Wild lion numbers have reduced from around 450,000 in the 1940s to a current estimate of 20,000. Wild lions are extinct in 26 countries in Africa and Asia and have vanished from 90% of their historic range. They are extinct in North Africa and critically endangered in West and Central Africa.

Wild lions only exist in 27 African countries and 1 Asian country. Only 7 countries (Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, for example) are known to contain more than 1000 lions and the populations in the remainder are endangered. Habitat loss, human encroachment and loss of prey species are the main causes of declining numbers. Poaching of wild lions for their body parts in Limpopo National Park has all but wiped out that population.

The last refuge of the Asiatic lion population is the 1,412 km2 (545 sqm) Gir National Park and surrounding areas in the region of Saurashtra or Kathiawar Peninsula in Gujarat State, India. The population has risen from approximately 180 lions in 1974 to about 400 in 2010. It is geographically isolated, which can lead to inbreeding and reduced genetic diversity. Since 2008, the Asiatic lion has been listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. By 2015, the population had grown to 523 individuals inhabiting an area of 7,000 km2 (2,700 sqm) in Saurashtra. The Asiatic Lion Census conducted in 2017 recorded about 650 individuals and a 2020 estimation exercise counted 674.

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