The lion (Panthera leo) is one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera and a member of the family Felidae. With some males exceeding 250 kg in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger. Wild lions currently exist in sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia (where an endangered remnant population resides in Gir Forest National Park in India). The lion is a vulnerable species, having seen a major population decline of 30–50% over the past two decades in its African range. Lion populations are untenable outside designated reserves and national parks. Although the cause of the decline is not fully understood, habitat loss and conflicts with humans are currently the greatest causes of concern. Within Africa, the West African lion population is particularly endangered.
The Asiatic Lion or South Asian, Persian, or Indian lion, once was widespread from Turkey, across Southwest Asia, to Pakistan, India, and even to Bangladesh. However, large prides and daylight activity made them easier to poach than tigers or leopards now around 400 exist in and near the Gir Forest of India.
The Barbary lion, originally ranged from Morocco to Egypt. It is extinct in the wild due to excessive hunting, as the last wild Barbary lion was killed in Morocco in 1922. This was one of the largest of the lion subspecies, with reported lengths of 3.0 – 3.3 m and weights of more than 200 kg for males.
Some subspecies of lions still exist today and the most common ones are the West African lion, Masai lion, Katanga lion and the northeast Congo Lion.
Most lions now live in eastern and southern Africa, and their numbers there are rapidly decreasing, with an estimated 30–50% decline over the last two decades. Estimates of the African lion population range between 16,500 and 47,000 living in the wild in 2002–2004, down from early 1990s estimates that ranged as high as 100,000 and perhaps 400,000 in 1950. Primary causes of the decline include disease and human interference. Habitat loss and conflicts with humans are considered the most significant threats to the species. The remaining populations are often geographically isolated from one another, which can lead to inbreeding, and consequently, reduced genetic diversity. Therefore the lion is considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, while the Asiatic subspecies is endangered. The lion population in the region of West Africa is isolated from lion populations of Central Africa, with little or no exchange of breeding individuals. The number of mature individuals in West Africa is estimated by two separate recent surveys at 850–1,160 (2002/2004). There is disagreement over the size of the largest individual population in West Africa, the estimates range from 100 to 400 lions in Burkina Faso's Arly-Singou ecosystem. Another population in northwestern Africa is found in Waza National Park, where only about 14-21 animals persist.