New estimates suggest that up to 100 of Indian Lions now live by the seaside

The Gir forest was the last refuge of the Asiatic lion. Back in 1893 it was thought that there were only 18 animals remaining. Thankfully that number has rebounded very well (there are scientists who doubt this extremely low number) and the Indian lion population is now thought to number about 600. The problem is, that the reserve is not particularly large at 1410 square km (544 square miles). Even in the Serengeti (which has one of the highest density of lions) there is about 1 lion for every 2 square miles, yet the Gir forest has more than one per square mile. This contributes to a mortality rate that is dangerously high, with 283 lions dying in the last couple of years.

As such it is not surprising that many of the lions live outside the reserve, and is thought that around 1 in 4 live outside the reserve.

This was one of the reasons that efforts were made to move some of these lions to other reserves, but Gujarat has blocked this despite loosing various court cases.

Wild Indian lions photographed on the beach

Now, it is not easy to live alongside lions, and the state government is both endangering the long term survival of the Indian Asiatic lion, as well as many of its human population by its determination to hold onto the whole population within its borders.

Could Indian Lions help return the Barbary Lion? Is it even a separate species?

In some ways, recent discoveries should have been made long ago. Asiatic lions historic distribution stretched across Asia, north Africa, and Southern Europe.

Given that the Barbary Lions historic range covered the central part of this huge area, it seems reasonable that the Barbary lion and the Asiatic lion should be closely related. Yet it was only in the last few years that genetic evidence has been shown that this is indeed the case.

West African Lions do look very like the Asiatic lion
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