Common Name: African Lion
Scientific Name: Panthera leo
Group Name: Pride
Size: Head and body, 4.5 to 6.5 ft; tail, 26.25 to 39.5 in
Weight: 265 to 420 lbs
In the late Pleistocene, about 10,000 years ago, the lion was the most widespread large land mammal after humans: Panthera leo spelaea lived in northern and western Europe and Panthera leo atrox lived in the Americas from the Yukon to Peru. Most lions now live in eastern and southern Africa, and their numbers there are rapidly decreasing, with an estimated 30–50% decline per 20 years in the late half of the twentieth century. 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.
Man Eating Lions
The lion’s proclivity for man-eating in rural areas of Tanzania increased greatly from 1990 to 2005. At least 563 villagers were attacked and many eaten over this period – a number far exceeding the more famed “Tsavo” incidents of a century earlier. Another study of 1,000 people attacked by lions in southern Tanzania between 1988 and 2009 found that the weeks following the full moon (when there was less moonlight) were a strong indicator of increased night attacks on people.
Author Robert R. Frump wrote in The Man-eaters of Eden that Mozambican refugees regularly crossing Kruger National Park at night in South Africa are attacked and eaten by the lions; park officials have conceded that man-eating is a problem there. Frump believes thousands may have been killed in the decades after apartheid sealed the park and forced the refugees to cross the park at night. For nearly a century before the border was sealed, Mozambicans had regularly walked across the park in daytime with little harm.
Packer estimates more than 200 Tanzanians are killed each year by lions, crocodiles, elephants, hippos, and snakes, and that the numbers could be double that amount, with lions thought to kill at least 70 of those. Packer and Ikanda are among the few conservationists who believe western conservation efforts must take account of these matters not just because of ethical concerns about human life, but also for the long term success of conservation efforts and lion preservation.
There is a saying in Africa that you are frightened three times during a lion hunt. First, when you find his tracks in the sand; second, when you hear his deafening roar; and third, when you first lay your eyes on him. Some consider lion hunting the ultimate dangerous game hunt. It is probably the most challenging and rewarding hunting safari available in Africa today. Trophy lions are scarce though, and to be assured of a big maned male, you need to choose a hunting concession and PH that has a proven track record.
Lion hunting is banned in some countries, but most do allow it. In fact, South Africa boasts the fastest growing wild Lion population in Africa, estimated at approximately 2800 and counting. Wild Lion hunting quotas are extremely conservative and sound management principles dictate these quotas.