Perhaps just a few hundred years ago (and even as late as the 1860s by some reports) North Africa was still home to three large predators, the Barbary lion, the Barbary leopard and the Atlas bear.
The Maghreb of North Africa (i.e. the area north of the Sahara, up to the Mediterranean coastline westwards from Libya, through Tunisia, Algeria along to the Atlantic coastline of Morocco) boasts a diverse range of species packed into ecosystems ranging from Mediterranean coastal scrub, juniper steppe, oak and cedar forest, conifer forest. In addition there are high altitude montane landscapes, semi-arid regions and desert. The major carnivores of the Maghreb preyed on a variety of species including the wild boar, barbary sheep, red deer, gazelles, addax, scimitar horned oryx, bubal hartebeest, domestic livestock (goats, sheep, cows, horses and camels) as well as smaller animals from barbary apes, to rodents, reptiles, birds and insects. The closest comparison to the historic landscape would perhaps be present day western India and (perhaps) Pakistan, still home leopard, bear and lion.
The most significant change which has impacted upon the decline of large carnivores is the transformation of the Maghreb landscape in recent decades through land use change, desertification and increased human habitation. Many of the wild prey species were hunted out during the 19th century; only wild boar remain in any significant numbers. although other ungulates still persist. By the early 20th century it appears that remaining Barbary lions became more reliant on hunting livestock, so more persecution from humans followed until its eventual, final extirpation.
Naquash, T. (2014) Asiatic lion spotted inAJK national park, Dawn News, 5 February. http://www.dawn.com/news/1085010
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