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Published on Monday, February 19, 2018

India's Asiatic Lions

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A cat with a different kind of tale!

India is world famous for its tigers, but did you know, the country is also home to another big cat

Nearly all of the wild lions live in sub-Saharan Africa, but a small population of Asiatic lions exists in India's Gir Forest in the state of Gujarat.

The Asiatic lion, also known as the Indian lion, is listed as endangered on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) because of its small population size.

In 1965, the Indian government declared the Gir forest a wildlife sanctuary. This sanctuary was expanded to cover peripheral forests, and the core area named, Gir National Park. Today, the Gir covers a 1,412 square-km area of deciduous forest, and savannah. It plays host to a number of other large carnivores including leopards, spotted hyenas, honey badgers and golden jackals.

Asiatic lions are slightly smaller than African lions. The adult males weigh 160 to 190 kg, while females weigh 110 to 120 kg, but they look and behave a lot like their African cousins.

Though the manes of these males are not as lush as those of African lions, they have bigger, fuller tail tufts, and more prominent ears

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 ruddy tawny, 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.

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