The Asiatic Lion
( Panthera leopersica )

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The Asiatic lion, in India, is now found in only one pocket located in the Gir National Park of the state of Gujarat. There have been efforts made to relocate a small number of these lions to another park to try and ensure better survival chances of this majestic animal. However, these plans are yet to be put into action.

The Asiatic Lion grows to a height of approximately 90cm, with their length ranging from 200 - 280cm. Their long and hard tails grow to an additional length of 60 - 90cm. Lions can weigh in at between 200 - 275kgs. Their main prey species consist of Nilgai, Chital, Sambhar, Goats, Buffaloes and occasionally also other smaller animals. The lions of Gir have made it a habit of killing livestock and sometimes even camels.

Asiatic Lions are built similar to their Afircan cousins but often look smaller due to their smaller manes

Lioness are the main hunters in any pride of lions

Their breeding season is timed along with the onset of winter in the months of October and November. Their gestation period is 3 and a half months, with litters ranging between 3 - 4 in number. The lionesses breed on an average of every two years and are ready to have their first lot of babies around the age of 30 - 36 months. They have a life expectancy ranging between
20 - 30

Just like their African cousins, the Asiatic males too have handsome manes, which are absent in the females. The Asiatic lions tend to have smaller manes than their African cousins. The Asiatic lions however have a bushier overall coat and also have longer tufts of hair at the end of the tail and on the elbow joints. The colouration of the manes vary from lion to lion. The only rare ones are the very dark manes, which according to a research done in Africa are the ones prefered by lionesses!

Asiatic lions have smaller manes than their African cousins

Lions mostly live in large prides. These prides can sometimes have upto 3 adult males but it is always one that is the dominant leader. The males are known for their laziness and lordship like behaviour. The females do all the hunting, with the males only rarely joining in when the prey is a very large animal like an aggressive buffalo. However, once the kill is made, the males always get the first go at the meal.

The bonding among a family of lions is extremely strong with aunts and sisters helping in the bringing up of all young. Females stay with the pride all through life, whereas the males tend to set out on their own around the age of three. They mostly lead solitary lives then onwards but have been known to also roam territories in pairs and trios. These bachelors are known to be the main threats to the dominant males leading their prides. They are also known to kill cubs to try and get the females into estrus once again. These bachelors are mostly brothers that left a pride together but individual bachelors have been known to team up with other individuals.

Lions, unlike the tiger, hunt in groups. They collectively stalk their prey and have been commonly seen applying strategies that would do any army commander proud. Very often some of the females pinpoint a particular individual prey and chase it in the direction of other lionesses waiting in ambush. The prey is mostly killed by a quick, powerful bite to the spine or with the help of a classic choke grip, with the strong jaws of the lion cutting off air supply to the lungs.

Although history shows the coexistence of lions and tigers, there is no prevalent example of this anywhere in the world at present. Lions do coexist even in the current era with leopards and cheetahs. However, they are extremely territorial and attempt to kill these leopards
and cheetahs whenever their paths happen to cross. If the attempt at relocating lions to other parts of India is finally undertaken, it will also answer the question of whether it is possible for two such ferociously territorial and powerful large cats to inhabit the same jungle.

The Asiatic Lion has been declared the most endangered large cat species in the world. Their numbers ranging between 250 - 300, all concentrated in the same area, they are under the constant threat of being wiped out by some deadly epidemic. It is hoped by all conservationists that the governing authorities settle their differences of opinion on the best possible plan and take some action before it's too late to save one of the most magnificent beasts to roam the planet.

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