• Status
  • Population
    around 20,000 - 25,000
  • Scientific Name
    Panthera Leo
  • Weight
    242 – 599 pounds
  • Length
    53 – 98 inches
  • Habitats
    savannas, shrublands, and semi-arid deserts

Throughout history, lions have been admired as a symbol of power, strength, and courage. Previously, lions roamed throughout all of Africa and parts of Asia and Europe. However, this mighty species is now found only in fragments of sub-Saharan Africa, along with a critically endangered subpopulation in West Africa and a small population of Asiatic lions in India’s Gir National Park. Three of the five largest lion populations can be found in Tanzania.

The vast majority of lions live south of the Sahara. Since lions are extremely adaptable big cats, they can survive in a wide variety of habitats, including dry forests, thick bush, floodplains, and semi-arid desert areas. However, they typically prefer open savannas where it is easier to stalk their prey.

Compared to other big cat species, lions are the most sociable. They live in groups called prides, which can consist of anywhere from two to 30 members, including three or four males, a dozen or more females, and their offspring. Lionesses remain with the same pride for their entire lives. Male lions, on the other hand, leave after maturing to compete for control of another pride. Leading males defend their territory by marking it with urine and roaring to scare off intruders. A lion’s roar can be heard from five miles away and is also a show of power between males.

Within their pride, female lions act as the primary hunters and work in teams to prey on zebras, wildebeests, antelope, and other large herbivores. Lions sleep up to 20 hours a day, so most of their hunting is done at night or early in the morning. This is because their eyes easily adapt to the dark, and it is easier to sneak up on prey at night.

Along with hunting for the pride, female lions are responsible for raising their offspring. They typically give birth to a litter every two years, which consists of one to four cubs.

The IUCN estimates that between 23,000 to 39,000 lions remain in the wild. However, other data from recent years suggests that that number may be closer to 20,000, as three-quarters of their population is in decline. Although lions are not currently endangered, population numbers will continue to decrease without proper conservation efforts.

Living with wild lions

Herders, rangers, and researchers share insights into living with free-roaming lions and measures like early warning systems that help keep people, livestock, and lions safe.

Lion Ranger Jendery Tsaneb sits under a tree and talks about human wildlife coexistence in Namibia

Why They Matter

  • Lions are apex predators of the African savanna. This means they play a pivotal role in sustaining healthy ecosystems by maintaining balanced numbers of herbivores, such as zebras and wildebeests.

  • Without top carnivores like lions, herbivore populations will increase unchecked. This will lead to overgrazing, and in turn degrade habitats.

  • Protecting lions helps to protect the broader landscape, which in turn benefits the people who rely on local natural resources.

  • In sub-Saharan African countries, lions help to generate over 200 million USD per year through wildlife tourism as people gather to see the “king of the jungle” in their natural habitat. Lion conservation projects are not only vital to sustain the species, they also bring in income and create employment opportunities for rural communities.


  • Population around 20,000 - 25,000
  • Extinction Risk Vulnerable
    1. EX

      No reasonable doubt that the last individual has died

    2. EW
      Extinct in the Wild

      Known only to survive in cultivation, in captivity or as a naturalised population

    3. CR
      Critically Endangered

      Facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the Wild

    4. EN

      Facing a high risk of extinction in the Wild

    5. VU

      Facing a high risk of extinction in the Wild

    6. NT
      Near Threatened

      Likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future

    7. LC
      Least Concern

      Does not qualify for Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, or Near Threatened

Habitat Loss

Lions ’ ranges have been dramatically reduced due to human land use and climate change. Today they inhabit only 8% of their former range. Many lions live outside of protected areas, and as their habitat has become more fragmented, many lion populations have become increasingly isolated into protected areas. The increase in unsustainable development also leaves herbivores with little space for grazing in the savanna, and they often must compete with livestock for resources. As a result, populations of lions’ natural prey are in decline.

Fragmentation of habitat leaves lions in isolated areas, making it harder for them to breed. When lion movements are restricted, they are prone to inbreeding, which decreases genetic diversity. This can cause disease to spread more rapidly between prides. Fragmented habitats also increase lions’ vulnerability, as they are forced to disperse through human-dominated landscapes to find other lion populations and resources.

Human-Wildlife Conflict

Over the last 50 years, the global economy has grown nearly fourfold and global trade has grown tenfold, together dramatically increasing the demand for energy and materials. This has left humans and lions to compete for space and resources. When their food source becomes depleted, lions frequently disperse over large ranges in search of prey, sometimes leaving protected areas. When lions move into human-dominated areas, they pose a risk to communities by preying on domestic livestock and potentially harming or killing people. Communities depend on their livestock for survival and often kill lions in retaliation or to prevent conflict.

Human-wildlife conflict can create resentment towards lions and affect peoples’ tolerance for conservation efforts. Supporting communities by sharing resources is an important step to creating a healthy coexistence between lions and people.

Poaching and Illegal Wildlife Trade

A recent study led by Panthera suggests that the targeted poaching of lions for their skin, teeth, claws, and bones accounts for 35% of known human-related lion killings. However, retaliatory killings from human-lion conflict is still their main threat.

With human interaction with lions growing, consumption of urban bushmeat – meat from wild animals – is also increasing. The bushmeat trade poses several threats for lions as their prey is poached for the commercial sale of meat. Lion population numbers are heavily linked to the density of their prey populations. As prey populations decrease, so does the number of lions. In search of food, lions often become trapped and killed in snares that were set for bushmeat poaching. If a lion manages to escape these traps, they are often left with serious wounds.

What WWF Is Doing

Sticks and fencing create an enclosure

A reinforced livestock enclosure, known as a kraal, protects livestock from predators in Namibia.

The Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA) in southern Africa is the world's largest terrestrial transboundary conservation area. WWF works here with local partners and communities to protect carnivores, including lions, by monitoring populations and reducing human-wildlife conflict.

Researching and Monitoring Lions

By placing satellite collars on large carnivores, including lions, our partners can collect important information regarding lion movement and dispersal across the landscape, which helps identify potential corridors. Identifying lion corridors is vital to the protection of these species. Collaring data can also help reduce human-wildlife conflicts by informing communities where to avoid infrastructure, farming, and grazing livestock to stay clear of active lion corridors. Communities can also be warned when collared lions move close to villages and herders can move their livestock into enclosures, known as kraals, to protect them.

Reducing Conflict

Working with and alongside communities is critical to ensure the long-term protection of lions. In KAZA, local partners are helping communities build more effective kraals, including reinforcing traditional kraals to make them stronger and prevent livestock from breaking out when a carnivore is nearby. Some partners employ local community members to serve as community guardians, helping to monitor carnivore and lion movement around villages and respond to incidents of human-wildlife conflict. These actions will help to decrease the predation of livestock and retaliatory killings of lions.

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