One of the seven sub-species of lions found on earth, the Asiatic lion is an endangered species found in the Gir National Park of Gujarat. This is the last home of this lion sub-species where animal-lovers can have a glimpse of this majestic animal roaming in its natural habitat. Following the decline in their population, recently steps have been taken to shift a small number of lions to some other places. However, this project is yet under observation and it is not put into action till date.
Asiatic lions are sexually dimorphic and thus differences can be seen between male and female appearance. The approximate height of this species is 90cm and their length may range from 200-280cm. Their tail is very hard and its length ranges between 60cm to 90cm. Their weight ranges from 200-275kg and have an intimidating physical appearance. At the age of 3 years, manes start growing around the neck of the males which is not found in females. Unlike their African cousins the Asiatic lions have a thicker coating and longer tufts of hair at the end of the tail and elbow joints. However, the colours of the manes do vary from lion to lion. A very rare group of lions have a darker shade of manes, and according to experts, female lions prefer male lions with darker manes. Adult lions generally have 30 teeth in total. Adult females have four breasts.
Species: P. leo
Subspecies: P. leo. persica
Biological Name: Panthera Leo Persica
Asiatic Lions are mainly dependent on Chital, Nilgai, Sambhar, Buffaloes and Goats for food. Sometimes they hunt smaller animals and if need arises they kill the livestock or camel found in the neighbouring areas of Gir National Park. They go hunting in groups, but one single lion kills the prey and while the rest just fight grabbing their share. Usually females are more active than males in hunting and males are aggressive while having their food. Generally males join in the hunting only while killing larger animals like wild buffalo and the like. There are times when the bachelors in the pride get a chance to hunt alone and swallow its bite individually. Sometimes they snatch the kills from hyena and wild dogs as well.
Reproduction and Offspring
The females of Asiatic lions breed in the beginning days of winter i.e., in the month of October and November. Within around three and half months the little ones get mature in their mother's womb and the lioness may give birth to 3-4 cubs at a time. On an average, 30-36 months the lionesses become compatible to conceive and they breed every two years. The lion kids are born blind and open their eyes at the age of 2-3 weeks. The life expectancy of this species of lion ranges between 20 - 30 years.
Asiatic lions are the only species of Cat Family who mostly live in large groups. The group of lions is known as pride. While the lionesses spend their entire life in a pride, males leave the group at the age of three or so. They usually communicate with different sounds like meows, grunts, growls, moans and roars. There can be up to three males in a group but one will play the dominant role as leader. This species of lion spend the day time sitting close to water holes and rest under a shadow. The pride's territory is protected by males. They mark their spot with urine and to warn intruders they roar loudly, and often hound animals that intrude their area.
More like human beings, the family bonding among the lions is very strong and the aunts and sisters like relationship are not very rare in liondom. While bringing up the young ones those relative-like lions help each other. Once males reach the age of three years, they leave their pride and go out in search of mates. They spend time alone and sometimes they are seen roaming with their mates and with other friends as well. The lions who usually spend time alone are taken to be the threats to the males who live in prides and lead the entire group. These bachelor lions kill cubs and compel the lioness to get engaged into mating once again. Sometimes two bachelor brothers leave the pride together and spend life as friends. They go for hunting together and roam like real king of the jungle.
Nature of Hunting
The males of Asiatic Lions are surprisingly very lazy and they hardly do any hunting. However, while hunting, they chase their prey in group and their attacking technique is very sharp. Usually the strongest lioness points out a prey and chases it towards the part of forest where other pride members remain hidden under the bush. Mostly preys are killed by an instant powerful bite at the spine or by a choke grip. The strong jaws of the lion cut off the air supply to the lungs leadings to the death of the prey.
Considering the decline in their total population, the Asiatic Lion is declared as the most endangered large cat species in the world. There was a time when the number of Asiatic Lion reached a record low of 33. It is the determined initiatives by the authorities of Gir National Park that has resulted in the revival of the species -the population of this species is now in the 250-300 range. An additional 200 lions live in zoos. The conservationists thus opine that the initiatives of the governing authority were appropriate enough to function as a protector of this highly endangered species. In 2013, the honourable Supreme Court of India approved the proposed shifting a small number of lions from Gir National Park to Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary to ensure the safety of this endangered species