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Room to roam for African lions Panthera leo: a review of the key drivers of lion habitat use and implications for conservation

Lookup NU author(s): Becca Sargent, Professor Philip McGowan, Dr Marion PfeiferORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2021 The Authors. Mammal Review published by Mammal Society and John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Globally, large terrestrial carnivores (Carnivora) have suffered precipitous declines in population and range. Today, they must persist in increasingly isolated natural habitat patches within a human-dominated matrix. Effective conservation aimed at supporting carnivores in such landscapes requires species-specific understanding of habitat requirements. We present results from a review of the published literature to assess the current state of knowledge regarding habitat preferences of the African lion Panthera leo, with the aim of identifying common drivers of habitat use across contexts. Using the Web of Science, we identified 154 usable articles and extracted information relating to study topic, location, habitats described, land-use type, and any documented habitat preferences. Only 31 studies documented evidence of habitat use, and collectively, they suggested that preferences for specific habitat types were varied and context-specific. The importance of prey abundance and proximity to water was highlighted in multiple studies. Anthropogenic factors interfered with expected patterns of habitat use. There was evident bias in study locations: 83% of the habitat-use studies were based in only three countries, and 70% were focussed on protected or managed areas. Our synthesis suggests that lions demonstrate behavioural plasticity in habitat use in response to anthropogenic pressures. To understand the limits of this plasticity and to manage Africa’s changing landscapes effectively for roaming lions, future research should be focussed on analysis of habitat use outside protected areas, taking into account gradients of distance to water, prey abundance, and anthropogenic risk.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Sargent R, Deere NJ, McGowan PJK, Bunnefeld N, Pfeifer M

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Mammal Review

Year: 2022

Volume: 52

Issue: 1

Pages: 39-51

Print publication date: 01/01/2022

Online publication date: 02/07/2021

Acceptance date: 24/03/2021

ISSN (print): 0305-1838

ISSN (electronic): 1365-2907

Publisher: Blackwell Publishing Ltd


DOI: 10.1111/mam.12262