Are Lions Endangered and Who Is Caring for Them?

Updated on February 24, 2020
ElizaDoole profile image

I am a passionate writer with 22 years’ experience in the industry, writing for various print and online media here in England and abroad.

Kevin Richardson - The Lion Whisperer

Kevin believes that it is a misconception that "breaking an animal's spirit with whips and chains is the best way to subdue them."
Kevin believes that it is a misconception that "breaking an animal's spirit with whips and chains is the best way to subdue them." | Source

Lion Population in Africa

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species reveals that a quarter of all species face a high risk of extinction, with human activity having severely altered more than 75% of the Earth’s land and freshwater areas, and 66% of oceans.

  • The species Panthera leo leo (African lion) is now considered "endangered" after a petition was filed by a coalition of conservationists working in Africa.
  • The petition stated as at March 2011 that fewer than 40,000 lions remained and that their population numbers had declined by 48.5% in the last 22 years. In 2019, this number has reduced to between 15,000 to 20,000.
  • In the same time period the African lion habitat has shrunk by 78% and is spread across 27 African countries. This means it is difficult for lions to breed as there are not enough wildlife corridors.
  • The biggest threat to the African lion population is the import of lion parts to the United States. Between 1999 and 2008, 3600 lions were internationally traded for hunting trophy purposes to the US. This is 64% of the internationally exported (after being killed) lions.

Source: Born Free USA:Get the Facts (for some reason HP's doesn't recognise the link).

An Endangered Species

Lions are vulnerable, one step from endangered, according to the IUCN Red List. There are moves in the US to put Panthera Leo on the US Endangered Species list for 2015, in an effort to prevent lion part imports from legally reaching US destinations. Animal lovers out there will be surprised to discover that the United States is a bigger threat to the population of the African lion than other factors. Erosion of habitat, sale of lion innards to Asia for remedies, tribal revenge killings for maneater behaviour, prey loss or disease, don't kill lions as fast as hunting safari parties (largely comprised of US citizens).

The next grade up from vulnerable is endangered, and globally, Panthera Leo remains classed as vulnerable. Yet, the IUCN Red List informs us "The West African subpopulation has been listed as Critically Endangered due to habitat conversion, a decline in prey caused by unsustainable hunting, and human-lion conflict. Rapid declines have also been recorded in East Africa – historically a stronghold for lions – mainly due to human-lion conflict and prey decline. Trade in bones and other body parts for traditional medicine, both within the region and in Asia, has been identified as a new, emerging threat to the species."

The West African lion is listed as critically endangered means there are less than 400 animals left and the IUCN reports there are less than 250 mature adult lions. All 47 subpopulations of species Panthera Leo are listed as vulnerable, and when added together estimates are between 23,000 and 39,000 surviving lions, IUCN list 2013.

Why is the US killing lions? Answer: For Male Lion Photos

Safari hunting parties still come out in their droves to secure a photo with a dead male lion. Hunters go for the biggest and strongest male in order to prove they are "heroic". Later, lion parts are exported from the kill, usually the head as trophy, and sent to the wealthy US hunters. There was universal outrage when a famous lion Cecil, who lived on a game reserve in Zimbabwe, wandered into a poaching park and got shot by an American Dentist on a pay-to-shoot safari. The Killing of Cecil the lion is a fascinating read.

Lion Pictures - Kevin Richardson

In order to dispel the myth that lions are dangerous and destructive animals who can somehow survive no matter what, conservationists are working together to save the population. Kevin Richardson is one such African lion conservationist, who documents his work with lions, lion cubs and lionesses in photographs and films.

Love and Bonding Lion Behaviour

The film extract below shows some incredible images of Kevin at work, in his enclosure north of The Cradle of Humankind. Approximately 50km north of Johannesburg, Kevin and wife Mandy set up their home and surroundings in order to work closely with lions, assisting to rear them, keep them disease free and ensure they had habitat to roam that is sub-saharan. The Richardsons also care for and work with hyenas, leopards, white lions and panthers, and have the approach that the environment should be balanced for all species to co exist harmoniously.

The Lion Whisperer

Kevin Richardson became known as The Lion Whisperer after documentary artist Michael Rosenburg spotted his way with the wild lions. Since that time, several documentaries have been made of Kevin's work with animals, including:

  • Growing Up Hyena - painted as a villain, scavenger and devlish animal, this film tells the story of a young hyena as it grows up and dispels those myths.
  • Dangerous Companions - primarily centred on Kevin's relationship with the lions he demonstrates his life with them. Cuddling male lions, sleeping in the paws of lions, playing and swimming with lionesses.
  • In Search of a Legend - Kevin forms a bond with two black leopards. Considered the most elusive animal on earth, and the most fearsome, Kevin has to put himself in the firing line as hunters cross paths with him as he seeks to save the mating leopard couple.
  • The Lion Ranger Series - National Geographic Wild - Shows Kevin's work rearing lions and explains the conservation program;The white lion endangered species program is featured too.

There's several books published by Kevin Richardson about lions and big cats and the work they do there. If you buy a copy this helps fund the wildlife sanctuary. Visitors can book in to the sanctuary when in Kenya, and see the big cats for themselves.

