The survival of the lion is in grave danger. Its range is reduced almost exclusively to sub-Saharan Africa. The continuous depletion of its natural habitat and the continuation of poaching against it make it a vulnerable species, according to the IUCN.
The definition is justified by an estimated decline of between 30 and 50% in the African area in the previous twenty years. A very small population survives in Gir Forest National Park in India, while specimens that inhabited North Africa and the Middle East have disappeared for many centuries.
Until the Pleistocene, about ten thousand years ago, the lion was the second most widespread large mammal after man. At that time lions were found in most of Eurasia and Africa, as well as, with the variety Panthera leo atrox, also in the Americas, from the Yukon to Peru.
Most lions live in wildlife reserves in sub-Saharan Africa. A population of a few hundred Asiatic lions also survives in the Sasan-Gir National Park in the state of Gujarat in India. In order to protect this tiny population from epidemics and other environmental hazards, a program of reintroduction of the Asiatic lion is also underway in the Palpur-Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, a nature reserve in the neighboring state of Madhya Pradesh.
The population is increasing in number, albeit slowly.
How many lions survive in the wild in 2023?
The total number of lions in the wild is estimated between 16,000 and 30,000 specimens. These numbers show a dramatic decline since the 1990s, when the lion population was estimated at around 100,000.
The remaining populations are often geographically isolated from the others, which further increases the conservation challenges of the species. The cause of the decline is not yet fully understood and may not be reversible.
At present, habitat degradation and conflicts with humans are the worst threats to the species. Surviving populations are isolated from each other, resulting in a lack of genetic diversity. Therefore the lion is considered vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, while the Asian subspecies is classified as critically endangered.
The West African population is completely isolated from that of Central Africa, with little or no trade. Mature males in West Africa numbered approximately 850-1160 in the three-year period 2002-2004. The size of the entire population is dubious, but there are reportedly 100 to 400 lions in the Arly-Singou ecosystem in Burkina Faso.