Lion

Photo credit Ross Couper

Lion

Altaileopard https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Altaileopard – Own work using: File:Lion_distribution.png Scientific source: Bertola, L. D., Jongbloed, H., Van Der Gaag, K. J., De Knijff, P., Yamaguchi, N., Hooghiemstra, H., … & Tende, T. (2016). Phylogeographic patterns in Africa and high resolution delineation of genetic clades in the lion (Panthera leo). Scientific Reports, 6, 30807.

Lions- often referred to as ‘The king of the jungle’ (odd as they are rarely found in the jungle) are usually one of the animals visitors want to see if not the main one.

They are very impressive and it is understandable why they are popular. No other predator dares lie out dozing in the open plains all day.

However over the last few decades, lion declines have been horrific, with declines of more than 2/3 since the 1960s.

Lion conservation is important, because to have a thriving lion population, you need a very large protected area, and an intact ecosystem- so all the other animals benefit. I have used a large variety of sources to compile this, but one study of great interest is “Lion conservation in West and Central Africa” by Hans Bauer, published in 2003. In 1996 the estimate for the lion population in Africa was thought to be between 30,000 and 100,000, however the IUCN African Lion Working Group suggested a more realistic number was 18,000-27,000. They also suggested, that of 38 reserves and parks across these regions that used to have lions, they are definitely lost from 23.

The Asiatic lion is different; Its only current home in Asia, is the Gir forests of western India. However, something that many people do not know is that the Asiatic lion population of Gir is a tiny relict of possibly the largest spread lion subspecies. The Asiatic lion still exists in Africa – the western and northern lion population are very closely related to the Asiatic lion and are thought to have last naturally interbred a few centuries ago. Importantly, they are still so genetically similar that they are not different sub species. This is important, as it means that only just over half of the Asiatic lions live in and around Gir, the rest live in Africa. I hope to add many more destinations over time. If you run safari lodge or camp or tours please do get in touch through the above link “list your wild place”. We are keen to list as many of the places to see wild lions as possible. 

It should be noted, that in historic times the Asiatic lion population spread as far as Spain, though the last ones were likely lost around the time of Jesus. Asiatic lions survived in the Caucuses for far longer, surviving until around the end of the first millennium (1000AD). Ecologically, the conditions of Southern and Eastern Europe have not changed much in the last millennium. However, until a significant change in human habitation, there is no space for lions to return to this area.

Current estimates suggest that at most there are 20,000 lions in Africa (Some suggest 20,000-25,000, though LionAid did a thorough assessment of the lions on the continent in 2020 and came up with just 9200). If this lower number is correct, then there is no longer more than 10,000 wild lions in the world. Having said that, below is the 5 largest populations, which are relatively well known, and these add up to above that number. Time will tell.

As keystone species, and apex predators, lions are incredibly important, as such it is a species that is followed closely on this website.  On each tab, you will find a list of articles about that species. Find below a list of articles on lions, below that is links to places we list where you can see lion. Please note, tab 2 and 3 refer to two separate populations of the Asiatic subspecies if only recently confirmed through genetic testing.

 

As you can see from the map above, the name African lion is not particularly accurate, given that half of Africa was inhabited by the Asian Lion. Still, even taking into account this number of African lions which belong to the Asiatic lion subspecies, still the population of African lion subspecies account for the majority of lions left in the world. It should be noted, that while Tanzania is still claiming a lion population of 14,000-15,000 Lionaid survey in 2020 claimed around 9600 in the world, so someone is definitely wrong. The image at the top of the page is an African Lion.

Over time, I hope that the destinations that we list on this site will grow fast, but for now we list the large lion ecosystems- hopefully with a few more coming soon

1. Kruger national park, and the greater Limpopo 2500                          

2. Serengeti and surrounding reserves 3000 

3. Kalahari Zambezi 1500 (though with the size of this

 reserve, there is space for much growth)

4. Selous (Nyerere national pakr 4000-5000 though as most of this vast reserve is set aside for hunting, much if it is unavailable to photographic safari (latest survey suggests 4300)

5. Ruaha national park (Tanzania) 4000

This accounts for around anything from 40% up to 64% (it is likely to be at the top end of this estimate as this includes the biggest lion populations of Africa) on the lions of african depending on which estimate you trust. Indeed, given Lionaids estinate, it accounts for as much as 167%.  We hope to add other populations in the coming years.

While it is undeniable that the lion populations in the East and South of the continent have reduced, there would have to have been a significant population in west and north of the continent as well. While, clearly, much of this space has been lost to human expansion, there is still much space for a great increase in this population, whether it ever gets a chance to grow is something we will have to wait and see.

Known as Panthera Leo Leo, the Asiatic Lion is more complicated than once thought. Historically found throughout North, West and Central Africa, Large parts of Asia as well as throughout Southern Europe. Different parts of this huge area have been lost at different times. Oddly despite this, it appeared to be officially forgotten for some time, so that only recently it was demonstrated genetically that the West African lion and the Central African lion are the subspecies as the Asiatic lion, and as such there ar

e actually more Asiatic lions in Africa. As such, the Asiatic lion is split into 3 clades. Which will be handled separately.

