Asiatic Lions (Panthera leo persica)

  • The Asiatic lion, also known as the Persian lion or Indian Lion, is a population of Panthera leo leo that today survives in the wild only in India.
  • Since the turn of the 20th century, its range has been restricted to Gir National Park and the surrounding areas in the Indian state of Gujarat.
    • Historically, it inhabited much of southwest Asia to northern India.
    • Until the 19th century, it occurred in Saudi Arabia, eastern Turkey, Iran, Mesopotamia, Pakistan, and from east of the Indus River to Bengal and the Narmada River in Central India.
  • The population has steadily increased since 2010. In 2015, the 14th Asiatic Lion Census was conducted over an area of about 20,000 km2; the lion population was estimated at 523 individuals, and in 2017 at 650 individuals.


  • Asiatic lions were once distributed to the state of West Bengal in east and Rewa in Madhya Pradesh, in central India.
  • At present Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is the only abode of the Asiatic lion.
    • In 2020, the Gujarat Forest Department announced an increase in the population of Asiatic lions in the Gir forest region.
Distribution: Asiatic Lions (Panthera leo persica)

Asiatic Lions Protection Status:

Characteristics of Asiatic Lions

  • Asiatic lions are slightly smaller than African lions.
  • Adult males weigh 160 to 190 kg, while females weigh 110 to 120 kg.
  • The height at the shoulders is about 3.5 ft (110 cm).
  • The maximum recorded total length of a male Asiatic lion is 2.92m (115 inches) including the tail.
  • The most striking morphological character, which is always seen in Asiatic lions, and rarely in African lions, 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.
  • About half of Asiatic lions’ skulls from the Gir forest have divided infraorbital foramina, whereas African lions have only one foramen on either side.
    • The sagittal crest is more strongly developed, and the post-orbital area is shorter than in African lions.
  • It differs from the African lion by a larger tail tuft and less inflated auditory bullae.
Asiatic Lions
Asiatic Lion
Asiatic lions - Key Facts

Behaviour of Asiatic lions (Male and Female)

  • Male Asiatic lions are solitary, or associate with up to three males, forming a loose pride. Pairs of males rest, hunt and feed together, and display marking behaviour at the same sites.
  • Females associate with up to twelve other females, forming a stronger pride together with their cubs. They share large carcasses among each other, but seldom with males.
  • Female and male lions usually associate only for a few days when mating, but rarely live and feed together.
  • Results of a radio telemetry study indicate that annual home ranges of male lions vary from 144 to 230 km2 in dry and wet seasons. Home ranges of females are smaller, varying between 67 and 85 km2.
  • During hot and dry seasons, they favour densely vegetated and shady riverine habitats, where prey species also congregate.
  • Coalitions of males defend home ranges containing one or more female prides. Together, they hold a territory for a longer time than single lions. Males in coalitions of three to four individuals exhibit a pronounced hierarchy with one male dominating the others.
  • The lions in Gir National Park are active at twilight and by night, showing a high temporal overlap with sambar, wild boar, and nilgai.

Conservation Issues & Threats

  • The Asiatic lions face the usual threats of poaching and habitat fragmentation.
    • Three major roads and a railway track pass through the Gir Protected Area (PA).
    • Also, there are three big temples inside the PA that attract large number of pilgrims, particularly during certain times of the year.
  • There has been an increase in lion population, and more than 200 lions stay outside the PA.
  • Though the conflict is not high now, with changing lifestyles and values these may increase in the future.
  • There are also cases of lions dying by falling into the unguarded wells around the Gir PA.
  • The Asiatic lion faces threat of genetic inbreeding arising from a single population in one place.

Conservation Efforts: Asiatic Lion Conservation Project

  • The “Asiatic Lion Conservation Project has been launched by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  • It has been approved for three financial years from 2018 to 2021.
  • It envisages scientific management with the involvement of communities in coordination with multi-sectoral agencies for disease control and veterinary care for overall conservation of Asiatic lions.
  • Notably, the project embraces a “Species Conservation over a large landscape” strategy, emphasizing the significance of preserving the Asiatic lion within its expansive habitat.

Project Lion

  • Project Lion is a conservation initiative aimed at protecting the Asiatic Lion in Gujarat, particularly in the Gir landscape, which is the last remaining habitat for these lions. 
  • The project focuses on landscape ecology-based conservation, integrating both conservation and eco-development strategies. 

Key objectives of Project lion

  • Secure and Restore Lion Habitats:
    • The project aims to secure and restore the habitats of Asiatic lions to effectively manage their growing population.
    • Conservation efforts may include habitat restoration, anti-poaching measures, and measures to mitigate human-wildlife conflict.
  • Livelihood Generation and Community Participation:
    • The project seeks to scale up livelihood generation activities for local communities living in the lion landscape.
    • The active participation of local communities is crucial for the success of the project, ensuring that conservation efforts benefit both wildlife and people.
  • Global Hub for Big Cat Disease Diagnostics and Treatment:
    • Project Lion aims to establish itself as a global hub for knowledge on big cat disease diagnostics and treatment.
    • This involves research and development in the field of veterinary science, with a focus on understanding and treating diseases affecting Asiatic lions.
  • Inclusive Biodiversity Conservation:
    • The project emphasizes inclusive biodiversity conservation through the Project Lion initiative.
    • Inclusivity implies involving various stakeholders, such as local communities, conservation organizations, and researchers, in the conservation efforts to create a comprehensive and sustainable approach.

Difference between Asiatic lion and African lion

African lion(Panthera leo melanochaita)Asiatic lions (Panthera leo persica)
Bigger than the Asiatic lion.Slightly smaller than the African lion.
Males have relatively short, sparse and darker manes.Males have a fuller mane.
African lions have minimal tufts of hair on their tails and elbows.Asiatic lions have more pronounced tufts of hair on their elbows and tails compared to their African counterparts.
Skin Folds: African lions do not have this skin fold.Skin Folds: Asiatic lions have a long-running longitudinal fold of skin under their bellies
Skulls: African lions, on the other hand, have one infraorbital foramen. The African lion skull is also more prominent than the Asiatic lion skull.Skulls: Asiatic lion skulls have a feature known as bifurcated infraorbital foramina that refers to small holes in the skull, allowing blood vessels and nerves to pass to the eye.
Males do not live with the females of their pride unless they mate or have a large kill.Males live with the females of their pride.
The African lion preys on larger animals like wildebeests, zebras, and Buffalos.Asiatic lions prey on smaller animals due to their location.
Distribution: Sub-Saharan Africa and West Africa.Distribution: Found only in Gir National Park, Gujarat, India, and its surrounding areas.
Habitat: Forest, savanna, shrubland, grassland, and desertHabitat: Dry deciduous forest
Conservation Status:
IUCN Red List: Vulnerable
CITES: Appendix II
CMS: Appendix II
Conservation Status:
IUCN Red List: Endangered
CITES: Appendix I
Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I
CMS: Appendix II
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