The Asiatic Lion has been known in India for centuries. The Ashoka Pillar,
which is the national emblem of India, depicts three snarling Asiatic lions
with beautifully carved curling manes and expressions. Their accurate depiction
testifies to the skill of the sculptors of Mauryan times, as well as their
awareness of this magnificent animal, the Asiatic Lion, often called "The
King of Beasts"
The Asiatic Lion is found in the wild in India in the protected
wildlife park of Gir Reserve Forest in Gujarat.
It is estimated that there are around 300
Asiatic Lions in the wild with over 50 in captivity, including zoos and
animal parks, though many of the zoo bred lions are the result of mixed
parentage between African and Asiatic Lions.
Asiatic Lion is the second largest of the
"Big Cats" after the Tiger. A fully- grown male lion can reach
9 feet long including its 3-foot long tail, with a dark tuft of fur at
the end. An Asiatic Lion can reach upto a size of about 4 feet tall and
can weigh over 200 Kg. Lionesses are smaller in size, but equally ferocious.
Lionesses are usually sandy or tawny in color. Male lions can range in
color from orange-yellow to dark brown. Males are characterized by their
manes, which can sometimes be black in color.
Asiatic Lions live in open grasslands or forests, including
scrub jungle. Lions have been known to occasionally climb trees but are
usually seen on the ground.
Asiatic Lions are carnivores and hunt for their prey. They
prey includes various species of deer, antelope and wild cattle or buffalo.
(In Africa lions also eat zebra and wildebeest. Lions have also been observed
attacking the young of hippopotamus or elephants in Africa.)
Asiatic Lions are the only Big Cats to live in large
groups or "prides". Prides usually consist of around 15 members,
including several related lionesses, their cubs and a few males. The lionesses
do most of the hunting, while the males defend the pride's territory.
Lions establish their territorial boundaries by roaring and scent marking.
Lionesses usually stalk their prey, until they manage to approach nearby
and then attack, killing their prey with a bite to the neck. Young male
lions are usually expelled from the pride after they are around 3 years
old. Young female lions may stay with the pride or join other prides.
Many male lions remain solitary and do not join any pride.