So here, the west African Lion clade:

1. W-Arly-Pendjari Transfrontier park was estimated to hold 250-500 members (it should be noted that it is likely close the botto at the current time)

2. Senegal’s Niokolo-Koba national park formerly a stronghold, the number of lions as low as 30 at the moment (down from as high as as 120 in 1996)

3. Waza national park, Cameroon is was thought to host 14-21 lions in 2010, I  dont know what has happened since

4. Kainji Lake National Park, Nigeria is thought to host around 30, while Yankara may only have 5 left.       

5. Bénoué ecosystem: (Faro, Bénoué and Bouba-Ndjidda national parks as well as 32 hunting areas, covering 30,000 square km) contains 250 lions 

Are these over-estimates? A significant number of sources claim just 250 in the world, though others suggest around 400. Having said that, should we assume the minimum population for the WAP complex and Benoue estimate being accurate (studies are recent and thorough) this gets us to to over 400 already. 

 

What is unfortunate though is the populations in the other 3 reserves. 

Having said that, back around 1900 there was only an estimated 20 lions left in India, so a similar recovery could give each of these reserves a 400 population in 50 or so years. I would estimate given the reliability of these numbers that at the time of the study in 2020 the total population numbered around 800. though even half of this would be enough for a recovery over a relatively short term.

The western and the central lion population was (relatively recently) far larger. 1900 it is thought that there may have been as many as 200,000. Even as recently as 1970 there were thought to have been 90,000.

Unfortunately, at the current time, I have no links in these place – but would love to, please get in touch if you work in one of these reserves, we would love to help people find you.

 

Known as Panthera Leo Leo, the Asiatic Lion is more complicated than once thought. Historically found throughout North, West and Central Africa, Large parts of Asia as well as throughout Southern Europe. Different parts of this huge area have been lost at different times. Oddly despite this, it appeared to be officially forgotten for some time, so that only recently it was demonstrated genetically that the West African lion and the Central African lion are the subspecies as the Asiatic lion, and as such there are actually more Asiatic lions in Africa. As such, the Asiatic lion is split into 3 clades. Which will be handled separately.

So the central African lion is thought to have a population of around 2200 (as of 2015-2016): I have not been able to calculate a proper number for this, I hope to have more information in the future.

 

Asiatic lion from the Gir fores

Known as Panthera Leo Leo, the Asiatic Lion is more complicated than once thought. Historically found throughout North, West and Central Africa, Large parts of Asia as well as throughout Southern Europe. Different parts of this huge area have been lost at different times. Oddly despite this, it appeared to be officially forgotten for some time, so that only recently it was demonstrated genetically that the West African lion and the Central African lion are the subspecies as the Asiatic lion, and as such there are actually more Asiatic lions in Africa. As such, the Asiatic lion is split into 3 clades. Which will be handled separately.

So the North African and Asiatic clade: The north African lion, otherwise known as the Barbary lion, was lost some time ago (the last one was shot in 1942). However, there has been much discussion about reintroducing them to Morocco, for some time. It could well be done in the near future. 

The rest of this clade (remembering that the West and Central African lions are the same subspecies as this) are found in the Gir forests of India. This population is thought to be as high as 600, though deaths have been particularly high for a significant period of time. This population only currently has one protected home, from which the lions are overflowing- the Gir forest. The forest is home to as many as 600 lions, though only covering 1400 square km (545 miles) the best reserves in Africa have roughly 1 lion per every 5 square miles. Many of these lions live outside, with as many as 200 having made their home by the sea, a great distance form the park.

 

Scientists have long argued that some of the lions should be moved to another reserve as having all of them in one place leaves the entire clade vulnerable to natural disasters or indeed an epidemic. Indeed, it has gone all the way to the high court in India, but the Chief minister of Gujarat has simply refused to enforce the order (he does not want to loose the status of housing the only wild Asiatic lion (at least the Asiatic clade). There was much effort to give the Indian lions a second home, but the government saw them as their property and refused to allow any to be moved. The proposed home was set up for them – the Kuno reserve, with a number of villages moved to accommodate them. The Gujarat government has suggested all sorts of reasons to refuse, including that the reserve is unacceptable – despite being almost identical to Gir.

Kuno is now the home of the cheetah reintroduction (not that this should rule it out, as they lived alongside each other in the past, and from where they have been moved). Never-the-less, Gujurat has refused to budge even having lost the case in the supreme court.

 

It seems absurd that something this important can be held up because of politics but there we are. There are plans to move 40 lions to Barda wildlife sanctuary, which would at least give a second home. However, given the Asiatic Lions historical range covering such a vast area, the idea that one state in India could block translocations to anywhere else is quite scary. 

Never-the less, it is still a fascinating place to visit.

 

Limpopo Transfrontier park including Kruger sabi sands and other conservation areas
Greater Serengeti

List your wild place

Would you like to list your wildlife destination on this site?

Living alongside wildlife can be complicated. A farmer will struggle to enjoy the presence of predators, even if they have not attacked his livestock.

