The Vanishing Lions

About

Africa’s lion population appears to be declining at an alarming rate. NATURE’s The Vanishing Lions searches for explanations and solutions to the troubling trend.

Across Africa, the King of Beasts is in trouble. In the late 20th century, wildlife preserves were created to curtail safari hunting, but the African lion population continues to decline. Their numbers have dwindled from 100,000 in the early 1990s to no more than 30,000 and as few as 16,000 today. What could be endangering the King of Beasts?

In the mid-1990s a mysterious disease spread rapidly through the lion population in Tanzania and Kenya. An investigation revealed that the big cats had contracted canine distemper from jackals and hyenas that were picking it up from dogs in nearby villages. The spread of the disease was quickly halted and today lion numbers in the affected areas are back to previous levels.

If canine distemper was halted, why have lions continued to decline? An ever-expanding human population has led to competition between herders and lions for land and food. Lions living at the edge of the preserves sometimes stray from protected areas in search of easy prey. The Maasai and other ranchers will often kill them to protect their livestock and source of livelihood.

But as NATURE’s The Vanishing Lions shows, Africans are now struggling to reverse the decline. Everyone from scientists and conservationists to Maasai herders and ranchers is working together to find solutions. Travel to Kenya’s famed Serengeti Plains, the wildlife-rich Laikipia Plateau, and elsewhere in Africa as NATURE explores efforts to allow people and lions to coexist and prosper.

To order a copy of The Vanishing Lions, visit the NATURE Shop.

Online content for The Vanishing Lions was originally posted April 2006.

Production Credits Print

Television Credits

Narrated by
PETER COYOTE

Produced by
INGRID KVALE

Photography
SAM GRACEY

Additional Photography
WARREN SAMUELS

Sound Recordists
JOHN GATIBARU
JJ LE ROUX

Film Editor
DAVID WARNER

Music by
NITIN SAWHNEY

Dubbing Editor
PAUL COWGILL

Dubbing Mixer
JONATHAN JENKINS

Script Consultant
SUE WESTERN

Scientific Advisor
LAURENCE FRANK

Researcher
DAVID HEATH

Production Co-ordinator
VICKY CAREY

Production Manager
DI WILLIAMS

The BBC wishes to thank
African Lion Working Group
Peter Blackwell
Sarah Cleaveland
Ian Cowie
Paul Gathitu
Lesley Hannah
Jean Hartley
Winnie Kiiru
Lion Park Johannesburg
Evans Mukolwe
Wildlife Conservation Society

Series Editor
TIM MARTIN

© 2005 BBC All Rights Reserved

For NATURE

Series Editor
JANET HESS

Supervising Producer
JANICE YOUNG

Producers
JILL CLARKE
PATTY JACOBSON

Associate Producer
IRENE TEJARATCHI

Production Secretary
RACHAEL TEEL

Manager
EILEEN FRAHER

Production Manager
JULIE SCHAPIRO THORMAN

On-line Editor
BRUNO PELLEGRINI

Sound Mixer
ED CAMPBELL

Series Producer
BILL MURPHY

Executive in Charge
WILLIAM GRANT

Executive Producer
FRED KAUFMAN

A Co-Production of Thirteen/WNET New York and BBC

This program was produced by Thirteen/WNET New York, which is solely responsible for its content.

© 2006 Educational Broadcasting Corporation

All Rights Reserved

Web Credits

Director of Production
DANIEL B. GREENBERG

Producer
TANNER VEA

Production Assistant
DANIEL ROSS

Legacy Producer
MARY HOPE GARCIA

Pagebuilding
BRIAN SANTALONE

Writer
DAVID MALAKOFF

Technical Director
BRIAN LEE

About the Writer

David Malakoff is a journalist covering research discoveries and the politics of science for SCIENCE MAGAZINE in Washington, D.C. His writing has appeared in a wide range of venues, including THE ECONOMIST, THE WASHINGTON POST, and ABCNews.com.

Photos from The Vanishing Lions.

Thirteen Online is a production of Thirteen/WNET New York's Kravis Multimedia Education Center in New York City. Anthony Chapman, Director of Interactive & Broadband. Bob Adleman, Business Manager. Carmen DiRienzo, Vice President and Managing Director, Corporate Affairs.