Asian Lion

Scientific Name: Panthera leo spp. persica
Irish Name: Leon Áiseach
IUCN Status: Critically endangered

You may have never realised that lions resided outside of Africa but in fact, lions historically have roamed Europe, Asia and Africa. Unfortunately, there are only an estimated 400 Asian lions left in the wild in one small pocket of the Gir Forest, a national park in India.

Asian lions differ from African lions in that they are smaller, the males have short and darker manes and they have a thicker coat than their African counterparts. The tassel on the end of their tail is longer than that on the African lion. One of the most notable physical characteristics of the Asian lion is the longitudinal fold of skin that runs along their belly- this is absent in the African lion.

Their coat colour ranges from ruddy tawny, heavily speckled with black, to sandy or buff-grey. Like all cats they have powerful retractable claws and long sharp canine teeth.

Asian Lion

You may have never realised that lions resided outside of Africa but in fact, lions historically have roamed Europe, Asia and Africa. Unfortunately, there are only an estimated 400 Asian lions left in the wild in one small pocket of the Gir Forest, a national park in India.

Asian lions differ from African lions in that they are smaller, the males have short and darker manes and they have a thicker coat than their African counterparts. The tassel on the end of their tail is longer than that on the African lion. One of the most notable physical characteristics of the Asian lion is the longitudinal fold of skin that runs along their belly- this is absent in the African lion.

Their coat colour ranges from ruddy tawny, heavily speckled with black, to sandy or buff-grey. Like all cats they have powerful retractable claws and long sharp canine teeth.

General Information

Where do they live? (Natural habitat)

Today Asian lions live in the wild in the Gir forest National Park and Sanctuary in the state of Gujarat in India. The park was set up in 1965 to protect the lions.

How long do they live?

They live between 16-18 years in the wild and up to 24 years in captivity.

What do they eat?

The Asian lion is a carnivore, eating antelope, wild boar, buffalo and small deer. They are ambush predators using stealth to approach their prey. Then they charge, reaching a top speed of 56 kph, and either grab or knock down their prey before it outruns them. Hunting takes place at night. However, where the vegetation is thick offering good cover, it can occur during the day.

Group name

They are highly social animals and live in a group called a pride. The pride is a family unit where all of the lionesses are related.

Zoo location

The Asian lions can be seen in the Asian Forest Habitat in Dublin Zoo. The Asian Forest Habitat was opened in the spring of 2012.

Closest related species / sister species

The Asian lion and the African lion are subspecies of the same species.

Animal class

Mammal

Animal order

Carnivora

Fun facts

Good sleepers

Asian lions spend up to 20 hours a day resting or sleeping.

Mane

The male lion is the only cat to sport a mane. It is an indication of their maturity and dominance.

Hear me roar

The lion's roar can be heard from as far away as 8 kilometres.

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Family Life

Asian lions are highly social and live in a family group called a pride. The pride consists of closely related females. The adult male is more solitary and mixes with the pride for mating and feeding after a hunt. Mating is not seasonal and can take place all year round. They are polygamous - a male can mate with more than one female.

Baby name

The young lion is known as a CUB.

Gestation period

The gestation period last from 100-119 days

Number of young at birth

Between 1-6 cubs are born.

Weight at birth

Newborn cubs typically weigh 1-2kg

Age at maturity

Asian lions reach maturity between ages 3-4 years. Males reach sexual maturity at age 5 years and females at age 4 years.

Adult male name

The adult male is called a Lion.

Adult female name

The adult female is called a Lioness

Size male adult

The adult male weighs between 150-250 kg

Size female adult

The adut female weighs between 120-182 kg

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Conservation

IUCN status

The Asian lion is listed as endangered.

Current population estimate

Estimates put the number of Asian Lions living in the wild at between 400-500.

Threats

Today the lions living in the wild are vulnerable to disease, natural disasters, forest fires, potential poaching, tourism and conflicts that may arise from living close to a growing human population that also needs the land for cattle and crops.

What is Dublin Zoo doing?

Dublin Zoo is part of the European Endangered Species Programme. This is a breeding programme for endangered species including the Asian Lion

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FAQs

  • How many Asiatic lions are left in the wild?

    The wild population is estimated to be between 500-600 individuals.

  • Is the Asiatic lion endangered?

    Yes. The Asian lion has been classified by IUCN as critically endangered.

  • Which wildlife sanctuary is the habitat of Asiatic lions?

    The Gir Forest National Park and Sanctuary in Gujarat, India.

  • What is being done to save the Asiatic lion?

    The Asian lion is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN.

    The species is also included on CITES Appendix 1.

    The Asian lion is fully protected by law in India.

    There are management interventions are in place in the Gir National Park and Forest e.g. reduction in livestock grazing, control of fire and education programmes.

  • Where is the Asiatic lion found?

    The Asiatic lion can be seen in the wild in the Gir National Forest and Wildlife Sanctuary, Gujarat, India. But they can also be seen in Zoos around the world including Dublin Zoo.

  • Why are Asiatic lions hunted?

    The Asian lion population has increased to the point that some (maybe as much as 1/3rd) now live outside the protected areas in surrounding farmland and hills. This has brought them into conflict with humans living in these areas. Some of the local residents kill the lions in ‘retaliation’ for attacks on livestock and out of fear of attack on humans.

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