Africa’s carnivores have come under an increasingly intensive pressure during the last few decades and are rapidly decreasing in numbers. This unfortunate tendency is especially true for the continent's lion population. These carnivores are often killed when threatening people and their livestock. Concurrently, when the prey population is decreasing in Masai populated areas due to human predation, human population growth and their activities plus additional loss of habitats, the future existence of lions is becoming critically threatened and successful conservation of carnivore populations more difficult and complex.
Graph1 Graph 2
Graph 1: Afica Lion Population. Source: Myers (1975), Ferreras and Cousins (1996), Chardonnet (2002), Bauer and Van Der Merve (2004)
Graph 2: Kenya Lion Population. Source: Omondi (2009)
About 20-30 years ago there occurred up to 75.000 lions in all of Africa, but today only a maximum of 25.000 individuals remain at present. In Kenya only ca. 1800 lions are surviving with an estimated loss of 100 lions each year.
The biggest threats towards lions are:
Lion killed by a Masai spear Lion most likely poisoned
In East Africa, lions occur in a number of protected and pastoral ecosystems, including the Mara ecosystem of Kenya. Even though there are still important lion populations outside protected areas in East Africa, including the Mara ecosystem, they live under very intense and increasing pressure from the surrounding areas.
Lions that live outside these protected areas are increasingly being killed by local herders and farmers and the lion's natural prey are being driven from their natural habitats by Masais and outcompeted by livestock. In 2009, Dr. Joseph Ogutu, who is one of the scientific supervisors for this project, published a scientific article documenting a decrease in the numbers of herbivores in the Masai Mara ecosystem, and this story has come out in the world press. Since herbivores are the only source of food for lions, it will increase the threat of their survival.
Limited knowledge exists on carnivore behavioral ecology and population status outside protected areas and it is therefore highly relevant for the conservation of the species to retain a more clear understanding about lions in these important areas.
Lions are classified as vulnerable by the IUCN (IUCN, 2008).