Temporal range: Early Pleistocene – Present
|A male lion|
| Panthera leo|
The african lion is one of four big cats in the genus Panthera. with some males weighing over 550 pounds it is the second biggest cat living today. Lion populations are untenable outside designated reserves and national parks. Although the cause of the decline is not fully understood, habitat loss and conflicts with humans are currently the greatest causes of concern. Within Africa, the West African lion population is particularly endangered.The lion is a vulnerable species, having seen a major population decline in its African range of 30–50% per two decades during the second half of the 20th century.
Eight recent (Holocene) subspecies are recognised today:
P. l. persica, known as the Asiatic lion or South Asian, Persian, or Indian lion, once was widespread from Turkey, across Southwest Asia, to India and Pakistan, however, large prides and daylight activity made them easier to poach than tigers or leopards; now around 400 exist in and near the Gir Forest of India. Genetic evidence suggests its ancestors split from the ancestors of sub-Saharan African lions between 203 and 74 thousand years ago.
P. l. leo, known as the Barbary lion, originally ranged from Morocco to Egypt. It is extinct in the wild due to excessive hunting, as the last wild Barbary lion was killed in Morocco in 1922. This was one of the largest of the lion subspecies, with reported lengths of 3.0–3.3 m (9.8–10.8 ft)Template:Convert/track/abbr/on and weights of more than 200 kg (440 lb)Template:Convert/track/abbr/on for males. It appears to be more closely related to the Asiatic rather than sub-Saharan lions. A number of animals in captivity are likely to be Barbary lions, particularly the 90 animals descended from the Moroccan Royal collection at Rabat Zoo.
P. l. senegalensis, known as the West African lion, is found in western Africa, from Senegal to the Central African Republic.
P. l. azandica, known as the northeast Congo Lion, is found in the northeastern parts of the Congo.
P. l. nubica, known as the East African or Masai lion is found in East Africa, from Ethiopia and Kenya to Tanzania and Mozambique; a local population is known as the Tsavo lion.
P. l. bleyenberghi, known as the southwest African or Katanga lion, is found in southwestern Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Angola, Katanga (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
P. l. krugeri, known as the southeast African or Transvaal lion, is found in the Transvaal region of southeastern Africa, including Kruger National Park.
P. l. melanochaita, known as the Cape lion, became extinct in the wild around 1860. Results of mitochondrial DNA research do not support its status as a distinct subspecies. The Cape lion probably was only the southernmost population of the extant P. l. krugeri.
A newly discerned lion subspecies could exist in captivity in Ethiopia's capital city of Addis Ababa. Researchers compared the microsatellite variations over ten loci of fifteen lions in captivity with those of six different wild lion populations. They determined that these lions are genetically unique and presumably that "their wild source population is similarly unique." These lions—with males that have a distinctly dark and luxuriant mane seam to define a new subspecies perhaps native only to Ethiopia. These lions were part of a collection of the late Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia.