Nearly all wild lions live in sub-Saharan Africa, but there is one more subspecies of Lion called “Asiatic lion“.
Which are also known as Indian Lion or Gir Lion and proudly exists at India’s Gir Forest.
About Asiatic Lion
Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica) is an Endangered species as per IUCN Red List Status and consisting of only 523 Individuals. Their average life span in wild is 16-18 years and current population trend is considered to be stable.
Asiatic lions once roamed from Greece to entire Asia. Its historical range included eastern Iran, Turkey, Mesopotamia and from east of the Indus River in the former Sindh Province to Bengal and Narmada River in Central India.
Persecution and trophy hunting by India’s 19th-century rulers and before nearly bough this sub-species of Lion to extinction. By the start of the 20th century, only 12 individuals were left. It is only through the strict protection imposed by Junagadh’s Nawab in the early 1900’s, that Asiatic Lions still survive today in wild. Continous conservation efforts by Nawab during that time and the goverment currentyl have helped Asiatic lion population to reach up-to 523 individuals (Gir lion census 2015).
Places to see them in wild
– Gir National Park
– Devalia Safari Park
Distribution and habitat
In the Gir Forest, an area of 1,412.1 Sq.km was declared as a sanctuary for Asiatic lion conservation in 1965. This sanctuary and the surrounding areas in Saurashtra at Gujarat State of India, are the only wild habitats supporting the Asiatic lion. After 1965, a national park covering an area of 258.71 km2 was established where no human activity is allowed. In the surrounding sanctuary only Maldharis have the right to graze their livestock.
Asiatic lion vs African lion
Asiatic Lions are 10-20 percent smaller than African Lions with comparatively sparse and skimpy mane and sometimes even a little mane-less “bald” area on top of their head. Another characteristic that separates the Asiatic Lion from their African Lions is a longitudinal fold of skin running along its belly which are missing in African subspecies of Lion.
Villagers & Lions, A Unique Bonding
Most visitors of Gir are surprised to notice two unusual things pertaining to these lions. The first is that the Gir lions rarely attack humans. And other that there are villages inside the park as well as semi-nomadic tribal herdsman called Maldharis live there. These people and the lions seem to have an understanding & a mutual respect, maybe years old.