Previously, eleven subspecies of lions were described. Subsequently, the lion was divided into two subspecies: the African lion (Panthera Leo Leo) and the Asiatic lion (Panthera Leo Persica). However, more recent studies indicate that Asian and West and Central African lions are more closely related to each other than to Eastern and Southern African lions. These two major lion divisions are not homogeneous because there are genetic subdivisions within each, with more genetic variation and deeper divergence in the East and south branch than in the Asia plus west and Central Africa branch. This article comes to give the characteristics of Asian Lion 🦁
Panthera Leo Persica
|Weight||From 110 to 190 kilos|
|Length of the body||From 137 to 250 cm|
|Length of the tail||From 60 to 100 cm|
|Lifespan||16 to 18 years|
|Size of the litter||From 1 to 4 cubs|
ON IUCN RED LIST OF ENDANGERED SPECIES
Two subspecies of lions are recognized:
“Panthera Leo Leo” in central and western Africa and India, formerly in North Africa, Southeastern Europe, the Middle East, the Arabian Peninsula and Southwest Asia. “Panthera Leo Melanochaita” in southern and eastern Africa.
The contact zone between the two subspecies is somewhere in Ethiopia.
The lion has a muscular body with very strong front legs. The color of its fur varies from fawn and gray to yellowish red and dark brown. The color of the nose darkens with age in both sexes and the mane becomes more pronounced and darker with age. The Asiatic lion has shorter mane a longer tail tassel and a smaller than the African lion. Because of the less prominent mane on top of the head of Asiatic lions, their ears are always visible. Male Asiatic lions also have a more pronounced tuft of hair on the elbow than their African relatives. The most striking feature, however, is the distinctive belly skin of the Asiatic lion, which is rarely seen in African lions. Approximately 50% of Gir Forest Asiatic lion skulls have small openings that allow blood vessels and nerves to pass to the eyes, which has not been observed in African lions.
Status and Distribution of the Asiatic Lion (IUCN)
The Asiatic lion is classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List. Today, the only representatives of the Asiatic lion are found in a single isolated population in the state of Gujarat in northwestern India. Previously, Asiatic lions inhabited most of southwest Asia.
The smallest number of Asiatic lions was detected in the 1880s, when only a few dozen individuals remained in the Gir Forest sanctuary. Thanks to timely protection, the Asiatic lion has managed to survive. The first census of Asiatic lions, based on individually recognizable footprints, was conducted in 1936 and yielded an estimate of 287 adults. In 1950, over 200 lions were estimated in Gir Forest, showing that the lion population was increasing with the application of strict protection. Subsequent censuses, conducted between 1968 and 1979, based on counts of animals in live buffalo baits, estimated the population at about 150-200 adults.
In 2005, the population was estimated at 291 individuals in Gir Forest and 68 outside the protected area, for a total of 359 animals. Currently, the Asiatic lion population is considered stable. The total population size is estimated to be about 297 lions in Gir National Park ☘️and adjacent areas and about 114 individuals outside the park, totaling some 411 lions. Within Gir Forest, lion density varies across management zones and with terrain, habitat, and human influences. The maximum lion density was estimated in the East with 16 animals per 100 km². In the West and center, lion density was estimated at 12 individuals per 100 km², respectively.
ASIATIC LIONS POPULATION ESTIMATION IN GIR NATIONAL PARK
The Asiatic lion as soon as had a completelyhuge distribution from Syria via Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and maximum of northern and valuable India to components of jap India. Asiatic lions inhabited hugeregions of northern and central India and had beenobservedwithinside the states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and western Bihar. It died out in Eastern Europe aroundone hundred AD and in Palestine on the time of the Crusades.. In all different regions, the Asiatic lion remained hugetill the mid-1800s. The invention of firearms and huge indiscriminate searchingbrought about their extinction over hugeregions. In Syria, the ultimatedocument of lions changed into in 1891. By the overdue 1800s, the lion had disappeared from Turkey, whilst in Iran and Iraq, it changed into ultimate said in 1942. In India, lions prolonged eastward to the kingdom of Bihar, howeverhastily declined because of heavy searchingstress and habitat loss. By the flip of the nineteenth century, the Asiatic lion remained handiestwithinside the Gir Forest in Gujarat, India.
Currently, lions also are observed outdoor the Gir included region, which include in Girnar, Mitiyala forests, coastal regions of Sutrapada-Kodinar, Jafarabad-Rajula as much as Savarkundla and Palitatna hills masking a place of approximately 10,500 km² 🗺
The Asiatic Lion Habitat
The Asiatic lion is observed in the main in forests, whilst the African lion inhabits in the main savanna ecosystems. Asiatic lions display a desire for combined rainforests and savanna habitats. During the day, Asiatic lions appear to pick densely vegetated regions 🌿. But at night, their motion is extra huge and they will even flow into agricultural fields and human habitations. The dense flowers of the wooded regions hence lets in the lions to defend themselves from the warmth of the day and to take refuge at a time whilst human interest is probably to be dense.
