Protecting People

Protecting People

The campaign to save human lives has collateral costs.


6 - 12


Biology, Geography, Human Geography

Big Cats Initiative

Lions' range once included most of Africa and parts of Asia and Europe. Today, their protection status is vulnerable and lions are only found in parts of sub-Saharan Africa. The exception is a small population of Asian lions living in the Gir Forest of India. Lions are the only big cats that form prides, or groups, to hunt and defend their territory. Lions prey on a variety of animals, including baboons, water buffalo, rodents, zebras, and antelopes. Sometimes they scavenge or steal from other predators like cheetahs or hyenas. Lions are fierce predators that often stalk their prey before attacking. Lions' attacks cause their prey to panic and disperse. Then the lions can isolate and attack a weaker or slower individual. As human populations increase and encroach on lion habitats, conflicts between humans and lions arise. Humans and lions are forced to compete for food and space. Lions are threatened by illegal poaching and retaliatory killings. Many of these killings result from lions seeking out alternative prey like livestock. In some areas, such as the Singida region of Tanzania, some lions and other large carnivores have begun to prey upon humans. After fifteen people were killed by large cat predators, the Tanzanian government ordered hunters to kill any potential man-eaters in the region. This included lions and non-target predators like leopards. Despite the conservation problems with retaliatory killings, locals insist that human welfare must come first.

Media Credits

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Angela M. Cowan, Education Specialist and Curriculum Designer
Julie Brown, National Geographic Society
Elizabeth Wolzak, National Geographic Society
Expert Reviewer
Dr. Luke Dollar, Conservation Scientist
National Geographic Program
Big Cats Initiative
Alison Michel
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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