West African lion decline mirrors the loss of the Barbary lion

west africa map colourThe last lions in North Africa ended up in isolated micro populations in Morocco and Algeria (Black et al 2013). Some of these tiny groups quite likely survived for a decade or more in southern Morocco (certainly from the mid 1930s onwards) and North Eastern Algeria (from the 1940s onwards).

Today the picture in West Africa is startlingly similar. In a recent survey, of 21 sites previously considered as known habitat for lions, only four sites still had confirmed presence of lions (indicated in dark orange in the map above).

Our research into North African populations suggests that these tiny groups may survive another few years, maybe a decade, perhaps unnoticed even by local people, but will then rapidly decline into oblivion. The sites shown yellow are likely to have micro-populations of lions exisitng at this point already.

Unlike wildife experts at the time of the Barbary lion’s final demise, we are now much better informed about what this decline would mean and can make choices about how to prevent it.


Black SA, Fellous A, Yamaguchi N, Roberts DL (2013) Examining the Extinction of the Barbary Lion and Its Implications for Felid Conservation. PLoS ONE 8(4): e60174. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060174

Bauer, H. & Nowell, K. (2004) Endangered Classification for West African lions. Cat News, 41, 35-36. http://www.catsg.org/catsgportal/red-list/03_cats-and-red-list/classification-of-west-african-lions.pdf

Leave a Reply