It will take “dollars and fence,” concludes a new report on how to save African lions. The report indicates that nearly half of the continent’s wild lion populations may be facing extinction over the next 20-40 years.

As wild habitats shrink and become fragmented, lions have come into increasing contact with people and their livestock. And with their natural prey in decline, cattle, sheep and goats make easy meals for these hungry big cats. In the human-lion conflicts that ensue, Africa’s biggest cat is the perennial loser.

After surveying lions in 11 countries, conservationists from WCS and partner organizations concluded that fewer than 30,000 remain on the African continent living in just 25 percent of their original range.

In their study, the researchers show that lions living within fenced habitats fare better than those navigating open terrain. Wildlife-proof fences don’t merely protect lions: they also lower conservation costs and safeguard human communities and livestock.

Results in Uganda—where WCS works with communities living adjacent to parks containing lions to reduce human-wildlife conflict—are encouraging and can inform future efforts in other nations. But building trust with these local livestock owners is only part of the solution.

According to Dr. Andrew Plumptre, Director of WCS’s Albertine Rift Program, “Unless methods of compensation for livestock loss are developed, fencing may be the only viable solution to conserving these large predators.”

Learn more about WCS’s lion work>>