Gir Forest is a dry deciduous wooded area ruled with the aid of using the Teak withinside the West and withinside the drier components withinside the east, mainly included with the aid of using acacia thorns. The Gir Forest has been decreased to much less than 1/2 of its authentic region of 2,six hundred km2 during the last century and maximum of it stays withinside the Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, which now covers a place of approximately 1,800 km2.
Behavior of the Asiatic Lion
Asiatic lions are in particular nocturnal and crepuscular. They spend maximum of the day resting. Like African lions, Asians stay in a complicated social system, however the satisfaction shape differs or even varies regionally relying on to be had resources. The satisfaction length of Asian lions (measured with the aid of using the range of person ladies) has a tendency to be smaller than in African lion populations.
In the Gir Forest, maximum clans have handiest ladies. A radio telemetry take a look at withinside the Gir Forest from 2002 to 2007 even discovered a mean woman organization length of handiest 1.3 animals. In African lion populations, with the aid of using contrast, satisfaction length may be as excessive as 18 related adult females with offspring and one to seven adult males. The middle of those prides -ladies- have a tendency to stay strong whilst younger adult males disperse and person adult males may also alternate their satisfaction popularity in opposition after to 4 years 🍖. Females in a tribe hunt in smaller territories than adult males.
Male coalitions and lionesses were observed to seek and feed independently of every different. Male coalitions protect domestic tiers containing one or extra organizations of ladies. Unlike the satisfaction of African lions, Gir Forest adult males commonly companion with their satisfaction ladies handiest for the duration of mating. Breeding Asiatic lionesses protect resource-primarily based totally territories whilst male coalitions maximize woman organization coverage. The decrease diploma of sociality in Gir Forest Asiatic lions as compared to African lions can be a feature of decrease prey availability and cattle availability 🥩
The Asiatic Lion Territory
Lions are very noisy and their roar may be heard for miles. Olfactory mark of the male and woman lion. In the Gir Forest, the house variety of male lions varies among eleven and 174 km² and that of ladies among 26 and forty three km². The middle regions of in depth use are a whole lot smaller with about 10 km² for adult males and five km² for ladies. A radio-telemetry take a look at withinside the Gir Forest envisioned a mean domestic variety of +/-fifty four km² for adult males and a domestic variety of +/-10.6 km² and +/-7 km² for ladies. Male lion domestic tiers overlapped substantially and woman lion domestic tiers additionally overlapped. The common dispersal distance of Asiatic lions changed into envisioned to be 26 km.
Mating Habits of the Asiatic Lions
The breeding season for Asiatic lions is year-round. However, mating seems to peak during the winter and, based on observations of cubs, there appears to be a peak in births from late winter to early summer. The gestation period is about 100-119 days and the interval between births is 18-26 months. The age of first reproduction varies for females from 3 to 4 years and for males from 5 to 8 years. The decline in reproduction in females is 11 years and older. In 2010, the female-to-male ratio in the Gir landscape was estimated at 0.63.
Juvenile mortality is approximately 33%. Infanticide can be very high, causing up to 60% of cub mortality, and appears to occur mostly in the first year of birth. The inter-birth interval is approximately 1.37 years and is higher when cubs from the previous litter have survived to independence. In 2010, adult survival in Gir Forest was about 92% and mortality was primarily (66%) due to natural causes. 21% of adult mortality was due to accidents outside the protected area and 13% of lions died from unidentified causes. Thus, human-caused mortality was still significant.
The Prey of the Asiatic Lion
The Asiatic lion mainly preys on ungulates, such as small deer and antelope 🦌. Sambar deer, chital, chosingha, chinkara, wild boar and nilgai are part of their diet. Asiatic lions also prey on porcupine, langur, red-tailed hare and peacock 🦃. Nilgai and wild pig are common wild prey found outside the Gir Forest protected area. In a study conducted in Gir Forest on Asian lion mortality, domestic animal mortality accounted for 56% of all mortalities detected. However, these kills occurred mostly in the revenue areas and on the periphery of the park.
A scat analysis conducted in the same area revealed that only 14% of domestic animals in terms of relative numbers consumed and 86% of wild animals, with chitals and sambar being the primary prey. However, in terms of biomass consumed, livestock accounted for 27%. The percentage of Asiatic lions seems to be affected by the abundance of wild prey and varies seasonally. Many more wild animals were captured during the summer when prey was concentrated around water sources. Within the protected area, lions consumed mostly wild prey in proportion to their availability. Outside the protected area, however, livestock appeared to be the main prey and lions appeared to be heavily dependent on domestic animals.
