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Past and present distribution of the lion in
North Africa and Southwest Asia

Lion range map

Reproduced from 'Wild Cats - Species Survey and Conservation Action Plan', IUCN Publications

Historical Range: Source is Guggisberg (1961) unless otherwise stated.


Aristotle and Herodotus wrote that lions were found in the Balkans in the middle of the first millennium B.C. When Xerxes advanced through Macedonia in 480 B.C., several of his baggage camels were killed by lions. Lions are believed to have died out within the borders of present-day Greece in A.D. 80-100.


Lions were probably found in the Azerbaijan area up to the 10th century A.D. Their disappearance from the reed thickets and pistachio and juniper forests is primarily associated with an increase in human population and a change in environmental conditions, which in turn led to the decline of ungulates in the region (Hepner and Sludskii 1972).


Lions could still be found in the vicinity of Samaria in the 12th century.


Lions disappeared from the Moroccan coast by the mid-1800's. They may have survived in the High Atlas mountains up to the 1940s.


Last known lion in Algeria killed in 1893 near Batna, 97km south of Constantine.


Last known lion killed in Tunisia in 1891 near Babouch, between Tabarka and Ain-Draham.


Lions were extirpated from Tripolitania as early as 1700.


Last known lion in Turkey killed in 1870 near Birecik on the Eurphrates (√ústay 1990).


Sir Alfred Pease reported that lions still existed west of Aleppo, Syria, in 1891 (Kinnear 1920).


Lions occurred in the vicinity of Mosul, Iraq, in the 1850s. The Turkish governor's bag of two in 1914 is the last report of them from the area (Kinnear 1920).


Lions were reported to be numerous in the reedy swamps bordering the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers in the early 1870s. The last known lion in Iraq was killed in 1918 on the lower Tigris (Hatt 1959).


The valley of Dashtiarjan, 57km west of Shiraz in Iran, was famous for its lions in the late 1800s.


The last known report of lion presence in Iran was a 1942 observation of a pair near Dizful, by American engineers building a railway (Heaney 1943).


There are no confirmed records of lion presence in central or eastern Iran, nor Afghanistan or Baluchistan.


The last known lion in Pakistan killed near Kot Deji in Sind province in 1810.


However, a British admiral travelling by train reported seeing a maneless lion near Quetta in 1935, eating a goat: "It was a large lion, very stocky, light tawny in colour, and I may say that no one of us three had the slightest doubt of what we had seen until, on our arrival at Quetta. Many officers expressed doubts as to its identity, or the possibility of there being a lion in the district".


The lion's range may have extended as far east as Bihar and Orissa states: a lion was reportedly killed in the district of Palamau (Bihar) in 1814.


Last lion recorded from the southern end of its Indian range killed at Rhyl in Damoh district, near the Narmada river, in the cold season of 1847-1848 (Kinnear 1920).


Fifty lions were killed in the district of Delhi between 1856-1858. Twenty-five years later Blanford (1891) wrote that "in India the lion is verging on extinction."

Present range:


Gir II Complex.

Potential reintroduction sites identified at 1993 PHVA:


Palpur Kuno (Kuno) IV. (subsequently chosen)


Sitamata IV.


Chandraprabha IV. (site of unsuccessful re-introduction in the 1960s)