While almost all wild lions live in Africa, a small population of Asiatic lions can be found in India’s Gir Forest where they are heavily protected by people in the surrounding areas. Those who live around this forest not only view these lions as an endangered species, but they also consider them spiritually significant, especially as a religious icon in Hinduism. Because of the steadfast protection these lions are granted, their numbers have actually been steadily increasing over the years. In fact, in August of 2017 the Asiatic lion population was reported to be 650 individuals strong, a remarkable achievement in such a densely-populated country.
Asiatic lions are slightly smaller than African lions and live in forests as opposed to grasslands. They have slightly rougher manes and a characteristic skin fold on their stomachs. These big cats live in prides where the females are almost all related-- female cubs will usually stay with the group for their entire lives. The females do the heavy lifting when it comes to hunting while the males, typically three or so, defend the territory from any rival lions. Male cubs often leave the pride to establish their own group as they become mature.
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