Asiatic Lion

April 1, 2018

Scientific namePanthera leo persica

 

Did you know?

Nearly all wild lions live in sub-Saharan Africa, but one small population of Asiatic lions exists in India's Gir Forest.

Status:

  • Listed in Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972,

  • in Appendix I of CITES and

  • as Endangered on IUCN Red List

 

Features:

  • Asiatic lions are slightly smaller than African lions. Adult males weigh 160 to 190 kg, while females weigh 110 to 120 kg.

  • The height at the shoulders is about 3.5 ft (110 cm).

  • The maximum recorded total length of a male Asiatic lion is 2.92m (115 inches) including the tail.

  • The most striking morphological character, which is always seen in Asiatic lions, and rarely in African lions, is a longitudinal fold of skin running along its belly.

  • The fur ranges in colour from ruddytawny, heavily speckled with black, to sandy or buff-grey, sometimes with a silvery sheen in certain lights.

  • Males have only moderate mane growth at the top of the head, so that their ears are always visible.

 

Geographical range:

The range of the lion in North Africa and South-West Asia formerly stretched across the coastal forests of northern Africa and from northern Greece across south-west Asia to eastern India. Today the only living representatives of the lions once found throughout much of South-West Asia occur in India's Gir Forest (Nowell and Jackson 1996) but there are now also some groups outside Gir Forest - Girnar, coastal subpopulation, Bali Tana subpopulation.

 

In India: The Asiatic Lion exists as a single isolated population in India's Gujarat State, numbering approximately 175 mature individuals, all occurring within one subpopulation (but in four separate areas, three of which are outside of the Gir Forest protected area).

 

 

Threats:

  • The lions face the usual threats of poaching and habitat fragmentation. Three major roads and a railway track pass through the Gir Protected Area (PA).

  • Also, there are three big temples inside the PA that attract large number of pilgrims, particularly during certain times of the year.

  • There has been an increase in lion population, and more than 200 lions stay outside the PA.

  • Though the conflict is not high now, with changing lifestyles and values these may increase in the future.

  • There are also cases of lions dying by falling into the unguarded wells around the Gir PA.

  • The Asiatic lion faces threat of genetic inbreeding arising from a single population in one place.

 

Steps taken:

 

WWF-India: WWF supported barricading of 180 wells with local partners and Gujarat Forest Derpartment. This initiative led to doubling the subsidy by the Gujarat government and many farmers barricaded the wells with government support.

To strengthen the efforts of Gir PA towards managing conflict and poaching, WWF provided need-based support. 

 

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