5 scary facts about lions this World Lion Day

“The rapid loss of biodiversity, and megafauna in particular, is an issue that is right up there with, and perhaps even more pressing than, climate change” – Panthera scientist, Peter Lindsey

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last decade, it shouldn’t be news to you that lions, along with approximately 59% of the world’s biggest mammalian carnivore species and 60% of the largest herbivores, are now categorised as ‘threatened with extinction’.


They are, thus, on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. It’s not a list you want to be on. The protection of apex predators, like lions, is paramount to the health and survival of the ecosystem, and the consequences of any one species becoming extinct can be potentially catastrophic.


In honour of World Lion Day on 10th August 2016, here are some big, scary facts about these big, beautiful cats:

1. Africa’s lion population has reduced by approximately 43% over the past 21 years according to the IUCN. This big cat species (Panthera leo) is listed by the IUCN as Vulnerable; facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.

2. An estimated 20,000 lions are left in the wild. They are extinct in 26 African countries and have disappeared from 90% of their historical roaming grounds.

3. In South Africa, there are currently more lions kept in captivity for canned hunting purposes than there are in the wild. None of the animals being kept in captivity can be used in relocation or conservation programmes as they are often tame and genetically contaminated.

4. Sub-Saharan Africa is developing and expanding at a rapid rate, resulting in the lions facing habitat destruction, loss of their prey base to the bush meat trade and, ultimately, human-lion conflict.

5. At the rate that we are currently going, it is estimated that lions will be extinct in the wild by 2050.


Just one year after Cecil the lion was illegally hunted, his death has done a lot in raising awareness for his kind, and people are beginning to understand just how serious the wild lion situation actually is. However, while the world is now aware of the problem, it is a matter of solving it and ‘business as usual’ just isn’t going to cut it.

For more information on how you can show your ‘pride’ and help protect the world’s lions this World Lion Day, visit Let Lions Live.

And to find out more about the king of the savannah, read: Long Live the King

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  • Galen Schultz

    Thank you for sharing this info. I would highly recommend watching the documentary Blood Lions which greatly exposes the captive lion breeding industry related to canned hunting.

    • Gustav

      Blood Lions has been thoroughly debunked. It is a shoddy piece of film-making employing every dishonest technique ever devised by documentary film producers. If you believe the main thrust of its message, sorry to say, you’ve been duped. It is not helpful. In fact, it is an impediment to the responsible management of our precious lion resources.

      • Galen Schultz

        Hi Gustav, can you please elaborate and justify your claims? Debunked by who?

        • Gustav
          • Galen Schultz

            I see… an opinion piece.

            There will always be criticisms to documentaries such as Blood Lions, and people trying to “debunk” them, which is a good thing. But one opinion piece vs the endorsement and support by accredited and highly reputable conservation organisations, is a very clear indication of this documentary’s worth.

          • Gustav

            Ah, no, see, if you’re interested in a discussion of the merits of Blood Lions, you’ve got to read the opinion piece and tell me where it errs. It makes some very strong points about the production and the ethics of the producers. You have your list of “experts,” I have mine. If you would like to get into a discussion about it, I will gladly accommodate you. I stick to my assertion: “Blood lions” is a sham documentary, flawed in so many areas. As a piece of information about lions, it is worthless.

          • Galen Schultz

            Okay… I’m taking about groups such as the likes of Panthera, Wildlands, Wildlife ACT, Born Free Foundation, Humane Society International etc. – each of which is comprised of experts who are very aware of the status and treatment of our lions. And then there are the number of breeding ‘sanctuaries’ that have been found to be operating unethically and consequently shut down. Groups like Fair Trade Tourism and Responsible Travel have revised volunteering criteria and removed cub-petting and lion walking tours from their listings as a result of what Blood Lions helped start. This is EVIDENCE of what the documentary has helped achieve.

            Can you do the same and list some of your experts besides the author of praag.org? Seems to be an attack on the film producer rather than the actual content of the film….

