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
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.