(African, Barbary, Cape, Timbavati & Asiatic Lions) & (Canine Distemper & Aids)
African lions and their future survival are an ongoing international conservation concern. It is believed that the lion population has declined from 100,000 two decades ago to only 23,000. AWF’s Bernard Kissui is pursuing research in Northern Tanzania’s Maasai Steppe. He is researching the demography of lions and how human &lion conflicts affect them in and around Tarangire National Park. With a growing human population surrounding the park, there are an increasing number of encounters with hunters and farmers. Kissui’s research will explore the generational consequences of these interactions for the local lion population. Kissui has six lion study groups and has attached radio collars to one animal in each group to obtain detailed data on their movement patterns.
The major differences between lion subspecies are size, mane appearance and location. Some of forms listed below are not regarded as distinct subspecies by the majority of taxonomists. Genetic evidence suggests that all modern lions derived from one common ancestor only ca. 55,000 years ago, so all African lions might be lumped into one subspecies.
Asiatic Lioness Panthera leo persica, name MOTI, born in Helsinki Zoo (Finland) October 1994, arrived Bristol Zoo (England) January 1996Panthera leo azandica - North East Congo lion.
Asiatic lion - Panthera leo persica; 200 currently exist in the Gir Forest of India. Once widespread from Greece and Katanga lion - Panthera leo bleyenberghi
Congo lion - Panthera leo hollisteri
South African lion - Panthera leo krugeri
Massai lion - Panthera leo massaicus
East African lion - Panthera leo nubica
Turkey to Bangladesh, but large prides and daylight activity made it easier to poach than tigers or leopards.
Abyssinian lion - Panthera leo roosevelti
West African lion or Senegal lion - Panthera leo senegalensis; The population of lions is unknown but it someone between 30,000- 100,000.
Somali lion - Panthera leo somaliensis
Kalahari lion - Panthera leo verney
Cape lion - Panthera leo melanochaita; extinct in 1860.
Barbary lion - Panthera leo leo; extinct in the wild. This was the largest of the lion subspecies, which ranged from Morocco to Egypt. The last wild Barbary lion was killed in Morocco in 1922 due to excessive hunting. Barbary lions were kept by Roman emperors, who ordered the capture of literally thousands of individuals to fight in the gladiator arenas. Roman notables, including Sulla, Pompey, and Julius Caesar, often ordered the mass slaughter of Barbary lions - up to 400 at a time.
Lions are recurring symbols in the coat of arms of royalty and chivalry, particularly in the UK, where the lion is also a national symbol of the British people.
C.A.W. Guggisberg, in his book Simba, says the lion is referred to 130 times in the Bible. The lion can be found in stone age cave paintings.
While a hungry lion will probably attack a human that passes near, some (usually male) lions seem to seek out human prey. Some of the more publicized cases include the Tsavo man-eaters and the Mfuwe Man-Eater. In both cases the hunters who slew the lions wrote books about their exploits and how much it scared them. In folklore, man-eating lions are sometimes considered demons.
The Mfuwe and Tsavo incidents did bear some similarities. The lions in both the incidents were all larger than normal, lacked manes and seemed to suffer from tooth decay. Some have speculated that they might belong to an unclassified species of lion, or that they may have been sick and couldn't have easily caught prey.
There have also been recorded attacks on humans by lions in captivity, most probably due to their reputation as proud, strong and dangerous animals, and the subsequent circus attractions such as lion taming which have developed from this.
Lions are second to tigers in size. The Lion (Panthera leo) is a mammal of the family Felidae. It is the largest and most powerful living felid with the exception of the tiger. The male lion, easily recognized by his mane, may weigh up to 250 kg (550 lb) Females are much smaller, weighing up to 90 kg (300 lb). In the wild lions live for around 10–14 years, while in captivity they can live over 20.
They are the only social cat with related females forming prides. A pride can range from 3 to 30 animals, which includes cubs, males and females. Each pride selects it's own territory. The males guard it by roaring at night, scent marking trees, while the females do most of the hunting for the pride.
The female african lions live their lives out with the pride, while males only last for about 2 years. They are either killed off or kicked out of the pride by other dominant males that decide to take over.
Their life expectancy in the wild averages from 15 to 18 years, and in captivity from 25 to 30 years. They live longer in captivity due to the fact they do not have to hunt or fight, and they are protected from any other unforseen dangers.
Males within their pride have a social bond with each other, and will protect their pride together.
In the wild a lioness is in season for only 4 days out of each year. They mate 3 times an hour during this time. Gestation for the female lioness is about 14 to 15 weeks, (105 to 110) days. The lioness will give birth in a den, usually out of rock or a dense thicket. At around 1 1/2 months the mother introduces her cubs to the pride. They then are reared by the pride. Weaned at about 8 months of age, they will continue to depend on their mother until they are at least 16 months old.
Their main source of food ranges from buffalo to rabbits. Hunting in groups of two or more, they catch their prey approximately 30% of the time. Having such a rough textured tongue enables them to tear away the meat from the carcass by licking it off.
You can identify a particular lion by recording the spots on it's nose on their muzzles. They have 4 or 5 parallel rows of vibrissae, (whisker spots), on both sides of their muzzles. The spots above the topmost row is referred to as the "reference row" for identification. These spots vary on each lion.
In captivity lions can be very affectionate and will bond with it's owner(s). They rarely become aggressive, unless a lioness is in season, or food is present. Lions behave much like a dog does, attempting to please his master.
Panthera leo leo
Thought to be extinct, there have been some Barbary lion characteristics appearing in lions throughout the world. One of these characteristics are, their manes go around their chest and down their bellies. Whereas, the African lions mane goes to their shoulders.
