Lion Habitat

Overview

The African lion habitat includes the plains of the Serengeti in East Africa and woodlands, deserts, dry forest and scrub. Underlying these habitats is the preference for open areas. This is similar to the cheetah. In open plains lions use the cover of gullies and riverbanks to stalk prey. They also use the cover of night and poor weather with success.

The Asiatic lion’s habitat is open deciduous forest and dry scrub land in the Gir Forest. The lion’s habitat is shrinking due to increased human activity.

Shrinking Habitat

The Asiatic lion

The African lion

Introduction

There are probably three things about the lion habitat that are of note and they concern the lion’s distribution which is, of course, linked to its habitat.

  1. It is shrinking and has done so consistently for centuries;
  2. The range of the sub-species, the Asiatic Lion, is now limited to the Gir Forest in India;
  3. The African Lion’s range covers southern and central Africa.

The Shrinking Habitat

The Lion’s range has been greatly reduced by human population growth and commercial activity. The original lion habitat was the southern parts of Eurasia, Greece to India  (see map directly below) and Africa (see below Lion Habitat – Africa).

Lion extirpation
This map is a modified version (as allowed)
 from the Wikimedia Commons file.

The map above shows the places, where, and dates, when, the lion was extirpated (destroyed completely) from the southern Eurasian region. For example, in Greece the last lion roamed that ancient country until AD 100 and was made extinct there by sport hunting (probably). And in Turkey, Greece’s neighbor, the lion had been extirpated by about the late 19th century (the late 1800s), and so on. It is interesting to note that the last lion was seen in Iran as recently as 1941. Iran still has a wild cheetah, surprisingly. But this very special cheetah is all but extinct (see Iranian Cheetah).

The Asiatic Lion

IUCN for the Asiatic lion
IUCN Red List® status for Asiatic lion; critically endangered

In India the Asiatic lion’s existence in the wild hangs on by a thread. This wild cat is now protected and living in one particular area, the The Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary in the state of Gujarat, India.

At one time they roamed freely over a wide area covering most of Southwest Asia and in particular including the Caucasus, Yemen and from Macedonia in Greece and to India and through Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan and thence to Bangladesh. The Asiatic lion has also been called the Persian lion and Indian lion. With a huge erosion of lion habitat comes the threat of extinction and this wild cat is now considered Critically Endangered (CR) by the IUCN Red List®. See IUCN Red List for Cats.

Asiatic Lion
Asiatic lion – photo by anthonygrimley

Here is a map showing where the Gir Forest National Park is. In terms of square miles Iit is a very small area relative the African lion’s range and indeed the Asiatic lion’s previous range as mentioned above.

 Gir forest map and Africa lion range

The Asiatic lion is confined to the area indicated. The map (modified by me) above is published under a Wikimedia license (see below). This is allowed under the license. The author of the original is Christophe cagé. The Gir Forest, as can be seen, is very beautiful (at least in parts). The Asiatic lion habitat at the Gir forest is open deciduous forest and dry scrubland. The area of the Gir Forest National Park is 1,412 km².

Update 20-8-09: Below is a far more detailed map of the lion range that I made up from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ map – it can be moved around in the window using the sliders and by holding down left click and moving the mouse.


View Lion Range 2009 in a larger map


Lion Habitat – Africa

Here is a picture of the range of the African Lion. The picture is courtesy Wikimedia Commons. The author of the picture is Eric Gaba (Sting). You can see immediately how the distribution has become very fragmented.

lion range in Africa

As can be seen the area is large but it is shrinking due to human population growth and consequential activity. People, farmers, see the lion as a threat to their business and try and kill it. As there gradually are more farmers with more land there is a greater chance of an encounter between human and lion with the consequences that that brings. Lion populations have, unsurprisingly, fallen dramatically from over 100,000 to around 23,000 over the past century. However, in the protected areas the lion populations are not falling, as I understand it. The only way to protect the lion is for people to stop reproducing (!?) and to learn to co-exist with wild animals.

The chart below shows past and projected human population growth, the only threat to lion habitat.

Population growth world and Africa

Human population growth and projections –Source for figures: Wikipedia

So what is the lion habitat like on the ground? Here is a photographic montage:

African lion habitat

African lion habitat – photos: background photo is by pegash. I chose this for the background as it shows the kind of landscape well. The lion cub on the rock is by Susan Renee. The lion cub is in a lion reserve in Zimbabwe, Africa. The lion on the left was taken by sausyn at Kirkman’s Kamp, Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa. Apologies to the photographers for the image quality. It is all about file size as you will realize.




Photos
  • Asiatic lion and where otherwise not stated published under a creative commons license:
  • Maps published under Wikimedia® creative commons license license = Attribution-ShareAlike License. See full Wikipedia license.

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