Researchers have found only 400 lions in West Africa and only 250 of those are of mature mating age, raising alarm that the West African lion may soon go extinct.
Panthera, a non-profit research organization, spent six years tracking lions in 17 West African countries, from Senegal to Nigeria, BBC reports. In 2005, West African lions were spotted in 21 different sites, but the Panthera survey suggests that lions now live in only four of those areas. According to the report published in PLOS One, West African lions now roam only 1.1% of their natural range. Panthera is calling for West African lions to be listed as critically endangered, since they have a unique genetic makeup not found in other lions living in captivity.
Most of the parks surveyed by Panthera were "paper parks," with no budget or staff to actually patrol the grounds and protect the wildlife. Most of the West African countries in question lack the funds for serious conservation efforts, BBC reports.
"We are talking about some of the poorest counties in the world—many governments have bigger problems than protecting lions," said Philipp Henschel, co-author of the report.