On this website, our aim is to allow people to benefit from wildlife that they share their land with, whether this is to bring in some extra money, or to pay for protection for livestock, or whether it is the primary use (any farmers care about the environment more than city dwellers, so our aim is to make sure that where possible protecting wildlife pays – by giving them the ability to list their land for people to see the wildlife that they farm beside). Whether you live or work in one of the worlds great wildernesses or national parks, or you own wilderness on the edge of one of these (Sabi sands, one of the oldest private reserves borders the Kruger) we want to help people find you, so that you can show them all the wonderful wildlife on your land. 

There are examples of each type of page to look at. Do look at the ecosystem you are located in/by is already listed as we can add further options, but will not list ecosystems more than once.

We follow a relatively simplistic booking process, where a form on the website will generate an email booking. We can also include a calendar showing your availability.

There is a link to a form for each category, as well as a further form at the bottom of the page for any questions. This form includes the ability to submit photos of your offering and the wildlife in your vicinity (both are of importance, unless your wildlife destination is already listed) . We work on a simple pricing structure, where we charge you 10% of the cost of any booking that you recieve through us. 

Do you run a lodge or campsite within a protected area?

As you can see we have listed a number of lodges in parts of Africa, but the aim of this site was to simplify wild travel and so we are keen to work with any lodge that would like to.

In order to list your property, we will need:

  • Pictures of your accommodation, with information on cost and amenities
  • Information on the wilderness that surrounds your property, whether it is information on a national park or reserve.
  • Information as to what wildlife can be seen in the area, with some good pictures.

Feel free to view our lodges and reserves currently public to see what your listing can look like. If you are particular about your branding look, we are happy to put up your listing as you would like. Fill in the form at the link below

Fill in the form in this link to list your wild place -campsite lodge or similar

Or perhaps you run a wildlife hide of some kind

For many people the only way they can have a chance of seeing many animals, particularly nocturnal ones, is by sitting in a hide. Many of my most memorable wildlife moments have been had sitting in a wildlife hide watching something unfold in front of me. This need not be on protected land, so long as the hide is not ever used for hunting.

In order to list your hide, we will need:

  • Pictures of your hide with information on cost and amenities.
  • Pictures of the view  people will get from the hide
  • Pictures of some of the wildlife that has been photographed from the hide, as well as information on frequency and anything else of interest.

See our one example currently live

  https://seeanimalswild.com/wildsweden-bear-hide/

Fill in the form you will find if you click on this text to list your hide (bear bird or some other hide -hunting hides not accepted)

Or perhaps you share your vicinity with wildlife

Whatever the reason that you own land, it will be part of a natural ecosystem and as such you are likely to have some animals that live on it with you. This can cause complications with many land uses such as farming, where predators may eat some of your livestock.

Many people will happily pay to have a chance of seeing some of these animals that can be a complication, and by utilising these visits you can make some extra money to help offset any financial losses from predation or damage to property.

This could range from South African farmers who share their land with cheetahs, to European farmers who might share their land with bears or wolves, or perhaps simply an active badgers sett in the UK.

Alternatively, you could own a restaurant where bush babies could be seen in the evening.

The possibilities are endless.

To be listed we will need:

Photos of your land with the animal/bird in question (or information on the ecosystem in which your land sits. It is worth looking at what is already up, as we will list ecosystems only once- so if someone has already listed your ecosystem, we can simply add your wildlife opportunity below.

Details of what you are offering and where it is

    • Accommodation (camping or hut etc). This is particularly important if the wildlife is nocturnal or is based in a particularly remote area
    • A game drive to see the wildlife at a set time.
    • A restaurant, from which wildlife can be watched. This could be anything from interesting birds, lizards or indeed perhaps a resident bush baby
    • Anything else that you can think of that follows along similar lines

Information on price

Fill in the form in this link if you see a lot of wildlife on your land and would like to be able to invite other people to see it


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Finally, we are keen to support wildlife guides, boat trips and wildlife drives. 

Even in some of the wildest places on earth, it is very easy to spend weeks there and see none of the local animals.

A wildlife guide can make a big difference. Be it a trip on a boat to sea the marine life, or a car journey into a reserve nearby.

I am aware though, how often, it is hard to connect with local guides when you are visiting an area.

As such I am keen to list local guides, and the ability to book.

To be listed, I will need:

  • Some information about the wildlife you often see when you take people out, preferably with some pictures (and where)
  • What services you offer (are you just a guide or can you offer a place to stay as well)
  • Any other information that you would like to pass on
  • Pricing

Fill in the form in this link if you are a wildlife guide and would like to list your services on our website, or you run trips to see marine wildlife, or in reserves around your home.

 

 

if you have a question or  do not believe that your wildlife encounter falls in one of these categories please fill in the form below (we aim to be a place where the whole of the wildlife tourism industry (bar any form of hunting) if we do not serve your field let us know, we can either create a new section or instead fit it into another area.

Have a look at the listings we currently have to get an idea of what your listing will look like, and what we need.

Limpopo Transfrontier park including Kruger sabi sands and other conservation areas
Greater Serengeti
See Animals Wild