The best way to protect lions going forward is to preserve and protect habitat. This is by no means a cheap exercise estimated that to conserve Africa’s lions going forward an estimated $1.3 billion is needed annually.
Whilst many countries provided areas for wildlife in the past, these land tracts are quickly being ‘eaten up’ by an ever increasing human population. Even where land is not converted in to agriculture or development, humans are coming in to close quarters with lions by literally living on the boundaries of parks and where there are no physical boundaries such as a fence, human- lion conflict is inevitable and is probably one of the biggest contributors to lion population decline.
Human – lion conflict occurs when livestock becomes a target species for lions under increased pressure from humans encroaching on lion habitat and also coupled with the increase in the illegal bush meat trade which further depletes lions prey species and also kills lions and other animals in wire snares which are indiscriminate in who they target.
On the rise is also the demand for lion body parts in the far east which is seeing the start of an increase in lions being poached. Together with the illegal bush meat trade these ‘silent killers’ are extremely difficult to quantify what impact they are having on the lion population as many of these killings go undetected.
Trophy hunting of lions although not the biggest threat that lions face contributes to the decline of lion populations especially in areas where quotas are set too high and the ability to monitor the situation on the ground is too difficult. This is especially the case when too many male lions are on the quotas and unscrupulous hunters and hunting outfitters, who go largely unchecked by authorities, do whatever they want in the field and put pressure on already compromised populations. Anecdotal evidence has shown that lions in their prime who still have tenure over prides are shot and sometimes more than one male lion is shot on a safari because down the line a bigger trophy male is happened upon. The smaller, less impressive male is simply thrown in the bush or buried and no one is any wiser as to what has transpired.
In Africa only 6 countries have more than 1000 lions. They are Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa.
The total lion population in Africa is thought to be between 15 000 and 20 000 individuals, occupying only 8% of their former historical range and showing more than a 40% decline over the past 2 decades.
In West Africa, Central Africa and East Africa the lion population is on the decline whilst we are seeing a population increase in most of Southern Africa. Whilst it is the Illegal bush meat trade and Habitat Loss that seems to be the lions biggest threat in West and Central Africa it is Human-Lion conflict together with Habitat Loss that is the biggest threat in East Africa.
In Southern Africa, Human-Lion conflict and the Illegal bush meat Trade are the biggest threats even though populations are showing growth.
Lions are extinct in 26 African countries and still exist in 27 African countries and in India.
Lions are currently listed as "Vulnerable" on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. In West Africa, lions are classified as "Critically Endangered.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora’ (CITES) lists the Asiatic lion on Appendix I and all others on Appendix II, which allows for trade.