A lion is a large, powerful carnivore and was once common in Asia and parts of Europe as well as in Africa. This impressive member of the big cat family is now a protected species.

Lions and Humans

Lions have no natural enemies, apart from humans who have hunted them for centuries. They were once common throughout southern Europe and southern Asia eastwards to northern and central India and over the whole of Africa.

The last lion in Europe died between 80-100AD. By 1884 the only lions left in India were in the Gir forest where only a dozen were left. They were probably extinct elsewhere in southern Asia, for example, in Iran and Iraq, soon after 1884.  Since the beginning of the 20th Century the Gir lions have been protected and their numbers have increased steadily over the years.

Lions have been wiped out in northern Africa.  A recent study has found that lion numbers have halved in Central and Western Africa between 1993 and 2015.  In southern Africa, numbers have remained stable or increased in the same time.  Lions only live in the wild in remote areas which have remained undeveloped.  The spread of farming and an increase in the number of human settlements in former lion territories are thought to be the causes of the lions' decline.  However, the trade in bush meat has also had an increasing role by reducing the number of prey animals available for lions to hunt.

Well managed National Parks and game reserves are probably the lion's best hope of survival for the future.

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