Ahem. The absence of any new posts after the previous one was .... deplorable. Almost criminal. But I've got my reasons. Work. Play. Travelling. Too many things to do in such a short time. I know, I know, I admit its all excuses. I shall be more attentive the next time round. Lets get on with the show then.
The Asiatic Lion
The Indian lion is another name for the Asiatic lion, Panthera leo persica, the sub-species that once ranged from Greece to central India. This animal has played a major part in the symbols and folklore of Indian culture for over 2000 years.
The Asiatic lion has long been celebrated as Lord of Beasts, and it became a symbol for human power and sovereignty. In ancient societies in India, to fight with a lion was considered to be the ultimate test of leadership. This gradually shifted to a somewhat safer, more symbolic gesture of a leader clothing himself in or standing on a lion skin. There were magnificent depictions of lions amongst the statues at Mahabalipuram. The most important use of the lion as a symbol of power and strength was associated with the Emperor Asoka in Sarnath, 2000 years ago. This depiction of a lion eventually became the symbol for the modern Republic of India.
"Hmm......I see meat"
As India’s population grew and began cultivating or settling more and more of its forest and scrublands, the Asiatic lion was squeezed nearly out of existence. Before they were completely wiped out, the lions came under the protection of the Nawab of Junagadh, a local monarch, who banned all lion hunting in the area. Soon, the lion population began to rise in number. By the declaration of Indian independence in 1947, the government had come to realise the importance and fragile nature of this last bastion of the Asiatic lion, and the Nawab’s conservation policy was upheld. Naturalists were assigned to study and take a census of the Gir’s lion population. At that time there were around 200 lions.
"Is she playing hard to get? Women....."
Today, the lions can only be found in the Gir Forest Sanctuary in India, which is smaller in area than the UK's new forest. This area is made up of dry scrubland with hills, rivers, and teak forest. In addition to the lion population, the Gir forest contains leopards, antelope, deer, jackals, hyenas, and marsh crocodiles. The lions are critically endangered and the last count put their numbers around 350. The Gir forest is not big enough for 350 lions and a few have moved outside the sanctuary, hunting cattle and clashing with humans.
Asiatic lions are slightly smaller than their African cousins, although the largest Asiatic lion on record was an imposing 2.9 m in length. Though they have a less well developed mane, Asiatic lions have thicker elbow tufts and a longer tail tuft.
"Its cold. Its wet. And she's not interested. Maybe if I just give her a bite....."
We have two Asiatic lions (a lion and a lioness) at Bristol Zoo and they are part of a European conservation breeding programme. You can contribute to helping the plight of the lions by adopting one at the Zoo!