Lions are members of the big four cats and are the second largest living cat in the world. They are best known for being apex predators and have even been known to prey on humans. The male lion is best known by the mane and this unique characteristic makes them a very popular animal for tourists and wildlife lovers alike. Lions are found in Africa and Asia, although they are only found in relatively small pockets compared to their original distribution. The lion population is in decline, approximately 40% loss over the last 20 years, and it is officially listed as a a threatened species. Some subspecies are officially listed as critically endangered. Let’s find out why this species is considered to be endangered.
Why are lions endangered?
It is estimated that there could have been as many as 400,000 wild lions in the 1950’s. Today, it is estimated that less than 45,000 remain in the wild. The exact cause of the rapid population loss is not fully understood, but there are a number of concerns with regard to this species. The first concern is the interaction with humans. Although the lion is fully protected in most regions, it is still sometimes hunted by illegal poachers or farmers protecting their livestock. Habitat loss is also considered to be a considerable threat to lions. As the population declines, subspecies of lions are becoming isolated from each other, which leads to inbreeding and lack of genetic diversity. This is another considerable threat to this species.
The general agreement is that the best way to conserve this species is the ensure that there are large areas of national parks and game reserves for the lions to inhabit. These areas are protected from habitat destruction and hunting, although illegal poaching may still occur. Captive breeding programs are also important for ensuring genetic diversity of the endangered subspecies.