The world widely renown Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica) also known as the Indian Lion, Persian Lion and Eurasian Lion is a subspecies of Lion. The only place in the wild where the Lion is found is in the Gir Forest of Gujarat, India. All Asiatic lion pictures are taken by me during my various visits to Gir National Park. I have kept these Lion Photos as a showcase of my work, Lion cubs are favorite.
[nggallery id=3]The Asiatic Lion is one of the five foremost big cats found in India, the rest are the Bengal Tiger, the Indian Leopard, the Snow Leopard and Clouded Leopard. The Asiatic Lions once ranged from the Mediterranean to the North-Eastern parts of the Indian subcontinent, but excessive hunting, water pollution and decline in natural prey reduced their habitat. Historically, Asiatic Lions were classified into three different types – Bengal, Arabian and Persian Lions. Asiatic Lions are smaller and lighter than their African counterparts, though are equally aggressive in nature.
In the year of 2010, the Gujarat Government reported that 411 Asiatic Lions were sighted in the Gir forest; a rise of 52 over the last census of 2005. The Gir Forest National Park of western India has about 411 Lions (as of April 2011) which live in a 1,412 km² (558 square miles) sanctuary covered with scrub and unwrap deciduous forest habitats. The total population in 1907 was believed to consist of only 13 Lions when the Nawab of Junagadh gave them complete protection. This figure however is highly controversial because the first census of Lions in the Gir that was conducted in 1936 yielded a result of 234 animals.
Later each of these Indian big cats lost most of their open jungle and grassland habitat in India to the rising human population which almost completely converted their entire habitat in the plains of India into farmland. They frequently became targets of local and British colonial hunters. Lions were being poisoned for attacking livestock. Some of the other major threats include floods, fires and epidemics. Their restricted range makes them especially vulnerable.
Another major reason for the declined Habitat in the Gir Forest may also be contributed by the presence of nomadic herdsmen known as Maldharis. These communities are vegetarian and do not indulge in poaching, but with an average of 50 cattle (mainly “Gir Cow”) per family, overgrazing is a concern. The habitat destruction by the cattle and the firewood requirements of the populace reduces the natural prey base and endangers the Lions. The Lions are in turn forced by the lack of natural prey to shift to kill cattle and in turn, are targeted by people which are a recent scenario.