Main threats to the Asian Lion
Historically, Asiatic lions were mostly reduced to a single population due to heavy poaching pressure, habitat reduction and fragmentation. Although these threats have been overcome through rigorous protection, today the major threats are largely related to human-carnivore conflicts. The proximity of predators, livestock and humans to the increasing expansion of human settlements and agricultural areas outside the protected area raises a number of management issues that threaten the survival of the Asiatic lion.
With the increase in population size, Asiatic lions have also expanded their range outside the protected area, so that more than 20% of the lion population now survives outside the boundaries of the protected area and moves outside the Gir Forest. As a result, the main areas of concern have shifted outside the protected area, where there are large human communities and livestock numbers and where lions are responsible for the majority of livestock losses 🐖
In the past, Asiatic lions fed primarily on livestock. However, the number and severity of livestock depredation seems to have increased over time, and recently attacks on people also seem to have increased. Livestock depredation is increasing primarily in villages near the Gir Forest protected area 🌿. This may be associated with dispersal routes of lions out of the protected area and could lead to a decrease in people’s tolerance of lions and lead to an increase in human-lion conflict in the area. To date, lions have enjoyed a very high level of tolerance from the population and, in fact, the current cultural tolerance and agro-pastoral economy appear to be favorable to lion conservation in the Gir Forest area. The handling of conflicts between lions and people has significant implications for the preservation of the Asiatic lion.
Animal populations such as the Asiatic lion, which are restricted to single sites and are also relatively small in size, face a variety of extinction threats ❌ both genetic and environmental. The small population of Asiatic lions is highly vulnerable to disease outbreaks, poaching, and environmental disasters. Population isolation can lead to inbreeding due to reduced genetic variation.
Conservation Effort and Protection Status of the Asiatic Lion
The Asiatic lion is listed in the CITES Appendix and is fully protected in India. It is classified as endangered under the schedule of India’s Wildlife Protection Act (1972). The Asiatic lion population has steadily increased in response to successful management and conservation initiatives over the past five decades. Management interventions, such as reduced livestock grazing and fire control, have restored vegetation and increased wild ungulate populations. The Asiatic lion population is now expanding and moving throughout the Great Girls Landscape. This landscape, where the last remaining population of Asiatic lions remains, is of critical importance to the long-term conservation of this species.
The Asiatic lion lives in a landscape where people are very tolerant and consider lions to be part of their natural heritage. However, to maintain this positive attitude of local communities over the long term, there is a need to improve husbandry practices and economic incentives as well as human security in the Gir Forest Big Landscape. Of concern is human-lion conflict, primarily outside the protected area, where human and animal density is higher. Coexistence of humans and lions, thus mitigating conflict and promoting a positive public perception of lions, is essential for the conservation of the Asiatic lion 💮to continue successfully. It may also be necessary to create corridors to allow free movement of surplus lions between reserves or isolated forest patches.
The Relationship Between Humans and Asiatic Lions
Theoretically, the captive population of Asiatic lions can be considered a second population. In 1981, the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) established a Species Survival Plan (SSP) to manage the more than 200 Asiatic lions held by Western zoos. A studbook has been established to record the genetic and demographic data of the species. However, only two of the animals in the SSP-managed population were pure Asiatic lions and the program was discontinued.
In 1990, a new program was initiated, the European Endangered Species Programme with two male and two female purebred Asiatic lions from India. In India, a captive breeding program with the idea of crossing Asian and African lions was already started in the late 1980s at the Chhatbir Zoo. The program was stopped in 2002 after many lions died from disease. It was decided to start a new captive breeding project, but this time with genetically pure Asiatic lions from other zoos in India. A breeding center was established at Sakkarbaug Zoo in Junagadh, where about 180 Asiatic lions have been bred in captivity so far ✅
Documentary on Asiatic Lions
Genetics of the Asiatic Lion
In order to maximize genetic diversity and reduce the risk of extinction by epidemic disease, it is advisable to establish at least one additional wild population of Asiatic lions. A first attempt to set up a subpopulation was made in 1957 when Asiatic lions were transferred to the Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary in eastern Uttar Pradesh. The attempt failed for various reasons. First, the lion population in the wildlife sanctuary grew from three to eleven lions, but later all the lions most likely became extinct due to poaching by shooting or poisoning.
Currently, the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in northern Madhy Pradesh is considered the best place to establish an Asiatic lion population, as human disturbance is considered relatively low with 13,000 people and approximately 16,000 animals living in the proposed area. With the help of the Indian government, a 20-year project was initiated in 1995 to establish a disturbance-free habitat for lion reintroduction. In order to provide adequate space for a free-ranging lion population, the difficult task of relocating the resident communities was successfully accomplished because it is risky to move lions into an area where generations of people have no experience with large cats. Final implementation of the project is pending.