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Lion is not only a prevalent wild animal, it is a symbol of Wisdom, Power, Royalty, and Ferocity. Lion is a big cat that belongs to the Panthera genus and to the Felidae family.

Lion resting
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The lion ranged across Eurasia, Africa and North America from the 124,000 years ago. Their territories stretched from north of the Sahara to the South African Cape. They even roamed through Greece, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and India! but today it has been reduced to fragmented populations in sub-Saharan Africa and one critically endangered population in western India. It has been identified on the IUCN Red List as vulnerable since 1996 because populations have declined in African nations since the early 1990s by about 43 percent. Populations of lions are unsustainable outside protected regions. Even though the cause of the decrease is not fully understood, the biggest causes of concern are excessive hunting, habitat loss and conflict with humans.

Lion in zoo

The lion was commonly portrayed in carvings and paintings, on national flags, and in modern movies and literature, one of the most commonly recognized animal symbols in human culture. Ancient Egyptians, Nubians, and Chinese worshipped gods with the head of a lion. Since the Roman Empire, lions have been held in menageries and since the late 18th century have been a main species sought for display in zoological gardens around the globe.

The roar of an adult male lion can be heard up to five miles away.

After the tiger, the lion is the world’s second largest cat species. Lions spend a great deal of their moment resting; they are inactive for about 20 hours a day. While lions can be active at any moment, their activity usually peaks with a period of socializing, grooming and defecating after dusk. Intermittent activity bursts remain until dawn, when the most frequent hunting occurs. They spend two hours a day walking on average and eating 50 minutes.

Unlike other cat species, oddly enough, lions are extremely social in nature and reside in big communities called a pride composed of several females, their off springs, and some adult males. Lions tend to prefer habitats for savanna and grassland but are also discovered in forests and bush. Lions are skilled predators and scavengers, and by nature they are mostly nocturnal. Wild lions live for 10 to 14 years, while captive lions live for 20 years.

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Wild lions currently occur only in sub-Saharan Africa, and very few Asian lions (a sub-species of African lions) are discovered in Gujarat, India’s Gir Forest Reserve. In 1893, the Asian lion population had decreased to just 18 species. But the workforce is now around 400, thanks to preservation attempts. The African lions were categorized as vulnerable in 2004, but their figures are decreasing, with an approximately 23,000 to 39,000 of their present population. They meet the criteria for regional endangered in West Africa, with the population down to less than 1,500.

There are half as many African lions than there were 25 years ago. 

The African lions were thought to be a group of seven existing lion subspecies residing on the African continent, while the Asian lions were deemed to be a single Asian lion races. Today, however, two lion subspecies are acknowledged:

  1. P.I. leo, which consists of the Asiatic, West African, Central African, and Barbary lions.
  2. P.I. melanochaita, which consists of Southern African lions including the Cape lion and the East lion. 

Some of Lions subspecies

King of the jungle
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Barbary Lion (P.I. leo)

The barbarian lions (Panthera l. leo) are also referred to as the Lion of North Africa. Previously, this lion subspecies lived in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria. Because of indiscriminate hunting, it is currently extinct in the wild. The lions of Barbary are regarded extinct in the wild and most probable also in captivity. The last known wild Barbary lion was shot in the Moroccan part of the Atlas Mountains in 1942. Today, it is thought that some lions held in confinement are offspring of wild Barbary lions, particularly those living in the Rabat Zoo.

West African Lion (P.I. Leo)

The critically endangered West African lion or the Senegal lion (Panthera leosenegalensis) inhabits western Africa from the Central African Republic to Senegal. The West African lion is the smallest among the sub-Saharan African lions. Only about 1,800 individuals remain as small and fragmented populations in West Africa.

Southwest African Lion (P.I. melanochaita)

The Katanga lion or the Southwest African lion (Panthera leo bleyenberghi) is found in southwestern Africa in the countries of Angola, Zaire, western Zambia and Zimbabwe, Namibia, and northern Botswana. These lions are one of the largest among the all the types of lions. Males attain lengths between 8.2 feet and 10.2 feet while females have a length between 7.5 feet and 8.7 feet. Males weigh around 140–242 kg while females weigh about 105–170 kg. The Katanga lions have a lighter colored manes than other lion subspecies.

Masai Lion (P.I. melanochaita)

The East African lion or the Masai lion (Panthera leo nubica) is found in East Africa where it occurs in the countries of Kenya, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Tanzania. The Masai lions have less curved backs and longer legs than other subspecies of lion. Moderate tufts of hair are present in the knee joints of males. The manes of the Masai lion appear to be combed backwards, and older males have fuller manes than the younger ones. Male Masai lions living in highlands above 2,600 feet, and have heavier manes than those living in the lowland areas. Male Masai lions attain a length between 8.2 feet and 9.8 feet. Lionesses are smaller with length ranging from 7.5 feet to 8.5 feet.

Transvaal Lion (P.I. melanochaita)

The Southeast African lion (Panthera leo krugeri) , also known as the Kalahari lion or the Transvaal lion is found in the southern parts of Africa with significant populations in South Africa’s Kruger National Park and Swaziland’s Hlane Royal National Park. Most of the males of this subspecies have a black, well-developed mane. The length of males ranges between 8.5 feet and 10.5 feet while females attain a length between 7.7 feet and 9.0 feet. Male Kalahari lions have a weight of about 150–250 kg while females are 110–182 kg in weight.