          • Gustav

            All those groups you have mentioned have a vested interest in running this kind of protest. Check out the “donate” button on each of their websites. To be clear – I don’t support cub petting or lion walking and I am as aghast at the conditions at SOME of these facilities. In fact, the review on Praag dealt intensively with the content of Blood Lions and made some telling points. And yes, my position is shared by many experts, like Ron Thomson who has almost sixty years experience in conservation and with lions as well as Conservation Force, the True Green Alliance and many others. And don’t discount the South African Predator Association whose members’ combined experience far exceeds that of Andrew Venter or Guy Balme or Ian Michler.

  • ctulpa

    It is not true that the lions in enclosures cannot be released into the wild. It happens all the time as they supply the reserves.
    Bubye Conservancy has an over-population of their lions and cannot find places to trans-locate them. They want to reduce their abundant lion population by 200 lions.

  • ctulpa

    Here is the reality of the fate of lions as it happens all across Africa:

    From the Desert Lion Conservation Project

    10 Aug 2016.
    Tragedy. On 6 Aug 2016 the Ministry of Environment & Tourism
    approved the translocation of the four “Musketeers” from Tomakas to the
    Uniab Delta as a last-resort effort to solve the on-going human-lion
    conflict. Several parties participated with the planning of this
    operation: an aircraft was secured to transport the lions from Purros to
    Terrace Bay, vehicles were gathered to take the lions from Tomakas to
    Purros and finally from Terrace Bay to the Uniab Delta as we waited for
    the three males to return from the mountains and reconnect with Xpl-93.
    However, the three males encountered a new and previously unknown
    cattle post of semi-nomadic pastoralists. The lions killed a donkey and
    the people (previously from Omiriu and then Ondudupi) retaliated by
    poisoning the lions. The carcasses and the satellite collars of the
    lions were then burnt. With this tragic development a difficult decision
    had to be made about the fate of the lone survivor. With the Ministry
    of Environment & Tourism we darted Xpl-93, loaded him in the Desert
    Lion Project Land Cruiser and started the long journey to the Uniab
    Delta. The convoy of three vehicles struggled through the Floodplain and
    dunes that were covered in thick fog. We finally reached the mouth of
    the Uniab River at 05h25 and found a narrow wash with some protection to
    off-load Xpl-93 (see photos)

    • Paul Ash

      Hi Ctulpa,
      Please could you contact me. I am a reporter who is following this story and what happened in the Uniab Delta would seem to be test case for human-lion conflict. My private email is fightingcats@gmail.com, phone 083 493 6824. Please phone to check my credentials.
      cheers and thanks

  • ctulpa

    Why is Africa Geographic continuing to post misinformation about Cecil the lion? Since the original media hype was induced by misinformation that has since been released as false. The report from the scientists doing the study showed that Cecil was NOT lured from Hwange Park and was in his Home Range outside the Park. Half of Cecil’s regular home range was outside the Park in an open hunting area. They also cleared up the misinformation that he was lured from the Park and disclosed he was eating on a dead elephant carcass in his home range outside the Park and was not “lured” from the Park. Zimbabwe authorities reported after investigating, that the documents and paperwork for the hunter were in order and therefore the hunter was cleared of any wrongdoing and it was not illegal for him to hunt.
    There is much more that was broadcast from misinformation, but Africa Geographic needs to stop the lies in their articles.

    • Mike

      whether Cecil was lured off the reserve or not is not the issue. A Holes like Walter Palmer should not be permitted to kill trophy lions or any lions for that matter. There are so few left and so few males. Their lives are hard enough. To survive to adulthood and rule a pride only to have his fate sealed by the bullet of a greedy American “hunter” to have as a trophy for his den is disgraceful. This is coming from an American hunter who values the lives of the world’s threatened and endangered species.

  • joao

    hunt was legal according to zim authorities; cites is the problem ; they give permits to the countries who then accept so called hunters to kill wild lions ;

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