The celebration of August 10 as World Lion Day was started by Big Cat Rescue sanctuary near Tampa, Florida in the United States of America. Big Cat Rescue is the world’s largest accredited sanctuary dedicated to the majestic feline. The aim is to raise awareness about the declining number of lions and the need for it to be placed on the endangered animals list.
To celebrate World Lion Day, people can join in to pay tribute to the king of the jungle in their unique ways. For some it can be a lion on their social media profile, or they can draw or sketch lions or having a roaring competition!
The Asiatic lion, also known as the Indian lion or the Persian lion is found only in the state of Gujarat in India. Due to its dwindling numbers and a single population in the Gir National Forest in Gujarat, it was listed as endangered by IUCN. But its number is now steadily increasing in the Gir sanctuary. Gujarat tourism has now become synonymous with these lions. In May 2015, the census conducted showed the lion population at an estimated 523 individuals – 109 male adults, 201 females and 213 cubs. This population is spread across Junagadh district, Gir Somnath district, Amreli and Bhavnagar district.
Since Gir National Sanctuary is the only habitat of the Indian lion, in 1965, it was declared as a sanctuary for the conservation of the lion. The park covers an area of 258.71 km, and no human activity is allowed in this vicinity except for the Maldharis who can graze their livestock there. The Gir and Girnar hills are large tracts of dry deciduous forest, thorny forests and some parts of savanna forests – an ideal habitat for the Indian lion.
The Indian lion is among the five big cat species found in India. The earlier habitat of this majestic feline cat included southeastern parts of Europe, Black Sea Basin, Persia, Caucasus, Canaan, Mesopotamia, Baluchistan, Sindh region in the West to Bengal in the East, and Rampur and Rohilkund in Northern India to Nerbudda down South.
Indian lions are smaller in size compared to African lions. The strikingly unique physical appearance of the Indian lion is the longitudinal fold of skin that runs along its belly. It has a larger tail tuft, and the mane is less developed.
But whatever be the physical appearance of this majestic hunter, it will always remain the king of the jungle.
Text by Tasneem Dhinojwala