Lonely Planet Writer

Africa's lion population could quadruple with international funding say experts

There are few things more spectacular than seeing a lion in the wild. And if conservation efforts in Africa were well managed and could secure international funding, then the chances of spotting one on your next safari could be much higher.

Lions at Nairobi National Park in Kenya.
Lions at Nairobi National Park in Kenya. Image by Felix Dance / CC BY 2.0

The continent’s vast network of officially protected areas and national parks could support up to 83,000 lions according to a new study – up to four times more than they currently do. The world’s lion population has been falling in recent times with latest estimates suggesting that just 20,000 survive in the wild. Just two decades ago, it was thought there could be up to 30,000.

Feeding time for the lions at Antelope Park, Zimbabwe.
Feeding time for the lions at Antelope Park, Zimbabwe. Image by Bruce William/Lonely Planet

Panthera, the global wild cat conservation group, said that if Africa could get international support, the lion population could easily grow. Dr Peter Lindsey of Panthera explained: “Africa’s incredible protected areas hold the key to securing the future of lions and several other wildlife species.

“African governments have set aside enough space to conserve lions – we just need to find ways to enable those areas to be funded sufficiently and managed effectively.” Their study also showed how conservation was not just the right thing to do, but would also bring huge economic benefits.

Many of the countries with protected areas for lions can easily attract travellers to help grow their own local economies and create jobs. There are 175 parks and reserves around Africa, and only around one third of them contain even half as many lions as they could.

Dr Paul Funston of Panthera said these protected areas were “pure gold for lions”. He said: “They are places where tourists can see lions really being lions in all the amazing facets of their behaviour.” If you are travelling to Africa to see lions, then your money very often does go towards helping in wildlife conservation.

Some of the best places to see the king of the jungle are: the Maasai Mara in Kenya, the Serengeti in Tanzania, Kruger National Park in South Africa, the Okavango Delta in Botswana, and South Luangwa National Park in Zambia.

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