What they look like
One of the largest of the cat family, the Asiatic lion varies in colour from black and dark brown to sandy and grey. Adult males can weigh up to 190kg, while females can weigh up to 120kg. Unlike other species of lion, the majority of their mane growth appears around their cheeks and jaw, meaning that their ears are always visible. Another unique feature to the Asiatic lion is the fold of skin that runs along their underside.
- There are just over 500 Asiatic lions left in the wild.
- Lions are the only cats that live in groups, known as prides.
- Females are the main hunters for a group.
What they eat
The Asiatic lion’s diet is made up of both large and small mammal prey such as deer, wild boar and antelope. The species has also been known to feed on domestic cattle.
Where they live
The Asiatic lions' last remaining stronghold is in the Gir Forest and surrounding area in Gujuart, India.
The Asiatic lion is particular vulnerable as the majority of the species live in one concentrated area in the wild and could be dramatically effected by unpredicted events such as a large forest fire. Poachers also pose a threat for these majestic creatures.
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.
ZSL’s conservation work with the Asiatic Lion
ZSL conservationists have partnered with government institutions in India to help secure the future of the Asiatic lion. Our work involves helping to:
- Increase patrol monitoring efforts across the Gir Conservation Area, inside and outside the protected areas where the Asiatic lions live.
- Train zoo keepers and veterinarians at Sakkarbaug Zoo in the highest standards of lion care and welfare.
- Improve training of local staff so they can safely transport lions and other dangerous animals, such as leopards, away from populated areas.
- Upgrade infrastructure to help care for the lions’ health and wellbeing.
- Establish effective exhibits and education programme for local communities and visitors to learn about lion conservation.
ZSL London Zoo's Land of the Lions is a new visitor experience and state-of-the-art breeding facility in the heart of the capital. Land of the Lions aims to inspire our visitors to support us in our bid to save the Asiatic lion and tell the story of how this magnificent species lives alongside human communities in India. We have brought the lions’ story to life in new and inventive ways, giving visitors an exceptional experience that will stay with them forever.