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Asiatic Lion
[Wild Animals in India]

The Asiatic Lion has been known in India for centuries. The Ashoka Pillar, which is the national emblem of India, depicts three snarling Asiatic lions with beautifully carved curling manes and expressions. Their accurate depiction testifies to the skill of the sculptors of Mauryan times, as well as their awareness of this magnificent animal, the Asiatic Lion, often called "The King of Beasts"

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Zoological name: Panthera leo

Range: The Asiatic Lion is found in the wild in India in the protected wildlife park of Gir Reserve Forest in Gujarat.

Estimated population: It is estimated that there are around 300 Asiatic Lions in the wild with over 50 in captivity, including zoos and animal parks, though many of the zoo bred lions are the result of mixed parentage between African and Asiatic Lions.

Physical appearance: Asiatic Lion is the second largest of the "Big Cats" after the Tiger. A fully- grown male lion can reach 9 feet long including its 3-foot long tail, with a dark tuft of fur at the end. An Asiatic Lion can reach upto a size of about 4 feet tall and can weigh over 200 Kg. Lionesses are smaller in size, but equally ferocious. Lionesses are usually sandy or tawny in color. Male lions can range in color from orange-yellow to dark brown. Males are characterized by their manes, which can sometimes be black in color.

Habitat: Asiatic Lions live in open grasslands or forests, including scrub jungle. Lions have been known to occasionally climb trees but are usually seen on the ground.

Diet: Asiatic Lions are carnivores and hunt for their prey. They prey includes various species of deer, antelope and wild cattle or buffalo. (In Africa lions also eat zebra and wildebeest. Lions have also been observed attacking the young of hippopotamus or elephants in Africa.)

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Behavior: Asiatic Lions are the only Big Cats to live in large groups or "prides". Prides usually consist of around 15 members, including several related lionesses, their cubs and a few males. The lionesses do most of the hunting, while the males defend the pride's territory. Lions establish their territorial boundaries by roaring and scent marking. Lionesses usually stalk their prey, until they manage to approach nearby and then attack, killing their prey with a bite to the neck. Young male lions are usually expelled from the pride after they are around 3 years old. Young female lions may stay with the pride or join other prides. Many male lions remain solitary and do not join any pride.

Status: Asiatic Lions are a gravely endangered species. The last surviving Asiatic Lions in the Gir Forest in Gujarat are threatened by habitat loss and human encroachment. However they are recognized as extremely threatened and efforts are on to promote a captive breeding program in various zoos across India.

Tourists can see the Asiatic Lion in the wild, in the Gir Forest National Park in India. Lions can also be seen in zoos across India and in animal parks such as the Bannerghatta National Park near Bangalore, where big cats rescued from zoos are rehabilitated.

Experience the thrill of seeing the Asiatic Lion on India Wildlife Tours.

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