The Asiatic Lion
The Asiatic Lion is rated the most endangered large carnivore globally. And India has the distinction of being the last earthly refuge of the Asiatic lion. The Gir National Park and Lion Sanctuary is the one and only remaining habitat of this proud and majestic species.
An average Asiatic Lion, also known as the Indian Lion, is generally 2.5 m to 2.9 m tall, and weighs between 200 to 250 kg. It has a majestic mane and a big tail tuft. Indian Lions move about in prides, comprising 2-3 male adults and more lionesses and cubs. They communicate with each other with a variety of grunts, meows, growls, moans and roars, and while female cubs stay with the pride, the males leave after they are three years old.
The Asiatic Lions are lazy and indolent creatures that prey on the Sambar, Chital, Nilgai, Wild Pig, and occasionally on goats and camels. Lion males often live in pairs that last a lifetime. However, in the pride it is the females who go out hunting in packs and bring back prey, which is first devoured by the male, and only then by the rest of the pack. In the daytime, they live close to water holes and rest in the shade. Hunting is relegated to dusk, or at night.
The Asiatic lion once ranged from Asia Minor and Arabia through Persia to India. In fact, at the turn of the century, Gir was a splendid mixed, deciduous forest of teak, acacia, zizyphas and banyan, sprawled over some 3,386 sq. km. Lions would have thrived there, were it not for their enemies-hunters and a devastating famine that all but wrapped up the prey species. At one time the estimated number of lions went down to as low as thirty. However, due to the efforts of the authorities and the Gir National Park, the Asiatic lion has been narrowly saved from extinction. Though it is still a highly endangered species, statistics show that if efforts are kept up, their numbers might begin to improve.