From Wildlife Extra:
The West African Lion is dangerously close to extinction
January 2014: The African lion is facing extinction across the entire West African region reveals a paper authored by Panthera‘s Lion Program Survey Coordinator, Dr Philipp Henschel, and a team from West Africa, the UK, Canada and the United States.
The West African lion once ranged continuously from Senegal to Nigeria, but now, says the scientists, there are just 250 adult lions left in five countries; Senegal, Nigeria and a single trans-frontier population on the shared borders of Benin, Niger and Burkina Faso.
These results follow a massive survey effort that took six years and covered 11 countries where lions were presumed to exist in the last two decades.
Panthera’s President, Dr. Luke Hunter said: “Lions have undergone a catastrophic collapse in West Africa. The countries that have managed to retain them are struggling with pervasive poverty and very little funding for conservation.”
The West African lion is genetically distinct from the lions of in East and southern Africa.
“West African lions have unique genetic sequences not found in any other lions, including in zoos or captivity,” explained Dr. Christine Breitenmoser, the co-chair of the IUCN/SCC Cat Specialist Group, which determines the conservation status of wild cats around the world. “If we lose the lion in West Africa, we will lose a unique, locally adapted population found no-where else. It makes their conservation even more urgent.”
Lions have disappeared across Africa as human populations and their livestock herds have grown, competing for land with lions and other wildlife. Wild savannas are converted for agriculture and cattle, the lion’s natural prey is hunted out and lions are killed by pastoralists fearing the loss of their herds.