The Asiatic Lion is found in the Gir forest located in the state of Gujarat in India. It is one of the seven sub species of lion scattered all across the world. Also known as the Persian Lion, IUCN has declared it as an endangered species because of its small size of population. The Gir Forest of India is the only home to the Asiatic lions. Geologists suggest that the small population of these lions in India indicate that they migrated to India from Persia and Baluchistan. Tourists from all over the world flock in to have a glimpse of this magnificent lion exclusive only to India.
ASIATIC LION FACTS
Physical Characteristics: Similar to the African lion, the unique feature of the Asiatic lion is the longitudinal fold of skin spread across its belly. The adult male weighs about 160 to 190 kgs while the female adult weighs about 110 to 120 kgs. The height of the male till its shoulder is about 3.5 ft and the recorded length of the adult male is about 2.92m. Unlike the African lion, the Asiatic lion doesn’t have fuller mane and their ears can always be seen. The color of the fur can range from tawny to sandy brown.
Habitat: India is the sole habitat for Asiatic Lions in the world. In India also, they are concentrated only in the Gir forest of the Junagadh district of the state of Gujarat. Gir National Park, Gir wildlife sanctuary and Pania sanctuary, with a total area of about 1452 square kms constitute the natural and protected habitat of the Asiatic lions. Mityala and Girnar sanctuaries protect satellite areas around the core Gir conservation area. Bardia forest is being established as an alternative for rehabilitation of the Asiatic lions. The vegetation of these forests comprise of mainly dry deciduous forest, teak forest and thorny grasslands.
Ecological Behavior: Unlike their African counterpart, Asiatic lions do not live in large pride. They have a maximum of about five females in their pride, normal being two. The main reason of this behavior is that they do not hunt in large numbers and hence, do not have the need to hunt in large pride.
Gir lions can bring down prey weighing about 190 kgs to about 520 kg. Wild Boar, Chital, Spotted Deer, Sambar, Blue Bull, Chinkara, One horned Antelope are some of the most sought preys of the Asiatic lions.
Threats: As the population of the Asiatic Lions is very small, they are prone to getting wiped out completely in natural disasters like forest fire. Apart from this, the Asiatic lions have been reportedly been hunted down, poisoned and killed in order to protect livestock. Many Asiatic lions have fallen prey to the electrified fences set up by farmers to protect their domestic animals. Many have fallen in the well where they drown and perish. This is a major factor considering the huge number of wells in the periphery of Gir forest National Park. Poaching is another increasing threat to the disappearance of the Asiatic lions.
Conservation Act: Despite the small population of the Asiatic lions, the conservation projects executed by the government have been shown to be fruitful and in 2015, the lion population was reported to be 523. The conservationists have successfully been able to breed a large number of lions from just a dozen individuals that survived in the 1880s. After the Nawab of Junagadh started the protection of these lions, the number increased to 287 in the district of Junagadh. The Asiatic lions were highly vulnerable to endemic disease.
The government of India was suggested by biologists to protect at least one population of these lions. The Asiatic lion Reintroduction Act has been proposed by the Indian Government in order to reintroduce the Asiatic lions in other parts of India, with the aim of slowly expanding their population in various parts of the country. In 1965 the Government of India set up Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary for the conservation of the Asiatic lions but unfortunately, this wasn’t a great success.
Hence, another location was chosen for the reintroduction of the Asiatic lions. The wildlife institute of India concluded Madhya Pradesh to be another favorable location whose habitat is similar to that of Gir forest. The Palpur – Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary followed by Sita Mata wildlife Sanctuary are two of the promising secondary habitats for the Asiatic lions in India. About 345 sq. km. of protected land was created after the proper resettlement of villagers from these wildlife sanctuaries. The Gujarat government protested against this relocation with the fear of losing their status as the sole home of the Asiatic lions in the world. However, the Supreme Court gave the order of final reintroduction in April 2013.