Where do lions live

Where do lions live?

The distribution of Panthera leo

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EUGENE M. MCCARTHY, PHD

Where do lions live? Lions (Panthera leo) were once far more widespread than they are today. In historic times they were found throughout much of southern Eurasia, from Greece to India (map of the lion's former range). Prehistorically, they were distributed even more widely. Their fossils are known from Germany, Italy, northern Asia, and even North America.

lion face
where do lions live
Distribution of the lion, Panthera leo (larger, more detailed map)

But today range of P. leo is almost entirely limited to sub-Saharan Africa. They occur throughout that region, except in the equatorial rain forest and in the heavily populated regions along the southern coast of the western portion of the continent. But these large predators do not easily coexist with humans, and as human populations increase, lion populations decline. Due to poisoning and hunting by livestock owners, they are now rare outside protected areas, and their distribution is highly fragmented. Many lions in eastern Africa are also being lost to canine distemper. The last wild lion in Africa north of the Sahara was shot in Morocco in 1920.

Outside Africa, lions were common from Turkey to India, even as late as 1850. But now, with human populations expanding throughout the Middle East, the Asian lion has almost disappeared. Only a small, population of about 250 individuals survives, all either in western India's Gir Wildlife Sanctuary or in nearby areas on the Kutch Peninsula (indicated by arrow in the upper right corner of the map above).

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