Species Action Plan: Asiatic Lion

This beautiful subspecies of lion deserves a species action plan! Here is one I made during my BSc at Imperial College London.


Species and Habitat Status

The Asiatic lion Panthera leo persica
Due to hunting and habitat loss, the Asiatic lion’s distribution has become restricted to Gir, Junagadh District, Gujarat, India. This subspecies of lion exists as a single population and is endangered, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.


Figure 1. Asiatic lion and lioness (Tipling, 2012)

Gir Conservation Area (GCA) and Satellite areas
Over the past 4 decades, habitat loss was reduced by relocating 592 out of 714 of Maldharis communities (figure 2) out of the GCA.

Mitiyala and Girnar Sanctuaries were created to protect satellite areas. Conservartion of the Gir forest and surrounding areas has led to the population growth of Asiatic lion from 18 in 1893 to 411 in 2010.


Figure 2. Maldharis herding livestock. The Maldharis are a pastoral people, whose livestyle and livestock compete with native species and degrade the Gir forest (Gir Jungle Resort, 2011)


Threatening Processes

Population of Asiatic lions, in the wild and in captivity, is approximately less than 600. In the light of disease, this number is small. Diseases such as canine distemper virus (CDV) are likely to doom asiatic lions to extinction.  A CDV epidemic in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, led to the demise of approximately 1000 lions in 1994. As CDV is a major disease in domestic dogs, lion proximity to human populations endangers them to domestic dog exposure 

Habitat loss
Maldharis combine livestock dung with Gir forest topsoil to sell as fertiliser. The forest is exploited for wood fuel.

Ecological and demographic stochasticity
Population Viability Analysis of Girnar lions predicts that migration between Gir and Girnar is vital to resist inbreeding depression and environmental stochasticity in the Girnar Sanctuary. Yet, the land connecting satellites to the GCA are not protected.

Drought is the most common reason for human-lion conflict because it causes lions to migrate out of the GCA and makes livestock easier prey. Hunting or poisoning often occur as retaliation.

Inbreeding Depression
The current lions are descended from 18 individuals from 1893. Inbreeding depression can make them susceptible to disease.


Current management

Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary
Reintroducion of lions to Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary to form a second population has been planned since 1993. In 2004 the park was cleared as ready to receive the first lions. However, conflicts of interest have prevented the plans to fruition.

Mitigating Habitat Loss
Gas is provided at reduced costs to locals and Maldharis. Exploitation for wood fuel continued regardless, as the gas was not used but sold.

Mitigating Inbreeding Depression
As of 2011, 154 Asiatic lions exist in Indian zoos. With 50 years of management 90% of genetic diversity can be preserved and surplus lions used for reintroduction. 

Mitigating Human-Lion conflict
Reduce human-wildlife conflict by increasing water availability in appropriate regions


Future management

Conservation Priorities:
1.To bring to fruition the reintroduction of Asiatic lion to Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary
2.To prevent CDV outbreaks in lions by inoculating lions and domestic dogs against CDV in and around the GCA
3.To provide Maldharis communities alternative economic gains of less ecological impact
4.To maintain viability of satellite populations by protecting corridors and/or reintroducing surplus captive lions
5.To increase the captive population to 600 while maintaining genetic diversity

Ashraf, N. V. K., Chellam, R., Molur, S., Sharma, D. & Walker, S. (1995) Population & Habitat Viability Assessment P.H.V.A. and Global Animal Survival Plan Workshops, 18-21 October 1993, Baroda, India. CBSG, India/Zoo.
Breitenmoser, U., Mallon, D. P., Ahmad Khan, J. & Driscoll, C. 2008. Panthera leo ssp. persica. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. [Online] Available from: http://www.iucnredlist.org [Accessed on 14 February 2012]
Chauvenet, A. L. M., Durant, S. M. & Hilborn, R. (2011) Unintended Consequences of Conservation Actions: Managing Disease in Complex Ecosystems. PLoS ONE 6, 12.
Craft, M., Volz, E., Packer, C. & Meyers, L. (2011) Disease transmission in territorial populations: the small-world network of Serengeti lions. J. R. Soc. Interface 8, 776-786.
Gir Jungle Resort. (2011) Maldhari man with cattles. [Online] Available from: http://www.girjungleresort.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/maldhari-man-with-cattles.png [Accessed 14th February, 2012)
Johnsingh, A. J. T., Goyal, S. P. & Qureshi, Q. (2007) Preparations for the reintroduction of Asiatic lion Panthera leo persica into Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh, India. Oryx, 41
Mitra, S.(2005) Gir Forest and the Saga of the Asiatic Lion. New Delhi, Indus Publishing Company.
Ramanathan, A., Malik, P., K., Prasad, G. (2007) Seroepizootiological survey for selected viral infections in captive Asiatic lions (Panthera leo persica) from Western India. J Zoo Wildl Med 38, 400-408
Roelke-Parker, M. E., Munson, L., Packer, C., Kock, R., Cleaveland, S., Carpenter, M. O’Brien, S., J., Pospichil, A., Hofmann-Lehmann, R., Lutz, H., Mwangwele, G., L., M., Mgasa, M. N., Machange, G. A., Summers, B. A. & Appel, M. J. (1996) A canine distemper virus epidemic in Serengeti lions (Panthera leo). Nature. 379, 441–445.
Tipling, D. (2012) Asiatic lion and lioness. [Online] Available from: http://cdn2.arkive.org/media/82/82769D4F-23F5-4F98-817F-B17A2F27A5E1/Presentation.Medium/Asiatic-lion-and-lioness.jpg [Accessed 14th February, 2012]
Treves,A, & Karanth KU, 2003 Human-carnivore conflict and perspectives on carnivore management worldwide. Conservation biology vol:17 iss:6 pg:1491 -1499
Vachhrajani, K. D., Mankodi, P. C., Patel, P. P. & Patel, A. S. (2011) Conservation management of Asiatic lion habitat necessitates development of water resource potentials in Gir Protected Area of Gujarat, India. Electronic Journal of Environmental Sciences. 4, 119-128 [Online] Available from: http://www.tcrjournals.com [Accessed 12 February 2012]
Wildt, D., E., Bush, M., Goodrowe, K. L., Packer, C., Pusey, A. E., Brown, J. L., Joslin, P. & O’Brien, S. J. (1987) Reproductive and genetic consequences of founding isolated lion populations. Nature, 329, 328-331.
Venkataraman, M. (2010) ‘Site’ing the right reasons: critical evaluation of conservation planning for the Asiatic lion. Eur. J. Wildl. Res., 56, 209-213
Srivastav, A., Nigam, P., Malviya, M. & Tyagi, P.C. (2011) Indian National Studbook of Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica). Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun and Central Zoo Authority, New Delhi. [Online] Available from: http://www2.wii.gov.in/studbook/studbook_asiain_lion.pdf [Accessed on 14 February 2012]