IUCN Red List Assessment

The Lion was recently assessed as Vulnerable under criterion A2abcd based on an estimated ~36% decline in the species range over three generations (approximately 21 years) and therefore a similar population reduction is suspected (IUCN Red List assessment: Nicholson et al 2023).

Extant Lion range in 2023 is estimated to be 1,566,529.59 km², only 7.4 per cent of its historical range. This is an estimated 36 per cent range decline since 2002 (three generations), where range was estimated in this assessment to 2,460,986 km2. This decline, which is likely to continue, reflects a combination of recent known and inferred decline, as well as improved knowledge. We use this decline as the formal basis of our assessment where Lions are listed as Vulnerable under A2abcd.

A population of ~23,000 adult and subadult Lions in Africa (African Lion Database, unpublished data, 2023) and ~670 adult and subadult Lions in India (Gujarat Forest Department 2020) was estimated for this assessment. This is an estimated decline from ~33,000 Lions in 2006 (IUCN 2006 a, b). The former figure shares a common background with Bauer et al. (2018), and the latter informed estimate in 2013 (Riggio et al. 2013) show that these numbers are similar but with different reference years. These numbers all have extensive caveats, enormous uncertainty and were partly based on differing methodologies; they cannot be used for a direct calculation of population trends, but they are consistent with the estimated range decline of 36 per cent. Riggio et al. (2013) showed that declines in savanna habitat translate into declines in Lion numbers. Lindsey et al. (2017) showed that Lion densities vary substantially across Lion range, and that Lions occur al levels below 50 per cent of carrying capacity in two thirds of the sites they analysed. However, these sites were spread all over the continent, and the range decline is also across the continent, so we have no reason to reject Lion range decline as a direct proxy for Lion population decline. This supporting evidence suggests that range declines equate in direct proportion to Lion population declines and that range is an appropriate measure for our assessment. Therefore, this suspected decline of 36 per cent in population is justified.

Given the evidence of ongoing and increasing threats to Lions across much of their fragmented range, we recommend that the Lion is a species under observation and its threat status is closely monitored, with a reassessment after a minimum three-year period or as soon as new information emerges.

This decline in both population and range, which is likely to continue, reflects a combination of recent known and inferred decline, as well as improved knowledge. This meets the requirements for listing as Vulnerable (A2abcd).

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is a comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species. It uses precise criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of more than 90,000 species, also providing information about subspecies, population sizes, range, habitat and ecology, use and/or trade, threats, and conservation actions. This makes the IUCN Red List a powerful tool to inform conservation action and policy change in order to protect biodiversity across the globe.

     Photo © Philipp Henschel

African Lion Database

Effective conservation planning requires continuous assessment of changes in status and distribution of lion populations across Africa. With support from the Lion Recovery Fund and National Geographic and under the umbrella of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group, the Endangered Wildlife Trust is helping to establish a Lion database. New data on the abundance and distribution of lion populations will be continuously added to this database, promoting collaboration amongst stakeholders and helping to direct conservation planning in the future. 

More information about the project can be found here. A link to the database will be posted as soon as it is established.


Inventory Report of African Lion Populations

An inventory report of African lion populations across its range, compiled from existing literature and unpublished reports by a working group of the Cat Specialist Group will be compiled in the near future.

A link to the Inventory Report will be posted here as soon as it is published.