- There are only several hundred Asiatic 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 several hundred individuals. 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 savannah. 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.