We've taken this big cat for granted. To go on safari without an almost 100 percent chance of encountering the king of beasts was almost unthinkable until recently. The reality of the plight facing lions, however, makes sobering reading. Just over a century ago, there were more than 200,000 wild lions living in Africa. Today, only about 20,000 remain. They've become extinct in 26 African countries and vanished from over 90 percent of their historic range. You can still find them in 27 African countries (and in a tiny fragment of India), but only seven of these have populations of more than 1,000 lions.
Did you know... lions are unique among felids in forming long-term social groups.
RANGE & HABITAT
Once widespread across much of Africa, as well as parts of Europe and Asia, lions now have a patchy distribution mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. They prefer savannah, scrub and open woodland habitats, but can also be found in arid locations.
With a total population estimated at around 20,000, the lion is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Threats include conflict with cattle farmers, habitat loss, disease, prey depletion and trade in body parts.
TALES FROM THE WILD AFRICAN LION
"Dawn sunlight seeped across the bushveld, a glowing tangerine tide that gilded the acacia trees and sparked through dew-laden grasses. When it reached the seven lions, huddled together in a clearing, they responded instantly to its warmth. One of the young males stood and stretched, while the rest of the pride rolled in the grass, pawing and flirting in a tangle of tawny-gold limbs and black-tipped tails. They barely glanced in the direction of our vehicle. We were parked just a few metres away, yet the big cats seemed completely unfazed by our presence. They briefly contemplated a distant herd of impala, then sauntered off, single-file, into the dense scrub – the softly berating call of a turtle dove infiltrating the silence that followed the lions’ departure."