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Animals Photo Ark

Asiatic Lion

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An Asiatic lion photographed at Kamla Nehru Zoological Garden in Ahmedabad, India

About the Asiatic Lion

Nearly all wild lions live in sub-Saharan Africa, but one small population of Asiatic lions exists in India's Gir Forest. Asiatic lions and African lions are subspecies of the same species.

Population

Asiatic lions once prowled from the Middle East to India. Now, only a fraction of these magnificent animals survive in the wild. The Gir Forest's dry teak woods were once a royal hunting ground. Today they are a reserve where these at-risk big cats are heavily protected.

Prides

Lions are the only cats that live in groups, called prides. Prides are family units that may include up to three males, a dozen or so females, and their young. All of a pride's lionesses are related and female cubs typically stay with the group as they age. Young males eventually leave and may establish their own prides by taking over a group headed by another male.

Males vs. Females

Only male lions boast manes, the impressive fringe of long hair that encircles their heads. Males defend the pride's territory. They mark the area with urine, roar menacingly to warn intruders, and chase off animals that encroach on their turf.

Female lions are the pride's primary hunters. They often work together to prey upon large mammals.

Lion Hunting

After the hunt, the group effort often degenerates to squabbling over the sharing of the kill, with cubs at the bottom of the pecking order. Young lions do not help the pride hunt until they are about a year old. Lions will hunt alone if the opportunity presents itself, and they also steal kills from hyenas or wild dogs.


WATCH: TIL These Are the Only Wild Lions Outside of Africa

The Asiatic lion, a subspecies that split from African lions around 100,000 years ago, once prowled across Asia and the Middle East. Sadly, the lions were hunted nearly to extinction, with as few as ten individuals left in existence by the late 1800s.