Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Asiatic Lion: The Exceptional Big Cat

Asiatic Lion: The Exceptional Big Cat
The Lovely Planet

The only remaining population of the Asiatic Lion is fighting for their survival in the Gir Forest National Park of India. This wildlife sanctuary park is a protected area in the Indian state Gujarat located 65 km to the south-east of Junagadh and 60 km to south west of Amreli where the estimated number of the Asiatic Lion is 410. Apart from this rare big cat of India, this national park is also home of many other mammal species, reptiles and birds.The historic figures suggest that the Asiatic Lion, the exceptional big cat once lived in the whole Indian Subcontinent, Iran and even in some parts of Italy and Greece.

The Asiatic Lion is the first cousin of the North African Barbary Lion which is extinct from our lovely planet. They have almost the same features especially, the same belly fold (hidden under their manes) as those were observed in the Barbary Lions. The Asiatic lion is biologically known as "Panthera leo persica" and with some other names as the Indian lion, Persian Lion and Eurasian lion. The Asiatic Lions are bit smaller in their sizes as compare to the African Lions but the other qualities are almost same as they are belligerent in their nature and their colors range from reddish-brown to a highly mottled black to sandy cinnamon grey. The adult male Asiatic Lion has the maximum skull length of 340 mm, while that of females is 266–277 mm. They can gain the average weight of 160–190 kg for the males and 110–120 kg  for the females .The Asiatic Lion is a very social big cat which loves to live in the groups with an average number of the members from 4 to 5 and these groups are known as "prides". The Asiatic Lions usually prey deer, antelope, gazelle, wild boar, water buffalo and livestock.

Before the start of the twentieth century, the Asiatic Lions were brutally hunted and their population was almost eliminated. However after that, with the efforts of the local authorities and the royal family of Junagadh, their area was declared as a protected zone and the current population of the Asiatic Lion is the consequence of those conservation efforts that were carried on for the survival of the Asiatic Lion. The Asiatic Lion has a very slow and complicated breeding rate.

The biggest threat to the life of the Asiatic Lion is the rapid human development and the quick habitat loss. The ideal living place for the Asiatic Lion is the open grasslands which are mostly converted into agricultural lands. Although there is a complete ban and restriction upon the hunting of the Asiatic Lion, yet they are poisoned for attacking livestock. Some of the other major threats include floods, fires, and epidemics. Their restricted range makes them especially vulnerable. The local tribes which normally belong to the profession of cattle breeding are also a major threat to the population of the Asiatic Lion. They dislike the attacks on their animal herds and they want to graze their animals in the grasslands.

Asiatic Lion, the exceptional big cat was a popular entity in the ancient Indian Art, Mythology and it appeared as the emblem of the national importance in many countries like India, Sri Lanka and Iran. The Asiatic lion makes repeated appearances in the Bible, most notably as having fought Samson in the Book of Judges. Similarly the symbol of the lion is closely tied to the Persian people. Achaemenid kings were known to carry the symbol of the lion on their thrones and garments.

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