Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
, 8 (4), e60174

Examining the Extinction of the Barbary Lion and Its Implications for Felid Conservation

Affiliations

Examining the Extinction of the Barbary Lion and Its Implications for Felid Conservation

Simon A Black et al. PLoS One.

Abstract

Estimations of species extinction dates are rarely definitive, yet declarations of extinction or extirpation are important as they define when conservation efforts may cease. Erroneous declarations of extinctions not only destabilize conservation efforts but also corrode local community support. Mismatches in perceptions by the scientific and local communities risk undermining sensitive, but important partnerships. We examine observations relating to the decline and extinction of Barbary lions in North Africa. Whilst the extinction predates the era of the scientific conservation movement, the decline is relatively well documented in historical records. Recently unearthed accounts suggest Barbary lions survived later than previously assumed. We use probabilistic methods to estimate a more recent extinction date for the subspecies. The evidence presented for a much later persistence of lions in North Africa, including generations when sightings were nil, suggests caution when considering felid populations as extinct in the wild. The case raises the possibility that captive animals descended from the Moroccan royal collection are closer contemporaries to wild Barbary lions. Furthermore, our results highlight the vulnerability of very small lion populations and the significance of continued conservation of remnant lion populations in Central and West Africa.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: Co-author David L Roberts is a PLOS ONE Editorial Board member. This does not alter the authors' adherence to all the PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1. Distribution of historical reports of lions in North Africa (AD 1500–1900).
Grey shading indicates Mediterranean scrubland ecosystems . Earliest accounts in the western Maghreb from 16th to the 18th century are indicated as open circles , . Documented sightings in known years from 1800 to 1900 are indicated as black circular markers in the western Maghreb (1–7 in Table 1); triangular markers indicate sightings in eastern Maghreb (22–133 in Tables 2–6). Asterisks (*) denote locations of human population centers. Dashed lines indicate national boundaries.
Figure 2
Figure 2. Distribution of recent sightings of lions in North Africa (AD 1900–1960).
Grey shading indicates Mediterranean scrubland ecosystems . Circular markers indicate sightings in western Maghreb (8–21 in Table 1); triangular markers indicate sightings in eastern Maghreb (134–149) from incidents described in Table 6. The dotted line indicates the air route across the Atlas Mountains (Casablanca-Agadir-Dakar) during which the last wild lion was photographed. Asterisks (*) denote locations of human population centers. Dashed lines indicate national boundaries.
Figure 3
Figure 3. A lion seen in the Atlas Mountains, during a flight on the Casablanca-Dakar air route.
The photograph taken by Marcelin Flandrin in 1925 is the last visual record of a wild ‘Barbary’ lion of North Africa.
Figure 4
Figure 4. Estimates of captive generations since wild collection in North Africa for current Moroccan Royal lions.
Grey boxes indicate estimated lion generations based on suggestions by: (a) Packer et al. , and (b) Hemmer . Black boxes are the five known generations in the European studbook since the 1974 survey at Temara Zoo. Generational positions for two studbook maternal lines are illustrated for a female cub (white box) born to studbook female 270, and a young male (267) born to female 230, tracing to founder females 37 and 21 respectively.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 2 PubMed Central articles

References

    1. Henschel P, Hunter L, Breitenmoser U, Purchase N, Packer C, et al. . (2008) Panthera pardus In IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. (Accessed 28 February 2011: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/15954/0).
    1. Can OE (2004) Status, conservation and management of large carnivores in Turkey. Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, Standing Committee Meeting 24, 29th November-3rd December, T-PVS/Inf(2004) 8. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.
    1. Karanth KU, Chellum R (2009) Carnivore conservation at the crossroads. Oryx 43: 1–2.
    1. IUCN (2012) IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1. (Accessed 26 June 2012: www.iucnredlist.org).
    1. Tumenta PN, Kok JS, van Rijssel JC, Buij R, Croes BM, et al. (2009) Threat of rapid extermination of the lion (Panthera leo leo) in Waza National Park, Northern Cameroon. Afr. J. Ecol. 48: 888–894.

Grant support

The authors have no support or funding to report.
Feedback