Asiatic Lion (Indian Lion, Panthera Leo Persica)

Asiatic Lion in India

The scientific name of Asiatic Lion is Panthera Leo Persica. It is also known as Indian Lion. It is mainly found in the Gujarat state of India.

Compared to the tiger, the Asiatic lion is in a precarious condition. Once found in most parts of northern India, central India, Rajasthan, and even up to the river Narmada in the south, the lion is now confined to the Gir forest in Gujarat.

The male lion has mane. The lioness does not have a mane. The pale yellowish or sandy grey coat of the lion does not have any marking, whereas the young ones are marked with spots and stripes.

Lions are the most sociable of the cats. Although lions, especially makes, may live alone, they are often found in loosely-knit groups that are known as prides. A pride typically consists of several lionesses usually related to one another and their young. Adult males become temporary members of the pride, living with the group for a few months or years. The males battle fiercely for possession of a pride. The winner dominates the whole group. When he shows signs of weakness, he is driven away from the pride by younger and more vigorous males, who then take possession of the pride. The ousted male must then either find a new pride to join or he must exist alone.

The lion feeds on deer, cattle, pig and other herbivores. It stalks its prey by making a short, high speed charge, with a speed up to 80 km per hour. They prey is grabbed with one paw on the back and the other on the flank or chest to drag it down. The kill is made by biting the throat and holding on, until the victim dies on suffocation. The lionesses do most of the hunting and the males join the group after the kill has been made. As they only feed on the meat without crushing the bones or picking them clean, there usually is enough left for scavengers like jackals, hyenas and vultures to feed on.

Since lions eat until they are full, they may not hunt for several days, paying no attention to the presence of prey near their resting grounds. A lion will not ordinarily attack a human unless it is startled, bothered, wounded or diseased. Aged lions have been known to stalk and kill a person, but this is rare. Most aged lions, unable to pursue their normal prey, exist on scorpions, insects and rodents.

Sexually mature lions have no particular breeding season. When a female is sexually receptive, the sexes pair off and mate. After a gestation period of about 110 days, one to six spotted helpless cubs are born. They are easy prey for leopards, hyenas, and other animals, and many do not survive. Those that survive grow quickly, and, when about one-year old, are able to make their own kills. They become sexually mature at about two years of age. Lions have a potential life span of 20 to 30 years, but they rarely reach this age in the wild.

Habitat destruction, hunting and human interference have made this ‘King of the jungle’, which was the national animal of India before the tiger was awarded this covetous status, a highly endangered animal. Over 200 of them are now surviving in the Gir forest of Gujarat under rigorous protection.

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