found in every part of the world except for Australia and Antarctica. Stone Age people made pictures of lions on rocks and cave walls. Ever since then, lions have been important to humans. There are lions in myths and stories, lions on TV and in movies. Everyone knows what a lion is. In fact, I bet that “lion” was one of the first animals that you could name when you were very little.
It’s hard to imagine a world without lions, but that may be exactly what we’re heading for. Today, most lions live in Africa, along with just a few hundred on one nature reserve in India. In the last ten years, the number of lions in Africa has dropped, so that there are only about 30,000 lions left there. That sounds like a lot, until you think that 30,000 is about the population of a medium-size town. Some scientists believe that lions could be extinct in the wild in ten years.
Why are lions in such danger? Well, the problem is that lions are not easy to live with. They are big, fierce predators, and they don’t mind eating cows, goats, sheep, or even people. When there were fewer people and there was more wilderness for lions to live in, this didn’t matter so much, as humans and lions could keep out of each other’s way. But now the human population in East Africa, where most lions live, has grown so much that there’s less wild food and wild space for lions. This means that more and more farm animals and people are being attacked — and even killed — by them. So you can understand why the people who have to live with lions are happy to shoot them, poison them, and let hunters from other countries pay money to kill them. This is exactly what is happening in Africa right now.
Luckily, groups of scientists and local people all over East Africa are working together to keep both people and lions safe.
Sometimes, this is just about changing the way people do things. The Niassa Carnivore Project in Mozambique found that lion attacks could be prevented by asking people to follow a few simple rules, like never sleeping in the open and always carrying a flashlight at night. They spread the word about this by using posters that even people who couldn’t read would understand.
Good, strong fences really help, too. Fences around villages and crops keep lions’ wild prey out, so that they have no reason to wander in after it and come face-to-face with a human. Putting domestic animals inside a barn or behind a fence at night keeps valuable cattle, sheep, and goats — which can be a family’s lifeline — from ending up as a lion’s dinner.
Knowing exactly where lions are can keep people and their animals from getting into danger. Putting satellite or radio tags on lions means they can be tracked over long distances, and if lions get close to villages or grazing cattle, people can be warned. The Living with Lions project in Kenya employs local Maasai warriors — who once hunted lions — as Lion Guardians.They use tracking equipment and cell phones to spread information about what lions are up to, they help to find lost cattle before lions do, and they keep a lookout for poachers — people who hunt and kill wild animals like lions and elephants illegally.
In many parts of Africa, lions struggle to find wild prey because the habitat where their prey lives has been taken over by farms, villages, or roads. In some places, humans kill and eat the same wild animals as lions. It’s known as bush meat, and it’s an important part of many Africans’ diets. Without their natural wild prey to eat, lions turn to domestic animals and humans for their meals. But if the wild habitat is protected and people have domestic animals to eat, not wild ones, then there is more food for lions, and they aren’t so eager to eat humans or farm animals.
Keeping humans and lions apart, tracking lions, and safeguarding their natural food all help people to live safely with lions. This makes people less likely to want to kill lions and more likely to