West African lions are in danger of becoming extinct if action isn’t taken, a study found. The lions, which are genetically distinct from other lions, have an estimated population of around 400 remaining in the region.
The report was conducted by Panthera, a conservation organization that works to save wild cats. The study found that the decline in West African lions occurred in nations that lacked funds for conservation. Currently, the protected areas that allow lions to roam freely amounts to only 1% of their historic range.
“Lions have undergone a catastrophic collapse in West Africa,” Panthera’s President Luke Hunter told BBC News. “The countries that have managed to retain them are struggling with pervasive poverty and very little funding for conservation.”
The report’s authors called for West African lions to be labeled “critically endangered” and encouraged the international community to contribute to the conservation effort. Recommendations also included actions against poaching in the region, as well as the enhancement of photographic tourism to create economic incentives and draw in further revenue for the use of conservation.