Ethiopian Lion (P.I. melanochaita)

The Ethiopian lion or the Abyssinian lion or the Addis Ababa lion (Panthera leoroosevelti) is a type of lion that though originally considered to be the East African lion was classified as a separate subspecies after phenotypic and genotypic analysis on lions kept in captivity in the Addis Ababa’s zoo. Ethiopian lions have darker manes and smaller bodies compared to other lion subspecies, but this could also be the result of living in captivity.

Asiatic Lion (P.I. leo)

The Asiatic lion or the Indian lion (Panthera leo persica) though once widespread from Turkey across Southwest Asia to the Indian subcontinent, is currently confined to the Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary in the Indian state of Gujarat. Only about 523 of this type of lion remain in this forest.

The Asiatic lion is smaller than the largest of the African lions but is similar in size to the Central African lion. The weight of adult male Asiatic lions ranges between 160 kg and 190 kg while that of females ranges from 110 kg to 120 kg. A longitudinal fold of skin running along the belly is the striking morphological feature that helps in the identification of the Asiatic lion. The fur color of the Asiatic lion ranges from ruddy-tawny, buffish-gray or sandy to heavily speckled with black. The lions have a moderate mane growth unlike the African subspecies, and their ears are always visible. The Asiatic lions also exhibit less genetic variation than the African subspecies. These lions are classified as endangered by the IUCN.

Modern Day Hybrids

Lions were bred with tigers in zoos to create hybrids called’ liger’ and’ tigon.’ The liger is a male-lion and tigress cross; the tigon is a cross between the lioness and a male tiger. Because there is no growth-inhibiting gene from the tigress, a controlling gene does not interfere with the growth-promoting gene carried on by the lion, and the resulting liger develops much bigger than either parent. The liger possesses the physical and behavioral characteristics of both parent species, its fur has sandy spots and strips. Liger males are sterile, but many females are fertile. Approximately half of the males have a mane, about half the volume of a pure-bred lion mane. The ligeris much larger than a lion and a tiger, typically 3.65 m long, and can weigh up to 500 kg (1.100 lb). By contrast, due to reciprocal gene impacts, most tigons are relatively small compared to their parents.

Shivani Bhalla: Securing a Future for LionsConservation biologist Shivani Bhalla is working to safeguard the future of Kenya’s rapidly declining lion population through her innovative community outreach programs.

Effect of loss of Habitat

The loss of lions has a adverse impact on the vulnerable ecosystems of Africa.  Lions play a significant part in the food chain, assisting to control populations of the more dominant herbivorous species, such as zebra and buffalo.  These species can out-compete other livestock without lions to regulate them, triggering their extinction and decreasing biodiversity.  

Majestic Asian lions once roamed from Greece to Bangladesh across the Middle East and Asia, but by the early 1900s the species had been hunted to the brink of extinction so that only about 20 remained in Western India.

About 600 Asian tigers remain in Western India’s Gir Forest, their last surviving natural habitat. This small population remains in a tiny patch of forest where one epidemic disease or forest fire could wipe them out permanently.

A lion resting in savaana
stock image from stocksnap.io

The tiny population is growing rapidly, but the species is classified as endangered by the International Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN), as it remains susceptible to many threats. A contagious disease epidemic or natural disaster could have major impacts on the species. 

While population of wild lions in Africa liaise somewhere between 23,000 and 39,000. This may seem like a lot, but in the grand scheme of things it spells danger for the lion. Their figures have plummeted by about 30 percent over the last 20 years, and today more than 40% of their population is declining. Until December 2015, the lion was not put under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, and this could go some way to explain why their figures continued to fall at such an alarming pace. Now that they’re on the list, the hope is that they can recover their race.

In 2005, an Ethiopian girl was kidnapped and beaten by 7 men until a pride of lions chased her attackers off. The lions then stayed and defended her until help arrived.

nbc news

For these lions, the struggle for survival and real possibility of extinction goes well beyond the basic difficulties of human-wildlife conflict and habitat loss.

Changes to their environment through natural events such as wildfires, infectious diseases, and inbreeding are all very real threats that could wipe out the entire population in one disastrous blow.

For this subspecies, the difference between life and death is the continuing efforts to mitigate all of these risks, which includes growing the population Imagine a world in which the African and Asian lion exists only in stories, pictures, statues and company logos.  We cannot be the generation that allows this to happen when there are real solutions available to prevent it.

Read: – How the world’s largest lion relocation was pulled off
To bring lions back to central Mozambique, logistics ranged from providing safe transport to blessings from the spirit world.

World Lion Day is August 10, 2019. Celebrate the conservation and sustainable solutions to protect and save the global wild lion populations from extinction.

Author: Rajesh Kumar

Enchanted by sound of ocean waves, and magic of sun rays I'm a DevOps engineer by profession and nature lover by heart. I love capturing wondrous moments from nature. I hope through my article I will be able to spread awareness for conserving our wildlife and controlling the rapidly changing climate. Together let's take a pledge and restore the pride of our magnificent mother nature.  

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