Lions400 is the Zoological Society of London's (ZSL) campaign to secure the future of the majestic Asiatic lion, which clings to survival in only one isolated Indian forest.
These lions are on the brink, and we can't let them disappear.
The Asiatic lion is at crisis point. With only 400 left, they survive in one isolated forest in India where they are easy prey for poachers. Just one forest fire or disease epidemic could wipe this ancient species of lion out for ever.
Asiatic lions are on the brink of extinction due to the risk of disease, disaster and vulnerability to poaching. They have outgrown their tiny pocket of forest and are increasingly having to wander into neighbouring areas where they risk being killed by trains, vehicles or frightened villagers.
But we believe that there is still time to turn things around for the Asiatic lion, and that this incredible animal can be protected and thrive again. It’s now or never for lions, and for us it has it to be now.
As part of Lions400, Land of the Lions will open in spring 2016 at ZSL London Zoo to provide state-of-the-art facilities for a breeding group of endangered Asiatic lions, of which only 400 remain in the wild.
To help secure the future of the majestic Asian lion, ZSL conservationists will work in the field in India, collaborating with Indian and international conservation agencies:
Preparing Indian communities around forest expansion
Some of the lions living in the Gir Forest will be encouraged to expand their range into a new area of forest being prepared in the same region of India, to increase numbers and dispersal to minimise the risk of disease or natural disaster wiping out the population. The Gir Forest is at capacity for the 400 lions living there and in recent years more and more lions have started wandering outside the forest into unsafe territory in search of food. ZSL will play a key role in ensuring that a new forest being given protected status is a safe place for the lions to move, by working with local communities who have not previously come into contact with lions. This community engagement will focus on work with schools and womens’ groups.
ZSL has developed leading conservation technology that is currently either in use, or being tested in Africa and Asia. We plan to extend this technology, which allows realtime data to be available directly to forest rangers, to the custodians of the Gir Forest. With this technology, combined with a unique ‘lion hotline’ set up by ZSL, the forest ranger rapid response team will be able to act immediately on problems and maintain the harmony of the forest with the community that lives in and around it.
Providing veterinary training
We will begin a vet exchange programme to train forest rangers and the Gir lion rescue team in the latest and best disease surveillance techniques and veterinary procedures. This will allow them access to cutting edge techniques learned from our zoo breeding populations that can be applied to ensure wild lions can be treated successfully. We will also send our expert vets to India to run accessible veterinary training courses for trainee rangers. In the long term there is potential to assist with a vaccination programme to protect a proportion of the lion population from disease threat.
We will use funds to bring the Gujarat Forest veterinary laboratories up to date, and to provide and maintain essential kit to the forest ranger teams, including vehicles and veterinary equipment.
The Lions400 campaign also incorporates the work of ZSL's world class zoo:
Land of the Lions
Building a breeding facility with combined visitor experience at ZSL London Zoo that will engage and inspire visitors to support us in our bid to save the Asian lion.
Using inventive and original ways to bring the story of the Asian lion and the communities who live in and around the Gir Forest to life, we aim to provide visitors with an exceptional experience that will stay with them long after their visit ends.
Asian lions are on the brink. Donate now to support ZSL's work...
There are only 400 Asian lions in the wild, and they only live in the Gir Forest, India, in an area that is smaller than Greater London.
Asian lions are slightly smaller than African lions. Unlike African lions, the males do not tend to live with the females of their pride unless they’re mating or have a large kill.
Asian lions used to range from Turkey, across Asia, to eastern India, but the rise of firearms across the world meant that they were hunted to near-extinction for sport.
The male Asiatic lion has a relatively short, sparse and darker mane compared to the fuller mane of the African lion. As a result, the male Asiatic lion's ears tend to remain visible at all times.
The most distinguishing characteristic of the Asiatic lion is the longitudinal fold of skin that runs along its belly. This is absent in African lions.
Today, the remaining wild lions are vulnerable to disease, disaster and potential poaching, and have to live alongside a growing human population that also needs the land for cattle and crops.
The Asian lion population has recovered from the brink of extinction to 411 individuals (2010 census). They occupy remnant forest habitats in the two hill systems of Gir and Girnar that comprise Gujarat’s largest tracts of dry deciduous forest, thorny forest and savanna. Five protected areas currently exist to protect the Asian lion: Gir Sanctuary, Gir National Park and Pania Sanctuary to form the Gir Conservation Area (GCA) covering an area of 20,000 km2 of forest representing the core habitat for the Asiatic lion. The other two wildlife sanctuaries, Mitiyala and Girnar, protect satellite areas within dispersal distance of the Gir Conservation Area. An additional sanctuary is being established in the nearby Barda forest to serve as an alternative home for Gir lions.
Factors which are threats to the Gir PA and lion conservation identified as encroachment, forest fire, natural calamities, grazing, collection of fuelwood, Non-timber forest produce (NTFP), poaching, tourism, religious pilgrimage and accidental lion deaths due to human causes. Currently the Gir landscape is witnessing an unprecedented change of traditional land-use patterns owing to agro-industrial developments and urban sprawl. Lions in the human dominated landscape are long ranging, even venturing inside villages at night for food. But they need specific day time habitat patches (refuge sites) so as to avoid conflicts. Such patches are characterized by mostly grasslands, Acacia patches, Prosopis juliflora patches and orchards. Since the land ownership of these crucial habitat patches are complex and largely private owned, they are likely to succumb fast to such development induced habitat alterations thereby threatening the metapopulation dynamics of the lions in future.
Land of the Lions will open in spring 2016 at ZSL London Zoo and will provide state-of-the-art facilities for a breeding group of endangered Asiatic lions, of which only 400 remain in the wild.
Initial work on the new exhibit will begin in November 2014, and covering more than 2,500sqm (27,00sqft) will be five times the size of the previous enclosure. The project is expected to take 16 months to complete, adding a world-class new development to ZSL London Zoo.