Lion | African Wildlife Foundation

This majestic cat’s populations
are rapidly declining

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Conservation Status:


  • Population decreased 42% in 21 years
  • Regionally extinct in 7 African countries
  • Declared as 'vulnerable' in 1996 by IUCN

Quick Facts

Scientific name

Panthero Leo


330 to 500+ lb.


48 in. at the shoulder

Life span

10 to 14 years in the wild; up to 20 years in captivity


Grassy plains and open woodlands




About 105 days




Physical Characteristics

What is a lion?

Lions are the second largest living cats after tigers. Male lions are unique among the cat species for their thick mane of brown or black hair encircling their head and neck. Both male and female lions roar—a sound heard as far as 8 kilometers away.

Behavior & Diet

Lions are hunters and scavengers.

Cooperative hunting enables lions to take down prey as large as buffalo, rhinos, hippos, and giraffes. However, scavenged food provides more than 50% of their diets—lions will often take over kills made by other carnivores. Females do 85 to 90% of the hunting, usually by setting up an ambush for their prey. The kill is not shared equally within a pride, and at times of prey scarcity, high-mortality rates of juveniles occur, as hungry females may not even share with their offspring.

They are the most social cats.

While most cat species are solitary, the lion is an exception. It has developed a social system based on teamwork, division of labor, and an extended family unit. The average pride consists of about 15 individuals, with five to 10 females, their young, and two or three territorial males. These are usually brothers or pride mates who have formed a coalition to protect their females.

Lions are affectionate.

When resting, lions seem to enjoy good fellowship with lots of touching, head rubbing, licking, and purring.

Their parenting styles are wildly different.

Usually, two or more females in a pride give birth around the same time, and the cubs are raised together. Some mothers carefully nurture their young and will even permit other cubs other to suckle, sometimes enabling a neglected infant to survive. However, at times, a lioness may also neglect or abandon her cubs, especially if food is scarce.

  • Lion and Cubs
  • Slowmotion Lion Grooming
  • African lion resting
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Humans are pushing lions out of their habitats.

The number of lions in the wild is steadily decreasing. In just two decades, Africa’s lion population has decreased 42%. One of the main causes is the alarming rate at which they are losing their habitats due to expanding human populations and the resulting growth of agriculture, settlements, and roads.

Human-wildlife conflict is also a major threat to lions.

Due to habitat loss, lions are being forced into closer quarters with humans. This, coupled with a decrease in their natural prey, causes lions to attack livestock. In turn, farmers, oftentimes, retaliate and kill lions.

Lions have become prey to people. 

Lions are being killed in rituals of bravery, as hunting trophies, and for their perceived medicinal and magical powers.


Our solutions to conserving the lion:

  • Mitigate human-wildlife conflict.

    Retaliation is the primary reason for lion killings. We work with communities to help them realize the value of lions and to help them protect their families and livestock from large carnivores. In Tanzania's Ruaha National Park, where 10 percent of the world’s remaining lion population can be found, AWF’s Ruaha Carnivore Project is fostering a much-needed shift in the local opinion of carnivores.

    Since 2012, AWF has been working with Ruaha’s communities to build livestock enclosures to protect livestock from predation, and, in turn, protect lions and other carnivores from retaliatory killing. In addition, Ruaha Carnivore Project provides community benefits to villages that demonstrate success in living peacefully with carnivores.

  • Use scientific research and data.

    African Wildlife Foundation’s researchers are working to gain an understanding of carnivores’ populations, behaviors, movements, and interactions with people in order to develop appropriate conservation actions. Since 2002, our Large Carnivore Research Project has undertaken research aimed at ensuring the continued survival of large predators living around Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.


Will you show the lions your support?

With your help, AWF can continue working on vital programs like constructing bomas near Tarangire National Park and conducting carnivore research to diffuse conflicts between humans and lions. Donate for a cause that will help with wildlife conservation and ensure the vulnerable lion does not become an endangered species. 

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