By 1907, when an Indian prince finally banned hunting and protected the last lions, only 13 members of the subspecies remained. Today, after more than a century of conservation, the population of Asiatic lions stands at a high of around 400 animals, all of which live in and around the Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary in the Indian state of Gujarat, just a few kilometers from the Arabian Sea.
Among the cats, trophy hunters tend to target the large, visually striking male pack leaders. The death of a leader leaves a pack unstable, resulting in younger males fighting and often killing each other for dominance. The new top male often also ends up killing all of the pack’s cubs to preserve his genetic dominance, and some females may die trying to protect their offspring.
“The king of the jungle is heading toward extinction, and yet Americans continue to kill lions for sport,” Jeff Flocken, IFAW’s Washington, D.C., office director, said in a prepared statement. “Our nation is responsible for importing over half of all lions brought home by trophy hunters each year. The African lion is in real trouble, and it is time for this senseless killing and unsustainable practice to stop.”
Asian lions Panthera leo persica used to be found from the Middle East across to India. Now they are only found in the Gir Forest in India. There are only about 200 to 260 of these endangered lions left in the wild. They live in a reserve that used to be royal hunting grounds, in an area of dry teak forest. There are also about 200 Asian lions living in zoos.
Asiatic lions tend to be smaller than their African cousins. Adult males typically weigh between 350 and 420 pounds, while adult females weigh between 240 and 365 pounds. The largest Asiatic lion on record measured 9½ feet from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail.
African lions are larger than Asiatic lions. Adult males average between 330 and 500 pounds in weight, with most weighing around 410 pounds. The largest African lion on record weighed over 800 pounds. Females typically weigh the same as their Asiatic cousins. The longest African lion measured almost 11 feet from nose to tail tip.
As carnivores, feeding entirely on the flesh of other mammals, lions have 30 teeth, including large piercing canines to grab and kill prey, scissorlike molars to slice into flesh, and small incisors to scrape meat from bones. Much of their hunting is done at night and in the very early dawn. When feeding on a large kill, a lion can eat almost 36 kg of meat in one feeding and then not need to eat for several days. On average, a lion needs to eat about 5 kg of meat daily.
Males reach up to a shoulder height of 1.2meters and weight between 150-250kgs, females are smaller and reach a shoulder height of 1.05m and weigh up between 120 -180 kgs. Lions live for 12-16 years in the wild and 25 years in captivity.
Lions consume a wide variety of prey, from wildebeest, impala, zebra, giraffe, buffalo and wild hogs to sometimes rhinos and hippos. They will also feed on smaller animals such as hares, birds and reptiles. Lions are also known to attack elephants when food is scarce.
Mating Season: Throughout the year.
Gestation: Around 110 days.
Litter size: 3-4 cubs.
Type: Mammal Diet: Carnivore Size: Head and body, 4.5 to 6.5 ft (1.4 to 2 m); Tail, 26.25 to 39.5 in (67 to 100 cm) Weight:265 to 420 lbs (120 to 191 kg) Group name: Pride Protection status: Vulnerable Size: relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man
Lions are the only cats that live in groups, which are called prides. Prides are family units that may include up to three males, a dozen or so females, and their young. All of a pride's lionesses are related, and female cubs typically stay with the group as they age.