Best of 2018 The Lion Whisperer

Lion Distribution Map - International

Before 8000BC the lion was the second most numerous land mammal after humans.
Before 8000BC the lion was the second most numerous land mammal after humans. | Source

Not Just a Safari Zoo - Want To Help?

Below is a map of the approximate location of "The Kingdom of the White Lion", which is where Kevin and Mandy Richardson live and work. For more information about their valuable work to conserve Africa's lions and other felids view the White Lion documentary which Kevin produced or have a look at one of his documentaries on their website. In 2015 Kevin and Mandy opened "The Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary" to the public. They were previously going to call it "the Kingdon of the White Lion" but felt Kevin's name had more power to attract visitors.

For more information on issues affecting lions and the endangered species petition visit the Born Free Foundation. You can adopt a lion as part of their "Big Cat Rescue" campaign.

For research aspects about lions in Africa and other African species get in touch with Protecting African Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Kevin Richardson's Wildlife Sanctuary Enclosure 40-50km North of Johannesburg above the Cradle of Humankind

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Lisa McKnight


    Submit a Comment
    • precy anza profile image

      precy anza 

      7 years ago from USA

      Lions are fascinating animals. That photo up there with Kevin is like ," wow.. that's love," and wished I was him that's the lion was hugging. :) Voted up!

    • ElizaDoole profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa McKnight 

      7 years ago from London

      I am just returning to say I recommend reading Aviannovices hub on the Athos Oil spill. Fascinating conservation information from the insiders perspective about what goes on when all the birds need the oil washed off. Tremendously inspirational.

    • ElizaDoole profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa McKnight 

      7 years ago from London

      Thanks for the comments Avian novice. I will check out your hubs on the Athos oil spill too. It seems there is a lot to say about preserving the environment for the future of us all.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      7 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Voted up, awesome and interesting. Humanity needs to be more aware of the "wild" in wildlife and let ALL these pristine animals live as they should. There is too much moneymaking instead of pure enjoyment. Firsthand, I know about this, having worked the Athos I oil spill of '04. It taught me how big business thinks about nothing but themselves. I have finally begun writing about this experience. It hurts to relive it, but it must be told.

    • ElizaDoole profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa McKnight 

      7 years ago from London

      Thanks Marcy, Neil and Summerberrie. It is sad that people still think trophy hunting vulnerable animals is okay to do. It is the product of an education at the elite levels of society which just isn't what the rest of us understand as morally right.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I was really touched by your story about Kevin Richardson. Your detailed map is awesome.

    • Neil Sperling profile image

      Neil Sperling 

      7 years ago from Port Dover Ontario Canada

      fascinating and well written researched. I'm a Big cat lover now! - thanks

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      7 years ago from Planet Earth

      What an amazing map! You really captured the change in distribution; the impact of the graphic illustration is very effective!

      I am saddened at the fact we still have trophy hunters who seek out wild beasts. Perhaps in some cases they help reduce dangerous populations, but your hub shows that's not entirely the case.

      Voted up, awesome and interesting.

    • ElizaDoole profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa McKnight 

      7 years ago from London

      Isn't the video amazing? Margie I can't believe how affectionate those big lions are to Kevin.

    • Mmargie1966 profile image


      7 years ago from Gainesville, GA

      Love, love, love this one! I'm a huge big cat fan to begin with. This is loaded with important information, and my domestic kitty and I enjoyed the Kevin Richardson video tremendously!

    • ElizaDoole profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa McKnight 

      7 years ago from London

      Thanks for the comments everyone.

      @jordan - yes Kevin and his team are wonderful. Thank goodness someone is doing something. What brave choices I really admire them.

      @allie - I am glad you are a supporter of lion conservation. This is a crucial issue for the future of our children.

      Michael - yes it is amazing to discover that the US poachers are the major cause of the lion's extinction.

      Tahoe - you really hit the nail on the head. Aren't we beyond killing for sport? You would think so. Some people are very selfish and ignorant.

    • TahoeDoc profile image


      7 years ago from Lake Tahoe, California

      Great and important information! Thanks for sharing this. I can't believe that people will pay for lion's heads. Aren't we beyond that by now? I guess not. There are still macho egos that are somehow affirmed by killing or owning a powerful (and beautiful) animal.

    • Michael J Rapp profile image

      Michael J Rapp 

      7 years ago from United States

      This was very informative, and I do have to admit I am surprised that the US is the major problem in the decline of the lion population. I'd much rather have a picture of a live lion in the wild than a picture of a dead one.

    • alliemacb profile image


      7 years ago from Scotland

      Great hub on an important issue. I have long been a supporter of the Born Free Foundation and believe that the work that they and people like Kevin do is so important for getting the message out there that lions deserve a chance to survive and thrive in the wild. Voted up and awesome.

    • Jordanwalker39 profile image


      7 years ago from NC

      Wow! a great plethora of useful information. Thank you. I hope that the lion will stick around for a while longer, hope kevin and the rest of us can help make it possible.


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