Western culture tells of this noble beast to be the true "King of Kings". These lions are impressive in size and appearance.
In the 1920's this majestic animal was brought to extinction due to the Romans having them fight in their Coliseums for sport, and hunters killing them off.
DNA testing will be the ultimate determining factor involved in identifying these lions by the Barbary Project and others. The Barbary Project is working with the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit part of Oxford University, Department of Zoology. One of such were visits to view possible Barbary lions which was conducted in 1999.
WildCru scientist and Barbary Lion expert Mr. Nobuyuki Yamaguchi will be testing their DNA samples.
These efforts will ensure that any breeding programs which are undertaken are done so with accuracy and integrity.
There are other projects around the world which are working together to achieve the same goal. That is to return the Barbary Lion back to the wild once again.
See our links page for their link to obtain current news, and learn how you can get involved.
The Cape Lion
The Cape lion a subspecies from South Africa, resembles the Barbary lion in it's appearance and size. It is believed to be extinct since 1865. The last one known to be seen in Natal, was killed by General Bisset. These two lions (Barbary & Cape) are thought to still exist in small areas of the world. DNA testing will prove if either species still exists, and if we can bring them back to live in the wild once again.
The Timbavati Lion
These magnificant animals were once located in South Africa in Timbavati. Sadly, several were killed by poachers and loss of their natural habitat, bringing them to almost definite extinction.
The Philadelphia zoo was the first zoo in North America to exhibit and breed these lions.
The white lions of Timbavati Game Preserve in South Africa are extinct in the wild. The Cincinnati Zoo, Siegfried and Roy's compound in Las Vegas, 4 in S. Africa, 2 in Germany and 4 in other zoos are in existance.
The Timbavati Lions are the only white lions in existance. Roy Horn of Siegfried and Roy, presented the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden with a rare, 7 month old female white lion of Timbavati in 1998.
They named her "Prosperity", and will join her with "Sunshine and Future", 10 month old white male lions also from Siegfried and Roy.
Their hopes for offspring are aimed at mid-1999. This pride of Timbavati lions has been named, "Pride of the Millennium".
White lions are extinct in the wild, and there are only 25 in existance in captivity.
Thanks to an alliance with the Johannesburg Zoological Gardens, Siegrfried and Roy were given 7 white lions to continue this unique line of species in their breeding program.
Photo to learn more about these AMAZING MEN and their Conservation Work!
The Asiatic Lion
Our special thanks to Nigel Hodgetts, with the "Asiatic Lion Information Center", for allowing the use of the asiatic lionhead photo, and enabling us to put together this informative report.
Asiatic lions are seriously endangered. The Indian lion is another name for this lion, a sub-species that once lived from Greece to central India.
Called the "Lord of the Beasts", they became a symbol for human power. Slightly smaller than their cousins, (the african lion), they do not have as full of a mane, however, they do have thicker elbow tufts and a longer tail tuft. They are also identified by a unique fold of skin along the underneath of their bellys.
The asiatic lion nearly died out from a serious drought in the Gir Forest area in Gujarat. Lions were forced to hunt for prey by killing humans. There was mass destruction by man to stop these killings, almost wiping out this sub-species. In 1910 there were very few asiatic lions left, (approximately 100).
The Nawab Junagrdh, who was a local monarch, placed these lions under protection from further destruction. Banning all lion hunting, soon benefited this lion. The population began to increase, as they continue to thrive in captive breeding programs in zoos today.
The Gir National Park and Lion Sanctuary in Gujarat, Western India is the only place to view these beautiful creatures. The park with the Indian government are giving guided jeep tours for tourists. The Zurich zoo, Paignton Zoo, Chester Zoo, Dudley Zoo, and others are involved in breeding programs, and are proud to announce new litters being born this year (1998).
It is thought that there are approximately 240 asiatic lions in existance.
There will also be a lion safari park east of the Taj Mahal. They will provide a natural habitat for the lions, with ample shelter and resources. Eight lions in the Kampur and Lucknow zoos will be released in this area. The Gujarat government will also donate lions to this effort.
With the efforts of everyone involved, the survival of the asiatic lion looks promising.
Project Life Lion
Project Life Lion was initiated in 1995 to minimize the threats of rabies and CDV to wild carnivores in the Serengeti National Park, through a program of mass dog vaccination in villages bordering the park.
The Serengeti lions in Tanzania have been afflicted with the more commonly known disease "canine distemper". About 3,000 lions have died from this disease. Natives bring in domesticated dogs that have not been vaccinated. These dogs then transfer distemper to hyenas and jackals, who in turn transfer it to the lions.
A pilot vaccination program called "Project Life Lion" was launched in 1995 by the Institute of Zoology, London and the University of Minnesota. Their goal was to vaccinate the village peoples canines from distemper and rabies. They believe this will eliminate this potentially deadly problem.
Project Life Lion is run with the co-operation of the Tanzanian Wildlife Parks, Tanzanian Wildlife Services, Ngorogoro Conservation Area Authority and the Kenya Wildlife Service. The area tribespeople are also involved in this huge effort.
In September 1996, another intensive three year program was funded by the "WSPA". Their goal was to vaccinate 20,000+ dogs in that region against distemper and rabies.
Thanks to everyones great efforts, this disease should be stopped from further devastation. However, the long term effect on the Tanzanian lions is unknown.
Meanwhile, the Serengeti lions may hold the key to a devastating human disease. Scientists want to find out why lions infected with "FIV" do not develop active disease. This discovery could help the battle with AIDS. "FIV", "feline immunodeficiency", is a condition related to the AIDS virus HIV in humans.