions specifically selected for habitat near people when feeding at night. Flexible habitat use by lions thus permits access to prey, which appear to concentrate in areas near humans. The importance of habitat near people for feeding was only apparent when analyses explicitly accounted for lion behavioral state and spatiotemporal scale, highlighting the necessity of incorporating such information when investigating human impacts on large carnivore habitat use.


Our results support the contention that behavior-specific habitat selection promotes carnivore persistence in human-dominated landscapes, demonstrating the importance of considering not just whether but how large carnivores use habitat near humans when managing vulnerable populations.

Guideline for the Conservation of Lions in Africa

IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group. 2018. Guidelines for the Conservation of Lions in Africa. Version

1.0. Muri/Bern, Switzerland, 147 pages

A collection of concepts, best practice experiences and recommendations, compiled by the IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group on behalf of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).

The designation of geographical entities in this document, and the presentation of the material, do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of IUCN or the organisations of the authors and editors of the document concerning the legal status of any country, territory, or area, or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

Landscapes of Coexistence for terrestrial carnivores: the ecological consequences of being downgraded from ultimate to penultimate predator by humans

Alayne Oriol-Cotterill, Marion Valeix, Laurence G. Frank, Corinna Riginos and

David W. Macdonald

Oikos 124: 1263–1273, 2015

doi: 10.1111/oik.02224

Fear of predation can have major impacts on the behaviour of prey species. Recently the concept of the ecology of fear has been defined and formalised; yet there has been relatively little focus on how these ideas apply to large carnivore species which, although not prey sensu stricto, also experience fear as a result of threats from humans.


Large carnivores are likely also subject to a Landscape of Fear similar to that described for prey species. We argue that although fear is generic, ‘human-caused mortality’ represents a distinct and very important cause of fear for large carnivores, particularly terrestrial large carnivores as their activities overlap with those of humans to a greater degree.


We introduce the idea of a ‘Landscape of Coexistence’ for large carnivores to denote a subset of the Landscape of Fear where sufficient areas of low human- caused mortality risk are present in the landscape for long term coexistence of large carnivores and humans. We then explore aspects of terrestrial large carnivore behavioural ecology that may be best explained by risk of human-caused mortality, and how the nature of a Landscape of Coexistence for these large carnivores is likely to be shaped by specific factors such as habitat structure, wild and domestic prey base, and human distribution and behaviour. The human characteristics of this

Landscape of Coexistence may be as important in determining large carnivore distribution and behavioural ecology as the distribution of resources.


Understanding the Landscape of Coexistence for terrestrial large carnivores is therefore important for their biology and conservation throughout large parts of their remaining ranges.

Spatiotemporal patterns of lion space use in a human-dominated landscape

A. Oriol-Cotterill, D. W. Macdonald, M. Valeix, S. Ekwanga, L. G. Frank,

Published online

MS. number: 14-00512R

0003-3472/© 2014 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

The African lion, Panthera leo, is threatened throughout much of its remaining range by human impacts such as loss of prey, habitat fragmentation and direct human-caused mortality, often in response to livestock predation. Lions' ability to adjust their behaviour to reduce direct contact with humans may affect their survival.


We used fine-scale GPS data to measure lions' response to humans at two scales:

between land use types (commercial ranches versus pastoral lands) and with proximity to human occupied locations (i.e. livestock enclosures: ‘bomas’) within commercial ranch land.


Study lions on commercial ranches reacted to the location and activity levels of humans on the local scale, showing no overall spatial avoidance but fine-scale temporal partitioning in their use of areas in close proximity to bomas, being closest at times when human activity was lowest (i.e. between 2300 and 0500 hours). At the land use scale, however, lions showed significant (but not total) spatial avoidance of pastoral land, despite similar prey densities and habitat structure on both land use types, indicating that lions' ability to utilize pastoral land was limited by pastoral people. When lions did utilize pastoral land, they were more likely to do so during the dark hours, when people were confined to bomas, than during the daylight hours. Lions moved faster and straighter in pastoral lands and when close to bomas, indicating that they adjust ‘how’ they move in response to humans. They were found closer to bomas with increasing rainfall and decreasing moonlight.


Overall, lion movements suggested an ability to partition their activities spatiotemporally with those of humans such that risk of human-caused mortality was minimized while use of a human-dominated landscape was maximized.