Sunday, July 3, 2011

Asiatic Lion

Panthera leo persica
The Asiatic Lion is a subspecies of Lion that is found in the wild in only one location on earth. There are some individuals in captivity, but the wild population is found exclusively within the confines of India's Gir Forest.

Historically the subspecies could be found throughout south Asia, the Middle East, and even parts of Europe. But by the turn of the 20th century there were reportedly less than 50 of these Lions left. Hunting and loss of prey species contributed to their decline. In 1965 a sanctuary was officially established for the remaining Lions, and as of May 2011 there were 411 living within its confines. Additionally sanctuaries have been proposed, as the Gir Forest numbers are outgrowing their space, but no reintroductions have yet taken place.

Asiatic Lions split off from their African relatives around 10,000 years ago and are slightly smaller in size. And though Asiatic Lion numbers are increasing, they still face uncertainty. Inbreeding has damaged their genetic diversity, which leads to deformed sperm and infertility. Both wild and captive populations need to be carefully monitored to ensure purity within the subspecies (no cross-breeding with African lions for example) and to also ensure that mating does not take place between individuals that are too closely related.

IUCN Status :  Endangered
Location : India
Size : Shoulder height up to 42in (107cm), Weight up to 410lbs (185kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Carnivora
Family : Felidae -- Genus : Panthera -- Species : P. leo -- Subspecies : P. l. persica

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