The Asiatic lion is endangered largely because of hunting by humans after firearms became widespread. While the subspecies once ranged through Europe, the Middle East and India, it now only occupies a relatively small area of dry deciduous forest in Western India. Its numbers are slowly recovering, having risen from merely 100 animals to about 200 today, according to Bristol Zoo Gardens.
The Asiatic lion is extremely rare, and breeding programs around the world are in place to restore their population and prevent inbreeding. Even the small number living today are in danger of outgrowing the protected natural habitats devoted to their preservation.
The subspecies has physical and behavioral traits that distinguish it from its African relatives. The Asiatic lion has longer tufts of hair on its tail and elbows than the African lion, and it also has a distinctive fold of skin along its belly in both sexes.
Asiatic lion prides are smaller than African prides, generally only containing two females and a male, and the male generally spends less time with the pride, only coming together for mating or large kills. Asiatic lions are more at home in open forests than their plains-based African counterparts, and their prey animals tend to be smaller, which helps explain their smaller prides.