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Last updated on April 18, 2014 at 1:21 EDT

Endangered Lions Making Comeback

May 3, 2010

The endangered Asiatic Lion, which once thrived in southwest Asia before being forced to congregate in a small forest in western India, is starting to make a comeback thanks to the efforts of local conservationists, according to media reports on Monday.

Fewer than 200 were believed to be in existence in the late 1960s. However, that number as more than doubled, as 411 Asiatic Lions are now believed to live in India’s Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary – a growth rate that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi called “remarkable” during a May 3 interview with the AFP news agency.

The survey of lions revealed that there were 162 mature females, 97 mature males, and 152 cubs in the Gir forest region.

The population increase and the male-to-female ratio was, in the words of Chief Conservator of Forests Pradeep Khanna, a “very good indicator” that the species was making a comeback.

In 2000, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declared the Asiatic Lion as being a critically endangered species. Its status was upgraded to endangered two years ago.

According to the official website of the Asiatic Lion Information Centre, the lion, whose scientific name is Panthera leo persica, “has long been celebrated as Lord of Beasts, and it became a symbol for human power and sovereignty. In ancient societies in India, to fight with a lion was considered to be the ultimate test of leadership.”

“Asiatic lions are slightly smaller than their African cousins, although the largest Asiatic lion on record was an imposing 2.9 m in length,” the group adds. “Though they have a less well developed mane, Asiatic lions have thicker elbow tufts and a longer tail tuft.”

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