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The Congo lion or Northeast Congo lion (Panthera leo azandica), also known as Uganda lion, was proposed as a lion subspecies from northeastern D.R. Congo and western parts of Uganda.

Taxonomic history

In 1924, the American zoologist Allen proposed the trinomen Leo leo azandicus, and described a male lion as type specimen that was obtained by the American Museum of Natural History. This individual was killed in 1912 by museum staff as part of a zoological collection comprising 588 carnivore specimens. Allen admitted a close relationship to L. l. massaicus regarding cranial and dental characteristics but argued that his type specimen differed in pelage coloration.

The British taxonomist Pocock subordinated lions to the genus Panthera in 1930 when he wrote about Asian lions. Three decades later, Ellerman and Morrison-Scott recognized just two lion subspecies, namely the Asiatic P. l. persica and the African P. l. leo.

Distribution and population status

In the Congo River basin, the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the adjacent Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda may be a potential stronghold for lions in Central Africa, if poaching is curbed and prey species recover.

Lions are also present in Uganda's Kidepo Valley and Murchison Falls National Parks, in the Central African Republic, in Rwanda's Akagera National Park and in the south of Sudan.

In 2008, surveys were conducted in the Upemba and Kundelungu National Parks located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but no evidence of lion presence was found. There is a single Lion Conservation Unit in the Republic of the Congo, viz the Odzala National Park, where since 1995 no sign of lion presence was detected during surveys. In Gabon, lions may be extirpated as well.

Conservation status

Since 1996, African lion populations have been assessed as Vulnerable by IUCN. They are killed pre-emptively or in retaliation for preying on livestock, and are threatened by depletion of prey base, loss and conversion of habitat. To address these threats, lion-human conflict needs to be reduced, and lion habitat and prey base increased.

No captive individual of the Congo lion population is registered in the International Species Information System.

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