Lions are one of the most iconic animals on the planet. They play major roles in the art of hundreds of cultures, in literature (from history books to fairy tales), and are one of the biggest tourist attractions on the African continent. However, they are disappearing from the wild at an astonishingly fast rate.
Lions have disappeared from 95 percent of their historic range due to habitat loss, hunting and poaching, retaliatory killings by livestock owners, loss of prey, and other factors. Just over a century ago, more than 200,000 wild lions lived in Africa. Today, there are only about 20,000. Lions are extinct in 26 African countries.
The number provided by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is more optimistic, but not much: they say there are between 23,000 and 39,000 lions left in the wild.
Although lions are such an important part of human culture across the planet, they may disappear completely. This fact surprises many people, including those who love lions. Lions are part of a much larger ecosystem, in which humans play a significant role. That role can be shifted from one that is causing lion populations to shrink, to one that creates strategies for co-existence and protection of this important and magnificent predator.