- LionAid say there are just 645 wild lions remaining in west and central Africa
- There are no lions in 25 African countries and are only just surviving in ten
- Conservationists calling for species to be included on most endangered list
The west African lion is on the verge of extinction, according to experts after a marked decline in recent years.
It is estimated there are just 645 genetically distinct wild lions left in western and central Africa, with as few as 34 remaining in the whole of Nigeria.
Now experts from conservation group LionAid say they are ‘in real danger of extinction’.
According to the group, there are no lions left in 25 African countries and populations are barely surviving in ten.
Clusters of lions remain in Burkina Faso, Niger, the Central African Republic, Cameroon and Chad but are already extinct in countries such as Ghana, The Ivory Coast and Togo.
Thirty years ago there were 200,000 lions roaming wild across the continent – but now there are only between 15,000 and 32,000 left.
West African lions have been largely forgotten due to political apathy to conservation.
Dr Pieter Kat, trustee of LionAid, told The Guardian: ‘There has been a catastrophic decline in the populations of lions in Africa, and particularly west Africa.
‘These lions have been neglected for a very long time and do not have adequate protection programs.’
He said the west of the continent is often ignored in favour of eastern Africa, leading to a decline in species.
The lion is threatened by a range of factors, including loss of habitat, loss of natural prey due to poaching, ‘unsustainable levels of trophy hunting’ and human conflict.
A new threat is also on the rise as lion bones are being used to supply the demands of Asian traditional medicine as tiger bones become more scarce.