Asiatic Lions Making Comeback

Asia’s Lions Live in One Last Place on Earth—and They’re Thriving




Picture of a male Asiatic lion A male Asiatic lion seems to pose at the Kamla Nehru Zoological Garden in Ahmedabad, India. PHOTOGRAPH BY JOEL SARTORE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC PHOTO ARK

While Asiatic big cats are rare, their spiritual importance helped inspire their human neighbors to keep them safe.

By Kristin Hugo
African lions get, well, the lion’s share of attention—but some would be surprised to learn there’s another subspecies of the big cat in Asia.

The Asiatic lion once roamed vast swaths of the Middle East and Asia, but indiscriminate hunting and killing to protect livestock led to their mass slaughter. By the late 1800s, as few as 10 of the animals remained on Earth.

Their last refuge became western India’s Gir National Park, a protected area where the number of these endangered animals is now on an upward trend. According to a 2015 census, a little more than 500 lions—the world’s total wild population—live in Gir, up from 411 in 2010. In comparison, about 20,000 African lions remain in the wild. (See a map of the lion’s decline worldwide.)

Like their African kin, Asiatic lions live in prides, and the females do most of the hunting, taking down prey like antelope. They look much like their cousins, too, though they tend to be slightly smaller than African lions and live in forests instead of open grasslands. They also have a distinctive fold of skin on their stomachs, and their manes are less plush.

“There’s so few conservation success stories when it comes to carnivores,” says Gitanjali Bhattacharya, program manager at the Zoological Society of London’s South and Central Asia programs, “and the Asiatic lion, for me, it’s really a story of hope. Because you’ve got a population that’s growing, a community that’s supportive, and the lion is taking back its former range.”


Asia’s Last Lions In India, rural communities are working with the government to create a haven for the last remaining Asiatic lions in the wild.
That success can be attributed to the effort of conservation groups and local communities’ dedication to protecting the animals. (Read more about National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative.)

The people who live around Gir have a deep respect for the lions and patrol the jungle looking for poachers—though illegal hunting hasn’t been a problem for a long time, says Bhattacharya.

They’re “right on top of it, monitoring threats,” she says.

For them, “the lion is beyond an endangered species,” Bhushan Pandya, member of the Gujarat State Board for Wildlife and Asiatic lion conservationist, says by email. “Lion, the king of jungle, is the symbol of strength and power.”

The predator is also a religious icon in Hinduism; the goddess Durga rides a lion, and the god Narasimha is half lion. (See National Geographic’s most stunning pictures of big cats.)

Cats on the Move

Even so, scientists are concerned that disease or natural disaster could wipe out the entire Gir population in one fell swoop. Some Asiatic lions live in zoos worldwide, but there are no plans to release those animals to build a wild population. (Read: “Lions Approach Extinction in West Africa.”)

To avoid this fate, the Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project, an Indian government initiative, plans to capture some Asiatic lions from Gir and relocate them to the Palpur-Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, located in another state. That way, if anything happens to Gir, there will still be lions in Palpur-Kuno.

That plan has proven controversial, however. Though Pandya supports the idea of translocation, he doesn’t think that Palpur-Kuno is a good place for the lions. There isn’t enough prey, poaching gangs may be a threat, and tigers—potential competitors—already live in the region, he says. (Read: “Tiger Got Your Goat? Here’s Who to Call.”)

What’s more, the Gujarat State Wildlife Department has also objected to moving the animals outside the state, suggesting they would be better off living in two other parks within their state.

Despite such disputes, Bhattacharya hopes that other big cat conservation projects can learn from the Asiatic lion.

“There’s an inspiration there for carnivore conservation around the world.”



I am so excited we are making some progress with these beautiful lions. I hope it will continue and that they will not be poached.



For All My Artists…and You are ALL Artists…

It’s happened to every one of us — we present something we’ve created to someone whose opinion matters to us and hear “that’s not very good” or “oh.  That’s nice” in the condescending voice we all know and hate to so much.


I’ve found another Ted Talk by David Kelley about the process of being creative, even after we’ve been told we’re not.
Please keep it in mind the next time you’re told something that tries to shut your creativity down.  Because we are all creative, in our own ways.  Every single one of us.


Including you.






The Beauty in Your Art and Your Life

Oak Alley Plantation, NO; Acrylic on stretched canvas; By Barbara Mattio

Artists, musicians, writers, dancers, photographers, painters, sculptors and a host of other creative people often feel that there is no beauty in life and that they must create it in their art. The problem is that not all of the beauty in your life is found in your poem, sketch, song, dance, novel. There is beauty all around and it is important to really see it. “See it” with your entire being. If you miscalculate the beauty and meaning in your life, despair will follow you.

Creative people need to experience beauty and find meaning for their creative outlets and lives. We, each of us, need to see ourselves as the beauty in life. Yes, there is an entire planet of beauty around us, but there is beauty within us also.

We each need to recognize that at the end of the day, we stand with what we have created that day and we need to actually say, “I am the beauty in life.” No, it isn’t egotistical. What any artist creates will touch the hearts and minds of many. That gives us a powerful meaning to live for and with.

There will be many times you critique your work and are not happy. You didn’t quite capture that small thing that in your eyes would make it fantastic. It is fine. An artist needs a mantra and I suggest, “I am the beauty in life.” This mantra, soothes the feelings of not accomplishing enough, it soothes the sorrow of loneliness, and feelings of being insignificant. Six words to carry within you, to remind you that you are exactly who and what you are to be in this lifetime. There wasn’t a glitch in the system when you came along. You are as you are meant to be, a beautiful person who has creative talents to share that beauty with others.

There is a big difference between creating and being successful. Creating is a God-given gift that needs to be shared and enjoyed by others. Success is buying into the rigid criteria that our society dreams up. This is why creating and being a big shot “successful” person can be divided by a deep ravine.

Often when we put success first, we become bored, hate ourselves for ‘selling out” and devalue the career we are pursuing. The key here is to create and not listen to the voices who can’t comprehend what we have created. For some, there is a perfect solution of a career that we feel successful at and a second creative endeavor that gives life meaning and direction.

Every time we create, there is a new ray of hope that enters the world through your life and helps to dissipate some of the negativity that we find in the world. Our souls and hearts make a counterbalance to hatred, violence, greed and apathy. That is a lot of beauty and meaning to add to this life journey we are on.

So take a bow, if only in your mind. You are not only important but you are vital to the well-being of the 7 billion+ people inhabitating Mother Earth. So write, draw, dance, and sing, rock out in that band and create everything that Divinity has put inside of you. You really make a difference!

Utah skiing trip