Barbary lions as part of the wider story of the species Panthera leo

The Barbary lion was isolated in the Maghreb in North eastern Africa where the Atlas Mountains provided a natural barrier to the encroachment of the Sahara to the south. The map below shows the distribution (in green). Lions formerly ranged across Africa, the middle east, southern central Asia into India. Only the most inhospitable deserts and impenetrable rainforests and swamps were free of lions.

The demise of the Barbary lion population in North Africa in the 1800s and 1900s mirrored the disappearance of the Asiatic lion from the Middle East over the same period. IN more recent times the shrinking of populations in Central and West Africa has been equally alarming.

Today lion populations are extremely fragmented as indicated by the blue patches in the map. The only stronghold of the Asiatic lion is in the Gir Forest in Gujarat, India (although lions form this national park have since started to spread west to coastal forests and scrub and on occasions north into the mountains bordering Pakistan).

Lion distribution map

Distribution of lions (Panthera leo) past and present Adapted by S Black


Further links on past and present distributions of charismatic species: