|Scientific Name:||Panthera leo ssp. persica|
|Species Authority:||(Meyer, 1826)|
|Taxonomic Notes:||Affirmed as a unique subspecies on the basis of genetic analysis by O'Brien et al. (1987). This subspecies had a wide historic distribution across southwest Asia but is now restricted to a single population in India's Gir Forest (Nowell and Jackson 1996).|
|Red List Category & Criteria:||Endangered D ver 3.1|
|Assessor/s:||Breitenmoser, U., Mallon, D.P., Ahmad Khan, J. & Driscoll, C.|
|Reviewer/s:||Nowell, K., Breitenmoser-Wursten, C., Breitenmoser, U. (Cat Red List Authority) & Hoffmann, M. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)|
The Asiatic Lion exists as a single isolated population in India's Gujurat State, numbering approximately 175 mature individuals, all occurring within one subpopulation (but in four separate areas, three of which are outside of the Gir Forest protected area). Since the population now extends beyond the boundary of the lion sanctuary, and the numbers are stable, the subspecies is listed as Endangered based simply on the population size (none of the other criteria are met). The subpopulation was in fact increasing for a time but is now considered stable (IUCN Cats Red List Workshop 2007). Constant monitoring is required to ensure poaching levels do not increase; 34 animals were reported killed in 2007 (Jackson 2008). For more information see full Panthera leo species account.
|Range Description:||The range of the lion in North Africa and South-West Asia formerly stretched across the coastal forests of northern Africa and from northern Greece across south-west Asia to eastern India. Today the only living representatives of the lions once found throughout much of South-West Asia occur in India's Gir Forest (Nowell and Jackson 1996) but there are now also some groups outside Gir Forest - Girnar, coastal subpopulation, Bali Tana subpopulation.|
|Range Map:||Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.|
|Population:||Current total population size is about 350 animals. Was increasing, but is now stable as has reached its expansion limits and there are now increasing poaching incidents. At least 100 animals are outside the Gir Forest protected area. Total number of mature animals is about 175.|
|Habitat and Ecology:||Asiatic lions are genetically distinct from the lions of sub-Saharan Africa, although the difference is not large, being smaller than the genetic distance between human racial groups (Nowell and Jackson 1996). The Gir is dry deciduous forest dominated by teak, the predominance of which is partially due to the silvicultural practices of the Gujarat State Forest Department, which permits logging and replants clear-cut areas with teak (Nowell and Jackson 1996). The forest, which covered about 2,600 km² at the turn of the century, has since shrunk to less than half this size. Most of the remaining forest is included in the Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary (Nowell and Jackson 1996).|
The Asiatic lion currently exists as a single subpopulation, and is thus vulnerable to extinction from unpredictable events, such as an epidemic or large forest fire.
There are indications of poaching incidents in recent years (there are reports that organised gangs have switched attention from tigers to these lions). There have also been a number of drowning incidents after lions fell into wells.
Establishment of at least one other wild population is advisable for population safety, for maximizing genetic diversity, and in terms of ecology (re-establishing the lion as a component of the fauna in its former range). However, there are problems in attempting this: a previous attempt to establish a second subpopulation in the Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary in eastern Uttar Pradesh appeared to be succeeding, as the population grew from three to 11 animals, but then the lions disappeared, presumably shot or poisoned (Nowell and Jackson 1996). Palpur-Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in northern Madhya Pradesh has now been selected as the best candidate area. Communities will require resettlement to make room for the Lions, but this time great care is being taken to make the process participatory and to attempt to satisfy local needs, and not engender hostility toward Lion conservation.
Included on CITES Appendix I. This subspecies is fully protected in India (Nowell and Jackson 1996).
Jackson, P. 2008. Nearly one-tenth of last Asiatic lions died this year. Cat News 47: 36-37.
Nowell, K. and Jackson, P. 1996. Wild Cats. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.
O'Brien, S. J., Martenson, J. S., Packer, C. Herbst, L., De Vos, V., Joslin, P., Ott-Joslin, J., Wildt, D. E. and Bush, M. E. 1987. Biochemical genetic variation in geographic isolates of African and Asiatic lions. National Geographic Research 3(1): 114.
|Citation:||Breitenmoser, U., Mallon, D.P., Ahmad Khan, J. & Driscoll, C. 2008. Panthera leo ssp. persica. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 20 June 2013.|