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The Asiatic Lion

News: Wildlife Institute of India along with the Gujarat Forest Department has identified six new relocation sites apart from the Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary under Project Lion. 

About the Species: There are only several hundred Asiatic lions in the wild, and they only live in the Gir Forest, India, in an area that is smaller than Greater London. 

Conservation Status:  

  • IUCN Status: Endangered 
  • CITES: Appendix I 
  • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I 

Habitat: They are confined to Gir National Park and its surrounding environments in Gujarat’s Saurashtra district. 

Characteristics:  

  • Features:  
  • Asiatic lions are slightly smaller than African lions.   
  • Asiatic Lion is a longitudinal fold of skin running along its belly.  
  • The fur ranges in colour from ruddytawny, heavily speckled with black, to sandy or buff-grey, sometimes with a silvery sheen in certain lights.  
  • Males have only moderate mane growth at the top of the head, so that their ears are always visible. 
  • Food Habits: Asiatic Lions are mainly dependent on Chital, Nilgai, Sambhar, Buffaloes and Goats for food. Sometimes they hunt smaller animals and if need arises they kill the livestock or camel found in the neighbouring areas of Gir National Park. 

Threats: 

  • Poaching 
  • habitat fragmentation 
  • lions dying by falling into the unguarded wells around the Gir PA.  
  • threat of genetic inbreeding arising from a single population in one place. 

Conservation Initiatives 

  • WWF supported barricading of 180 wells with local partners and Gujarat Forest Derpartment 
  • This initiative led to doubling the subsidy by the Gujarat government and many farmers barricaded the wells with government support.  
  • To strengthen the efforts of Gir PA towards managing conflict and poaching, WWF provided need-based support.  
  • WWF India conducted study to assess habitat change over a period of 20 years.
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