Lion Conservation

From 1993 to 2014, the lion population nearly halved due to poaching and habitat loss. But such broad strokes mask the dichotomy at the heart of lion conservation. While lion populations crashed by over 60% across North and West Africa, populations rose approximately 11% in countries where parks were well funded and properly managed (Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe). However, best estimates indicate that fewer than 20,000 lions remain across of all of Africa; that they have lost over 80% of their historical range; and have been extirpated from 26 countries.

African Parks has heeded the call to safeguard and protect Africa’s largest and most iconic cat through effective park protection at a landscape level, and species-specific interventions including reintroductions and translocations, monitoring and research and mitigating human-lion conflict. Lions are currently found in eight of the 15 parks under our management (Zakouma in Chad, Pendjari in Benin, Garamba in the DRC, Chinko in the CAR, Akagera in Rwanda, Liuwa Plain in Zambia, Majete and Liwonde in Malawi) and were reintroduced to three of those parks (Akagera, Majete, and Liwonde) after decades of poaching had completely eliminated them. 


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How We're Saving the Lions

Creating Safe Havens to Stop Lion Poaching

© Morgan Trimble

Protecting wildlife from poaching and other illegal activity is one of our top priorities for all the parks we manage. When we assumed management of Liwonde National Park, we fenced the park, hired and trained a larger and better equipped ranger unit, and utilized a suite of technological advancements to monitor wildlife and counter poaching. Since 2015, over 36,000 snares have been removed, poaching has since been brought under control, wildlife-conflict is being prevented through strong community programs, and lions were able to be reintroduced back to Liwonde in 2017, decades after the last breeding population went locally extinct in the park.

Investing in Education and Local Communities

© Marcus Westburg

African Parks employs localsinvests in education, and attracts tourism in the communities around our parks. Creating a symbiotic relationship between people and lions is critical in agricultural communities where lion predation of livestock can push ranchers into poverty and lead to retaliatory lion killing.

Reintroducing Lions to Historic Habitats

© Kyle de Nobrega

Once a park is secure, we assess the viability of bringing key species back that have been hunted to local extinction. We reintroduced lions to Liuwa Plain in 2008 (where only one female lioness ‘Lady Liuwa’ had remained for many years on her own), Majete in 2012, Akagera in 2015, and Liwonde in 2018. Considering that lion populations in protected areas have grown while those outside of well protected areas have plummeted, increasing the population range of these majestic creatures and reintroducing them to well-protected habitats is critical to their long-term conservation.

The Parks

  • Pendjari National Park
    100 of the 400 remaining West African Lions live in Pendjari National Park, in Benin. In 2017, African Parks signed a 10 year agreement to manage the park, ensuring protection from poachers and habitat loss. Together with the Lion Recovery Fund, African Parks has collared and is monitoring this globally important population.
  • Liuwa Plain National Park
    Liuwa Plain in Western Zambia has a long history of conservation, and 10,000 people live in harmony with wildlife within the park. Lions were reintroduced in 2008, when only one lone lioness, Lady Liuwa, roamed the plains. The pride of Liuwa Plain has only grown since then to a total of 11 individuals, but together with the Zambian Carnivore Programme we have conducted a series of reintroductions and translocations, we have collared and are tracking this pride, and preventing conflict with communities so proactively conserve Liuwa’s predators.
  • Majete Wildlife Reserve
    We reintroduced lions in 2012 after they had been hunted out in the 1990’s, making Majete the first Big Five destination in Malawi. Few parks are more enticing for people interested in witnessing thriving wildlife. In addition to the reintroduction of African lion in 2012, black rhinos were brought back in 2003 and elephants followed in 2006, 2008 and 2010 along with 2,900 other game animals to fully revive the park. Today, Majete is helping to repopulation other reserves in the country, and together with the Lion Recovery Fund, the Dutch Government and the DNPW we are working on meta-population dynamics to restore lions in Malawi.
  • Akagera National Park
    With poaching essentially halted, Akagera's lion pride has tripled in size since being reintroduced in 2015 in collaboration with the RDB and with support from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. In 2017, we were also able to bring back rhinos after a 10-year absence. Akagera is a true success story for Rwanda and for conservation in Africa. The park was devastated by poaching just eight years ago, but now its thriving wildlife attracts over 44,000 visitors per year, half of them Rwandan nationals, and the park is almost 80% self-financing thanks to tourism revenue.
  • Liwonde National Park
    Nine lions were reintroduced to Liwonde in 2018 (seven from South Africa and two from Majete) with the Lion Recovery Fund, the Dutch Government and the DNPW, after African Parks restored security to the park. Breeding populations of lions had been absent from the park for at least 20 years due to poaching, but now with adequate park security, wildlife are protected, tourism is on the rise, and communities are benefiting from employment, tourism and other community projects.
  • Zakouma National Park
    Zakouma has undergone a complete transformation in the past nine years. Poaching has been essentially eliminated, the elephant population is on the rise for the first time in decades, the park has become one of the most globally significant migratory bird habitats, and lions, leopards, and cheetahs are all on the rise. Together with the Lion Recovery Fund we are assessing the local lion population and looking at factors to aid in their increase.