The Asiatic lion is a Panthera leo leo population in India. Its current range is restricted to the Gir National Park and environs in the Indian state of Gujarat. Historically, it inhabited much of Western Asia and the Middle East up to northern India. On the IUCN Red List, it is listed under its former scientific name Panthera leo persica as Endangered because of its small population size and area of occupancy.
About Asiatic Lions:
- Asiatic lions (Scientific Name: Panthera leo persica) are slightly smaller than African lions and males have only moderate mane growth at the top of the head so that their ears are always visible. They are slightly smaller than African lions.
- The most striking morphological character is a longitudinal fold of skin running along the belly of Asiatic Lions.
- Asiatic Lions are listed as ‘Endangered’ under the IUCN Red List and its population is restricted to the state of Gujarat in India.
- They have been also put under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972: Schedule 1 and CITES Appendix I. • The MoEFCC has launched the “Asiatic Lion Conservation Project” with an aim to protect and conserve the world’s last ranging free population of Asiatic Lion and its associated ecosystem with the approach “Species Conservation over a large landscape”.
- Recently, the Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh was identified to be the most suitable for reintroducing the species so as to save the species in case of any catastrophe hits the Gir Range, the only adobe of lions.
The lions face the usual threats of poaching and habitat fragmentation. Three major roads and a railway track pass through the Gir Protected Area (PA). Also, there are three big temples inside the PA that attract large number of pilgrims, particularly during certain times of the year. There has been an increase in lion population, and more than 200 lions stay outside the PA. Though the conflict is not high now, with changing lifestyles and values these may increase in the future. There are also cases of lions dying by falling into the unguarded wells around the Gir PA. The Asiatic lion faces threat of genetic inbreeding arising from a single population in one place.
WWF supported barricading of 180 wells with local partners and Gujarat Forest Derpartment. This initiative led to doubling the subsidy by the Gujarat government and many farmers barricaded the wells with government support. To strengthen the efforts of Gir PA towards managing conflict and poaching, WWF provided need-based support. WWFIndia conducted study to assess habitat change over a period of 20 years.