Home Species We Protect Lions Threats to Lions
Riccardo Maywald
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Threats to Lions

In just 20 years African lion populations have fallen by nearly 50% and as few as 20,000 remain in the wild today. Now extinct in 24 of their former range states and 94% of their historic range, there is an urgent need to address the threats faced by this iconic species before it’s too late.

Lions were once abundant throughout Africa and have long been an icon of the African landscape. Sadly, populations are continuing to fall, and they need protection now more than ever.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Will Fortescue

The Four Main Threats to Lions

Surya Ramachandran
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Habitat Destruction

As human populations expand, agricultural land and human settlements are rapidly increasing. Change in land use from human pressure is leaving lion populations isolated, reducing their habitats and the habitats of their prey species. The fragmentation of lion habitats across Africa means their populations are disconnected, reducing genetic diversity, and providing an additional barrier to the recovery of this iconic species.

Illegal Wildlife Trade

A newer concern facing wild lion populations is the rapid growth of lion poaching to fuel the consumptive trade in lion bones from Asia. Used as a substitute for tiger bones, lion parts and derivatives are perceived to hold medicinal and curative values and are used in traditional Asian medicines.

Although poaching is still illegal in South Africa, the government allow a 1,600 per year international export quota for lion skeletons from captive breeding facilities.

These exports continue to stimulate demand and incentivise poaching, pushing lion populations closer to the edge of extinction.


Theo Bromfield
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Human-Wildlife Conflict

As habitats shrink, lions are pushed into closer proximity with communities and livestock. Due to a lack of prey, lions are forced to feed on livestock, prompting retaliatory killings from humans.

Climate Change

Will Fortescue
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

In the last few decades, we have already begun to witness an increase in extreme weather events such as droughts, flooding, heatwaves, and storms as human-induced carbon emissions continue to grow at alarming rates and natural carbon sinks are destroyed. Climate change is a very real environmental problem with the scale and scope to affect various ecosystems causing famine, reductions in prey species, access to water, changes in migratory patterns and increases in human wildlife conflict.

Climate change poses one of the largest threats to lion populations in the 21st Century and, if left unchecked, could have serious implications on the survival of this iconic species.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

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