There Once Were 200,000 Lions in Africa. How Many Now Remain?

A new study finds that the lion population may decrease by as much as half in the next twenty years in many parts of Africa

[DIGEST: Live Science, Fox News, NPR]

The lion is a symbol of ferocity, of freedom, of power. But according to a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the lion is losing the race for survival.

A century ago, more than 200,000 lions roamed across Africa. Today, it is estimated that less than 20,000 remain. They are extinct in nearly half of Africa’s countries, and have disappeared from over 90 percent of their historic range. In West Africa, only 400 lions remain, and that number is expected to fall again by half in the next twenty years.

“A lot of the African bush is now silent of the lion’s roar. We’re losing that characteristic emblem of African wilderness,” said Luke Hunter, one of the study’s co-authors and president of Panthera, an organization dedicated to the conservation of lions and other big cats.

Hunter and his colleagues looked at over 8000 lions in 47 different populations across Africa, going back to 1990. The results were startling. West and Central Africa are expected to lose half of their lion population in the next two decades. East Africa stands to lose over a third of its lions in the same period.

Only four countries—South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia—have seen their lion population hold steady or increase.

Why Are Lions Disappearing?

Although the killing of Cecil the Lion made big news, very little of the lion population’s decrease is due to trophy hunting. “Even if trophy hunting of lions was banned today, it still

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