Threats to Lions

Lions are in quiet, yet violent crisis.

A revered predator that once roamed across much of Africa has fallen victim to  complex threats that are dramatically increasing as human population growth and development rise across the continent. 

Photo: Ed Sayer

The bushmeat trade. The bushmeat trade is the commercial sale of meat acquired through the illegal poaching of wildlife, such as antelope. Often leading to a violent death, this poaching is often done with wire snares placed along water and feeding routes to maximize the capture of animals. Once for subsistence, today much of the bushmeat trade is for commercial purposes, is illegal, and occurs in protected areas. Illegal hunting for bushmeat affects lions in two ways; by dramatically reducing the populations of animals that are food sources for lions and by directly killing lions who inadvertently are caught in the wire snares that are set to illegally harvest other species. 

Photo: Shivani Bhalla

Human-lion conflict. Conflict between lions and people arises when lions attack and kill livestock, which often triggers farmers to retaliate by killing lions. Retaliatory killing in its worst form is conducted using poison which can kill entire prides and a host of other species—from elephants to vultures to wild dogs, leopards and cheetah. 

Photo: Shivani Bhalla

Livestock and human encroachment into lion habitat. With rapidly growing human populations, there are increasing influxes of livestock and herders in search of better grazing within wildlife areas across Africa – resulting in more conflict between people and lions. Livestock also compete with wildlife for resources, causing declines in the wild prey lions depend on. In many cases influxes of herders are also associated with secondary problems such as elevated poaching. Many such movements of people into lion landscapes result in complete habitat loss due to conversion to agriculture and settlement.  

Photo: Peter Lindsey

Loss of habitat connectivity. Human settlement and development are gradually creating ever smaller and more isolated pockets of wilderness in which lions and their prey exist, making it challenging or impossible for lions to roam or disperse safely and restricting gene flow which leaves populations vulnerable to disease and other threats. 

Photo: Wildlife Crime Prevention Project

Targeted poaching. There is a growing threat to lions in certain parts of Africa from the targeted poaching of lions for their body parts, such as skins, claws, teeth and bones. The drivers of such poaching and trade are currently poorly understood; however there is a clear and growing Asian market for these products. 

Photo: Amy Dickman

Ceremonial killing. In certain parts of Africa, lions are killed by local people during rites of passage ceremonies to demonstrate manhood or bravery.   

Photo: Peter Lindsey

Other threats. A range of other threats affect lions and their prey in some places, including: mining in wildlife areas, illegal logging, poorly regulated trophy hunting, and disease.