Pieter's Blog

Welcome to Pieter Kat's official LionAid blog. Here you can follow Pieter's opinions, thoughts, insights and ideas on saving lions.

 LionAid - Scientific estimate of lion populations in Africa


A recent publication by researchers at Duke University estimated 32,000 lions remain on the African continent. This was based on extrapolation of lion populations into remote sensing data of available savanna habitats. The Duke University estimate corresponds well with estimates made in 2002 by two independent groups, and is lower than published estimates in 2006 made by delegates at two IUCN lion range state conferences.


LionAid has made a new assessment based on various publications since 2006, our lion range state conference in March 2012 and our Conservation Perception Rank of 17 lion range states. LionAid estimates that of 49 continental African nations,  lions are extinct in 25 (51%), virtually extinct in 10 (20%), and only have some possible future in 14 (28%). Only five populations number over 1,000 lions and these are located in Tanzania/Kenya (3), South Africa (1) and Botswana/Zimbabwe (1). Uniquely genetically distinct western and central African lions are virtually extinct.


LionAid estimates that 645-795 wild lions remain in western and central Africa and that 14,450 wild lions remain in eastern and southern Africa -  for a continental total of 15,244 wild lions.


This is 58% lower than 2006 IUCN estimates that optimistically considered viable lion populations remaining in Somalia, Chad, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. LionAid perhaps more realistically considers these populations extinct or likely to be extinct in the next few years. Of 20 western and central African lion locations identified in 2006, LionAid  and others estimate that lions are extinct in 13 areas. Of 66 eastern and southern African lion locations identified in 2006, LionAid  estimates that lions are extinct in 21 areas.


LionAid believes that lion populations have declined for a variety of reasons including habitat loss; destruction of natural prey due to poaching for households and the bush meat trade; human/livestock/predator conflict;  impact of diseases like canine distemper, bovine tuberculosis and feline immunodeficiency virus; illegal wildlife trade in lion products and live animals; excessive trophy hunting.


LionAid acknowledges that lions are the only large cat species not given adequate protection status by international organizations like CITES and the IUCN. LionAid acknowledges that some major conservation organizations still believe that trophy hunting of lions can contribute to this species’ conservation. LionAid has long insisted that lion conservation will need equal attention to that awarded tigers and rhinos for example. Perhaps with this publication of realistic lion population numbers in Africa there will be a change in present complacency towards this species’ conservation needs.


Click here to access the full article, including the lists of all continental Afican countries where wild lion populations still exist, all continental African countries where wild lions only exist in small, scattered populations (or might already be extinct in 2012) and all continental African countries where wild lions are already extinct.


Picture credit: David Lloyd Wildlife Photography 


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Posted by Pieter Kat at 17:03

Moos Moos
9th January 2013 at 18:57

Hi, the difference between your estimate and that of Riggio and colleagues is quite considerable still (about 47%); where did they make mistakes in your opinion, because they already had been more conservative in their estimates than IUCN in 2006.

Chris Macsween
9th January 2013 at 22:31

Riggio wrote a Masters Degree thesis at Duke University on lion numbers. He included some estimates from people like Philip Henschel from western African countries and some of his own data from Mozambique. But largely, Riggio accepted numbers proposed by delegates from the two IUCN conferences held in 2005 and 2006. The latest figures to come from Duke University were based on extrapolation of lions into savannah habitats as detected by remote sensing. Our estimates are based on real data and a Conservation Perception Rating for African lion range States e.g. any range State that does not have a functioning Government, a Wildlife Department, high levels of poverty and a high Failed States Index will not be able to conserve any wildlife. Riggio felt that there could be lions remaining in Somalia. We believe there are none given that the areas where lions are supposed to occur have seen invasion by the Kenyan army, a huge number of refugees and no conservation presence from the non existent Somali Government.

Moos Moos
10th January 2013 at 21:33

Many thanks for the additional explanation

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