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Lions at a glance

Lions are classed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List – but some African populations are classed as critically endangered, alongside the endangered Asiatic lion.

Leon Molenaar
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
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How much lion populations have decreased since the late 1990s.

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As few as 20,000 lions remain in Africa today.

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Average number of lions killed by humans each year.

Lion Species and Status

Yaron Schmid
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Lions are typically split into two sub-species – those on the African continent (Panthera leo) and those on the Asiatic continent (Panthera leo persica). However, since 2017, there has been some recognition of a further sub-species formed of distinct populations in east and southern Africa, known as the ‘southern lion’ (Panthera leo melanochaita). More generally, most African lions and the Asiatic species sit under the Panthera leo name – despite significant genetic differences.

Other unique populations and sub-species, such as the Cape and Barbary lions are now extinct (the last being killed in 1858 and 1942 respectively).

All lions are classed as vulnerable on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. They are also cited on the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Appendix II. This means that if the trade of lion parts and products isn’t closely controlled or banned soon, they will be threatened with extinction.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Matt Armstrong-Ford

“The David of the bible killed a lion before Goliath, to prove his worth. For this David, the giant challenge is saving the lion from extinction.”

David Shepherd
Matt Armstrong-Ford
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation Donate to Lions

How to Protect Wild Lion Populations

Wild lion populations need to be protected from human-predator conflict.

Outside of national parks and wildlife conservancies, lion populations are declining, fast. Lions being killed to protect livestock, or in concern to their proximity to human settlements is a significant aspect driving this decline. This can be brought on by human encroachment into lion habitat, or through climate change – such as recent droughts decimating more typical prey populations. By creating cheap and efficient predator-proof fencing, putting adequate insurance schemes in place, and promoting educational programmes that alleviate deeply rooted fears and superstitions, human-predator conflict can be turned into human-predator co-existence.

Unfortunately, lions are also targeted by the illegal wildlife trade. With wild tiger populations at their lowest levels ever, their scarcity means lion parts and products are being used as a substitute, with demand soaring. Lion skins, bones, and other parts are also highly valued in their own right, due to the same historic associations the species has with strength and valour – making them a prized ingredient in both traditional African and Asian medicinal practices.

Lions are also a targeted species as a big game animal, hunted for trophies and sport. Breeding ranches where captive lions are bred for ‘canned hunting’, also tied to a tourist trade of providing cubs for photo opportunities, drives demand for wild lions and confuses the real-world picture of the state of wild lion populations. Limiting or banning hunting, including the import of trophies, could protect vulnerable lion populations in decline.

You can also help protect lions in the wild by donating through DSWF, and having the conversation about conservation with others.

A worrying decline.

In just twenty years, lion populations across Africa have been reduced by 43%. Their remaining numbers are estimated to be between 20-23,000. However, 75% of current lion populations are experiencing decline. If they continue along this trajectory, lions could be extinct in the wild as soon as 2050.

You can safeguard the future of lions by adopting one today and helping fund our vital projects on the front line of lion conservation.

Matt Armstrong-Ford
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Decreasing geographic distribution

Lions now occupy only 20% of their historic range

Lion Art

David Shepherd spent a significant portion of his working life in Africa, and lions feature heavily in his artwork. From David Shepherd originals to limited prints and pieces by our partner artists, you’ll find many works depicting the king of beasts in our shop. 50% of all proceeds go directly to our conservation partners fighting to save endangered species.

Look out for our ‘Artist of the Month’ and ‘Art for Animals’ special events that often feature specific pieces centred around our chosen species.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Surya Ramachandran

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All donations will help us continue our vital work conservation work to protect endangered species and turn the tide on extinction.

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