The Barbary lion lived in the Mediterranean Maghreb, the northern, mountainous area separated from the rest of Africa by the Sahara, with the Atlantic coastline to the West and the Mediterranean sea to the north. Historically the species was seen in the lowlands to the coast right up to the High Atlas (at 4000m). This varied ecosystem included snow in the winter months in the Atlas mountains, dry forests in the lower valleys and arid plains south of the Atlas edging the desert.
The following figure shows the distribution of lions as sighted between the years 1500 and 1900 (see Black et al 2013). Light green shading indicates Mediterranean scrubland ecosystems running from Morocco in the west along North Africa, north of the Atlas, Saharan Atlas and Tell Atlas mountain ranges into Tunisia. Few if any lions survived east of this region (in Libya) after 1700.
Earliest accounts in the western Maghreb from 16th to the 18th century are indicated as open circles, whilst documented sightings from 1800 to 1900 are indicated as black circular markers in the western Maghreb and as triangular markers for sightings in eastern Maghreb. Asterisks (*) denote locations of human population centers. Dashed lines indicate national boundaries.