By Sahil Kanojiya
Lions have held an important position in India's mythology, royalty as well as folklore.Popularly known as the Asiatic lions, these species are known for their muscular strength all over the world.
In ancient India, lions were considered to be a symbol of human power and bravery. One of the tests for showing might was to defeat lions in the field. Many ancient paintings are a testimony to this. Moreover, Indian Ashoka Emblem also sports four fearless lions on it as a symbol of power and strength.
These lions were present in most parts of south-west Asia earlier. However, poaching and hunting have restricted their presence. Today, the last of the Asiatic lions are found only in the Gir forest in Subcontinent India. The biological name for these lions is Panthera Leo Persica and are now listed under endangered species.
Asian Lions are genetically different from sub-Saharan African lions but physically, one cannot notice much difference. Both these species have been genetically isolated from each other since the last 100,000 years.
One of the most noticeable physical difference observed in the Indian Lions is the presence of a longitudinal fold of skin running along the belly which makes them different from African lions. Most of the Indian Lions are smaller in size as compared to African lions. Because of this, their ears are also easily visible which also makes them distinct from African lions. The average male Asian lion weighs around 160-190 kg while females weighs around 110-120 kg.
Asiatic lions are highly social in nature and love to live in social units called prides. Prides are usually calculated on the basis of the average population of adult females. On an average, the Asiatic prides are smaller compared to African prides with just two adult females while later one have 4 to 6 adult females.
Adult male Indian lions are comparably less social than their African counterparts and can be seen as a part of these prides either while hunting larger preys or while mating. This could also be due to the availability of smaller preys in the forest of Gir.
Chital and the sambar deer are the favourite prey of these lions. But most of the times, they feed on domestic cattle that often causes conflicts between human and lions. This is due to essay availability of domestic cattle which are easier to hunt as compared to some big wild animal.
The average age is 3- 4 years old at which Asian female lioness becomes sexually mature while for male Asian lion, it is between 5 and 8 years. The females give birth to litters of between 1 and 5 cubs. The breeding life of both Asian male and females can continue till they are 15 years old.
The average life span of Asian lions is about 17-18 year and by max can go up to 21 years, while for males on average lives to 16 years.Due to continuous poaching of these lions, their population dropped significantly and are now just exists as a single subpopulation. The species is included in endangered species list of IUCN Red List due to continuous drop in their population.