Asian Lion Fact File
The Asian lion differs from the better known African lion due to their smaller size. They also have a skin fold running along the belly which is rarely seen in African lions.
Male Asian lions have a smaller mane than the African lions. This features a sparse covering of fur meaning the ears are always visible. The mane is dark in color and males are more attractive to females if their mane is darker. Only males have a mane while females do not.
An Asian lions coat is covered with short tawny, sandy or buff-grey fur with black speckling.
At the end of the body is a long tail ending with a tuft of black fur.
Males are larger than females. Their length may be up to 2.9m (9.5ft) long including the tail. A male will weigh 160-190kg (353-419lbs) with females weighing 110-120kg (243-265lbs). At the shoulder they stand 1.1m (3.5ft) tall.
The Asian lion is a carnivore. They feed on large mammals such as deer, antelope, cattle and boar. Monkeys and birds are also eaten.
Females are responsible for catching the prey. To help catch their food they have retractable claws and sharp canine teeth.
Following a successful hunt the male will eat first, followed by the females and then finally the cubs.
Panthera leo persica
Wild 8-9 years
— AD —
Asian lions have a highly restricted range in Asia. Formerly found across much of south-west Asia from the Mediterranean to India. They are now restricted to a small portion of the Gir forest in India. This area was formerly a hunting ground but is now protected.
A number of other protected areas have been created near the Gir forest to provide space for the dispersal of the population to form additional populations.
They make their home in dry deciduous forests and open grassy scrublands.
Asian lions are able to breed year round. A single male will head up a pride of females who are typically related with female cubs remaining in their natal pride for life.
Following a successful mating the female is pregnant for 100-119 days. Following this 1-6 cubs will be born.
11 days after birth the cubs eyes will open. By 15 days old they are walking and by 1 month old they are running. The cubs remain in the den till 8 weeks old.
Weaning takes place between 7 and 10 months old though the cubs remain in the pride till 16 months old.
Females reach sexual maturity at four years old with males maturing a year later.
Typically females breed once every 2 years.
Young males leave the population at maturity and will either live a solitary lifestyle or take over a pride from another male by forcing them out. If a male takes over a pride he will often kill any cubs produced by the last male. Females then come back in to estrus ready to mate again.
As African and Asian lions are the same species they are able to cross-breed.
The Asian lion lives in a group called a pride. This is headed up by a male or group of related males and up to a dozen females and their young. Females remain with the pride for life while male young leave.
Lions make a range of vocalizations including their iconic roar. The roar helps them to mark their territory and defend it against other lions.
Most of their day is spent resting with between 16 and 20 hours of each day dedicated to sleeping.
Predators and Threats
Adults do not face predation from other species though the cubs can be taken by larger animals.
There are estimated to be as few as 500 Asian lions left in the wild. Due to their low population there is a risk of inbreeding related illnesses and defects.
This small population also means an outbreak of disease or a single natural disaster could wipe out most of the population.
A major decline in the Asian lion population is the result of hunting mostly for sport. They are also threatened by habitat encroachment and degradation and tourism. Habitat fragmentation occurs in the Gir forest as a result of three roads and a railway which cross the forest presenting another threat.
Another threat to Asian lions was the presence of open wells which they would fall in. Conservation works in the area have focused on covering these.
They are also known as the Gir, Indian or Persian Lion.
By Shanthanu Bhardwaj – https://www.flickr.com/photos/tengen/3261991308/in/photostream/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26124541
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National Geographic. 2020. Asiatic Lion. [online] Available at: <https://www.nationalgeographhttps://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/a/asiatic-lion/ic.com/animals/mammals/a/asiatic-lion/> [Accessed 23 September 2020].
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WWF India. 2020. Asiatic Lion. [online] Available at: <https://www.wwfindia.org/about_wwf/priority_species/threatened_species/asiatic_lion/> [Accessed 23 September 2020].
Edinburgh Zoo. 2020. Our Asian Lion | Edinburgh Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://www.edinburghzoo.org.uk/animals-and-attractions/animals/asiatic-lion/> [Accessed 23 September 2020].
Chester Zoo. 2020. Asiatic Lion | Meet Our Animals | Chester Zoo Big Cats. [online] Available at: <https://www.chesterzoo.org/our-zoo/animals/lions/> [Accessed 23 September 2020].
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