Zambia has become the latest country to ban the hunting of lions and other endangered wild cats as the continent tries to arrest the predators' plummeting population.
UK charity LionAid chief executive and biologist Dr Pieter Kat says the number of lions across Africa has dropped dramatically in recent decades, with lions extinct in 25 African countries.
"About 50 years ago we had about 200,000 lions living in Africa," he said.
"I'd estimate from our own research that perhaps today we have about 15,000 left. Now 15,000 still sounds like a relatively large number but, you know, you can't put more than 15,000 into even a small space."
Dr Kat says the numbers of the apex predators are falling because humans are poaching them.
Last week the Zambian government banned the hunting of lions and other big cats, citing falling population numbers.
The situation is particularly desperate in west African countries like Nigeria, where there are an estimated 34 lions left.
"What's happening in western Africa is very, very sad because, you know, Senegal, all the way in the west, probably has about 40 lions left," he said.
"Then we move over a couple of countries and we find that there's, you know, maybe 50 or 60 lions left. And then we go to Cameroon, they maybe have 110 lions left. And then we come to Nigeria that has less than 34, 35 lions left.
"And there are a lot of these national parks in these countries, but the problem is nobody goes there."
Dr Kat said because west Africa is not a popular tourist destination, the national parks are starved of funds to maintain the parks and staff.
"The other thing is that in a lot of these west African countries, including Nigeria and including Mali and including, let's say a little bit further over, Central African Republic, etc, is that we have a huge amount of civil strife," he said.
"As a biologist I would say it's too late. As a hopeful lion conservationist I would say, yes, it can still happen."
African governments are keen to save the lion populations in the wild but Dr Kat says it may be up to visitors to stimulate action.
"While there was that huge interest in maintaining lions as important in culture there hasn't been the equal response in terms of maintaining lions alive in the wild," he said.
"Unless those tourism dollars flow, then there is absolutely no reason for people in western Africa to maintain their wildlife populations."
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