a lion in a tree
Image: Megan Strauss

There are 20,000 wild lions

There are about 20,000 lions living in the wild today. Most of them live in East and Southern Africa (the gray and red areas on the map of Africa below).

A small number of lions live in West Africa too. (West Africa is the lime green area on the map of Africa.) West African lions are smaller in size and genetically distinct from other lions.

A map showing East, West, and Southern Africa:

regions of Africa

The regions of Africa according to the United Nations geoscheme. Public Domain, via Wikipedia

(You can view a map of the current and historical range of lions here.)

West African lions are critically endangered

Today, lions are found in only 1% of their original range in West Africa. Scientists don’t have an exact number, but that they think that there are only 120–374 West African lions remaining in the wild.

Some reasons why there are so few West African lions include illegal hunting of their prey, poaching for the illegal wildlife trade, killing of lions that eat livestock, and habitat loss.

A small but important population of West African lions lives in Senegal’s Niokolo-Koba National Park. Here, a wild cat conservation group called Panthera and Senegal’s Department of National Parks have been monitoring and protecting the big cats since 2011.

Some good news for West African lions

Conservation work has helped the lion population in Niokolo-Koba National Park more than double from 10–15 lions to 30 lions. The goal is to reach 100 lions by 2030. One lion, named Flo, recently surprised the conservationists.

Meet Flo and her cubs!

A West African lion and her cub
West African lion named Florence (or Flo) with one of her cubs. Image courtesy of Panthera.

Flo – also known as Florence – is about 10 years old. She is considered a matriarch in this West African lion population. Flo is wearing a GPS collar around her neck. The collar is a tracking device that scientists use to locate (find) lions like Flo.

After several years of study, Flo’s GPS collar stopped working. The conservationists were worried about her wellbeing. Lucikly, a camera trap – another type of conservation tech – recently captured video footage of Flo. And it turns out that she has 3 new cubs!

Flo the West African lioness and her cubs in Niokolo-Koba National Park, Senegal. Footage courtesy of Panthera.

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This story has been adapted for Mongabay Kids. It is based on an article by Liz Kimbrough, published on Mongabay.com:

*Mongabay Kids is not responsible for content published on external sites.