Lions need undisturbed space to survive, they are top of the food chain and their distribution is fundamentally linked to that of their various prey species. Unfortunately, wild lions are facing numerous threats, including encroachment by humans into lion habitat and the poaching of prey species for the bushmeat trade.
Lions formerly ranged from northern Africa through southwest Asia, west into Europe, and east into India. It is currently estimated that lions occupy as little as 8% of their former range and increased human-lion conflict is unavoidable.
Today lions are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN (and regionally Endangered in West Africa), and with the exception of a few large populations in East and Southern Africa, lion populations are declining rapidly.
Much of Born Free’s lion conservation work is conducted in Kenya, one of the last remaining strongholds for the species, through a core partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) which focuses primarily on actions aimed at reducing human-predator conflict. We seek to find ways for lions and people to live together in the same landscape. A key part of our approach has involved promoting local partnerships for the construction of lion-proof bomas which are a simple, cost-effective method of protecting livestock from predation at night. Since 2010, this work has achieved great success and demand continues to grow as more people and their livestock are better-protected and the likelihood of lion persecution diminishes.
While Born Free continues to pilot other measures aimed at mitigating human-predator conflict, we also contribute towards national carnivore conservation strategies in various ways and focus on trying to ensure that national and international policies are lion-friendly.
We firmly believe that the best place for lions is in the wild. Unfortunately, we often encounter lions that have been bred in captivity or captured from the wild for use in zoos, circuses or as ‘pets’. For those lions that cannot be released into the wild, our focus is on affording them the best possible captive lifetime care in sanctuaries. We lead through example in our management of facilities in Ethiopia, South Africa and Malawi, where the lions are housed in large, naturally-vegetated and landscaped enclosures that aim to let them express as many of their natural behaviours as possible.