Spotlight: Asiatic Lion (Panthera Leo Persica)

Wildlife conservation is a hot topic in this century due to the increase in endangered animals and plants across the globe throughout recent years. I will be going through some of my favourite and sadly at risk animals one by one in hopes to inspire more people to get involved in conservation. There is so much that can be done to help and some people just need and extra nudge to actually stand up and do something about the diminishing numbers of our earths beautiful wildlife. Every small gesture, every penny put into trusted conservation organisations, will go a long way to the future, so spread the word!

Today’s animal in the spotlight is the Asiatic Lion (Panthera Leo Persica); one of the 7 currently recognized subspecies of lion and one of the most endangered. I fell in love with this majestic king of the jungle when writing up an enclosure evaluation for the Asiatic lion enclosure at Chester Zoo during my second year at University. Watching the beautiful female and her male, I really grew to respect their strength and elegance. To see them in the wild would be a dream come true, however with numbers at a low, this may not be possible for very long.

Only a single population of this subspecies exists in the wild, resident to the Gir Forest in India and with a constant threat coming from poaching and limited gene pool for expansion, this number is currently stable. . In 2000 the ICUN Red list had listed the Asiatic lion as “critically endangered” however since captive breeding programmes and conservation efforts have been put into place, they are now rated as “endangered”. The current estimated wild population is around 359 and with less than 100 in captive breeding programmes the outlook is bleak for the Asiatic Lion.

Like the African lions, the Asiatic lions live in prides, however of smaller size, with the normal pride consisting of up to two females. In the dry deciduous scrubland of the Gir Forest they feed mainly on deer and domesticated cattle (at the cost of angry farmers) however they will also eat wild boar and water buffalo when they can.

It was around the same time that firearms became popular that the number of Asiatic lions across Asia went into steep decline and where pushed into the small population in India that exists now. Only time will tell the faith of the Asiatic lion, however with a limited gene pool and breeding with African lions, the question is more: “when”? rather than “If”?

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