By: BioDB Team - a group tasked with collecting conservation data, raising awareness for biodiversity loss and fundraising.
Imagine you're in Africa, where the land seems endless, and the sunsets are like artwork in the sky. Here, there's an animal that's like royalty in the wild—a lion. It's famous for its big mane and how it grabs our attention. But there's a surprising story behind this grand creature.
Photo credit to Flickr, “Male Lion on Rock” by William Warby, used under CC BY 2.0
In Africa's vast wilderness, where grasslands stretch for miles, lions are the "Kings of the Jungle." But they're facing some big problems. This article will explore what's happening with lions right now. We'll talk about why their numbers are decreasing, what's causing it, and what people are doing to help. Plus, we'll see how we can save these amazing animals.
Lions, scientifically known as Panthera leo, are originally from Africa, where they used to roam across the continent. But today, lions live in smaller groups in various parts of sub-Saharan Africa. A vital organisation, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), has given them a concerning status—they are now listed as "Vulnerable" on the Red List of Threatened Species. This label strongly signals that the King of the Jungle is in a tough spot.  
In addition to African lions, another group is known as Asiatic lions (Panthera leo persica). These lions once roamed a much larger area, from the Middle East to India. However, their numbers have dwindled significantly, and now they are mainly found in the Gir Forest of India. Asiatic lions face similar challenges to their African cousins, making their situation equally worrisome. 
Over the last century, lions have faced a remarkable decline in their numbers. Picture this: Back in the early 1900s, there may have been a roaring 200,000 lions in the wild. Fast forward to today, and it's a sobering reality check. The lion's pride has dwindled to a mere 20,000 individuals, and some experts go further, painting an even more alarming picture, hinting at the possibility that only a meagre 13,000 may be left to walk the Earth.
The Royal Battle for Survival
Lions face significant challenges that are affecting their survival. One big problem is that their homes, where they live and hunt, are getting smaller because of things people do, like building cities and farms and changing the climate. Today, lions can only be found in about 8% of the places they used to live. Many lions have to live in particular protected areas, but these areas are like islands, and it's hard for lions to find each other and have babies. This can lead to problems like inbreeding and disease. Also, because there are fewer places to hunt, the animals that lions usually eat are getting scarce.
Another problem is that sometimes lions come into areas where people live, leading to conflicts. Lions might attack livestock, like cows and goats, which people rely on for food and money. When this happens, people might get angry and hurt or even kill lions to protect their animals.
For lions, climate change is a major threat in the 21st century. "In recent decades, we've seen more extreme weather events like droughts, floods, heatwaves, and storms. These events are linked to the growing carbon emissions caused by humans and the destruction of natural systems that absorb carbon. This climate change problem is very real and has the power to disrupt ecosystems, leading to food shortages, less prey for lions, water problems, changes in animal migrations, and more conflicts between people and wildlife.
Photo credits to Rawpixel, “African Lion (2011)” by Mehgan Murphy used under CC0 1.0
Lastly, there are people who hunt lions for their body parts, like their skin, teeth, and claws. This is a big threat to lions, even though most lions are killed because of conflicts with people. Also, there's a growing problem where people eat wild animals, including the animals that lions usually hunt. This can lead to less food for lions and more danger from traps set for these animals.
Conservation efforts to safeguard lions take on various forms, each playing a pivotal role in ensuring the survival of these magnificent creatures. First and foremost, there's a focus on mitigating human-wildlife conflict. Initiatives aim to bridge the gap between communities and lions, fostering coexistence by implementing strategies that protect livestock and reduce the risk to both lions and people.
Scientific research and data are the foundation of informed conservation. Researchers tirelessly gather information about lion populations, their behaviors, and their health. This data helps conservationists make evidence-based decisions, ensuring their efforts are effective and sustainable.
Tracking cats for conservation is another vital strategy. Using advanced technology like GPS collars, scientists can monitor the movements and territories of lions. This information not only aids in understanding their behavior but also assists in identifying crucial corridors for migration and potential conflict hotspots. These efforts collectively contribute to the overarching goal of securing a brighter future for lions in the wild.
What Can We Do?
Individual actions wield significant influence in the realm of lion conservation. While conservation organizations and governments shoulder substantial responsibilities, individuals can be powerful allies. You provide crucial financial backing by supporting reputable lion conservation groups through donations or involvement in fundraising campaigns. Additionally, raising awareness about lion conservation through social media or within your local community helps educate others about the challenges these majestic creatures face and why their survival is imperative.
When visiting areas where lions roam, selecting responsible tour operators and accommodations that prioritise ethical wildlife practices is vital. Being a mindful consumer by avoiding products derived from lion parts or other endangered wildlife is another impactful choice.
In the face of mounting challenges, the fate of the lion, that emblem of wild majesty, hangs in the balance. Yet, as we've explored the trials that beset these magnificent creatures, we've also unveiled a glimmer of hope—a hope that lies in the collective efforts of individuals, conservation organisations, and governments. The journey to secure the lion's place in the wild is a complex and urgent one. It requires not just awareness but action, not just concern but commitment. The responsibility to safeguard these iconic animals rests not solely on the shoulders of a few but on the hearts and hands of many. As we look to the horizon, let us remember that the legacy we leave should not be one of decline and loss but rather of resilience, restoration, and renewal. The lion, that enduring symbol of the untamed spirit, calls upon us to rise as stewards of our planet, to protect the wild places it calls home, and to ensure that its mighty roar continues to echo through the ages. In our small and significant choices, we can write a new chapter—one where humanity stands as the guardian, not the threat, of this regal species. It's a chapter that speaks not only of a lion's survival but of our capacity for compassion, responsibility, and preserving the world's wild wonders.
 Bauer, H., Packer, C., Funston, P.F., Henschel, P. & Nowell, K. 2016. Panthera leo (errata version published in 2017). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T15951A115130419. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T15951A107265605.en
 Lion. (2023, September 13). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lion
 Asiatic lion. (2023, September 11). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asiatic_lion