Panthera leo leo (Barbary lions) and P. l. melanochaita (Cape lions) are two extinct subspecies of African lion.
African lion populations have greatly declined in West Africa and in many African countries they are restricted to protected areas. If there are no connecting corridors between wildlife reserves genetic viability will likely become a problem.
Asiatic lions, P. l. persica, are confined to one population in the Gir Forest reserve of India, consisting of less than 200 mature individuals. This subspecies is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN red list and is on Appendix I of CITES. Another population of Asiatic lions is desperately needed in order to safeguard the survival of this subspecies. The Palpur-Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in northern Madhya Pradesh had been identified as a potential reintroduction site in India. Threats to the Gir Forest population include the close proximity of humans and their cattle and habitat degradation.
Some very small lion populations require genetic management in order to survive and maintain genetic diversity. Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park (HUP) in Natal, for example, has a population of 120 lions produced from only three lions that were introduced into the park in the 1960s. In 2001, researchers tried artificial insemination techniques to rejuvenate the genetic pool of these South African lions. This process is very difficult and energy intensive. Inbred populations could also potentially be rejuvenated by introducing adult females and whole prides into an area (minimizing conflict between existing lions and introduced lions).
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix i; appendix ii
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable
- Cat Specialist Group 2001, 2003. "Panthera leo" (On-line). 2003 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed February 09, 2004 at http://www.redlist.org/search/details.php?species=15951.
- Hanby, J., J. Bygott, C. Packer. 1995. Ecology, Demography, and Behavior of Lions in Two Contrasting Habitats: Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti Plains. Pp. 315-331 in A Sinclair, P Arcese, eds. Serengeti II. Chicago, United States of America: The University of Chicago Press.
- Trivedi, B. 2004. "To Boost Gene Pool, Lions Artificially Inseminated" (On-line). National Geographic News. Accessed February 08, 2004 at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/06/0612_020612_TVlion.html.
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