Recent extinction of lions from North Africa

Popular consensus is that the last lions disappeared from Morocco nearly one hundred years ago, clinging on in the remote Atlas mountains up to the 1920s, but exterminated from the rest of North Africa much earlier and certainly by the 1890s. However recent research has challenged this view.

The established consensus was previously, based largely on the historical accounts of colonial travelers and European big game hunters. Although Ángel Cabrera (1932), Charles Guggisberg (1963) and Helmut Hemmer (1978) recognised the possibility of later survival in remote areas, Yamaguchi and Haddane (2002) were the first to identify reports of a specific sighting later than 1930. Separate to this, in Algeria, ongoing research over recent years has uncovered an extensive set of eyewitness accounts from local people. A deeper examination of historical and first hand oral reports by local people in Morocco and Algeria identified how micro populations of lions survived in remote regions across the North African Maghreb. The study (Black, Fellous, Yamaguchi and Roberts, 2013) uses recently gathered data on the last sightings of the Barbary lion in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco makes for interesting reading:


The research has prompted a number of interesting summaries for example John Platt’s blog article in Scientific American.

Other reading:

Yamaguchi N, Haddane B. 2002. The North African Barbary lion and the Atlas Lion Project. International Zoo News 49: 465-481.

Schnitzler, A.E. (2011) Past and Present Distribution of the North African-Asian lion subgroup: a review. mammal Review, 41, 3.