Gazelle : The Palestinian Biological Bulletin (ISSN 0178 – 6288) . Number 58, October 2006, pp. 1-13.

1 The Asiatic or Persian Lion (Panthera leo persica, Meyer 1826) in Palestine and the Arabian and Islamic Region By: Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher Khalaf-von Jaffa The Asiatic or Persian Lion (Panthera leo persica) is a subspecies of lion (Panthera leo). The last remnant of the Asiatic Lion, which in historical times ranged from Caucasus to Yemen and from Macedonia to India through Arabia and Iran (Persia), lives in the Gir Forest National Park of western India. About 350 lions (August 2005) live in a 1,412 km² (558 square miles) sanctuary in the state of Gujarat. In 1907 there were only 13 lions left in the Gir, when the Nawab of Junagadh gave complete protection to them. Persian Lion, is similar to a tiger in the length of body and tail, but differs in skin colour which is tawny overall without the appearance of dark vertical stripes. Coat is thicker than African lions, with a longer black tail tassel and a more prominent tuft of hair on the elbows. Black patches are visible at the back of the ears. However, there is little variation in colour between the sides of its body and its abdomen, and between the inner surface of the limbs and the outer surface. There is even one example of a melanistic Persian lion. The archaeologist Sir Austen Henry Layard reports that he saw a very big Persian lion, which was described as being "very dark brown in colour, in parts almost black." Males are larger in size than females. The size of the mane varies from race to race with the Persian race having a smaller mane than the African one. The colouration of the manes varies from lion to lion. The only rare ones are the very dark manes, which according to a research done in Africa are the ones preferred by lionesses. The young are sometimes born with an even colour overall, but often a row of patches is visible on the upper surface of the body; seeming like a horizontal stripe. Patches usually disappear after 6 months but may still be visible up two or more years. Lions mostly live in large prides. These prides can sometimes have up to 3 adult males but it is always one that is the dominant leader. The males are known for their laziness and lordship like behaviour. The females do all the hunting, with the males only rarely joining in when the prey is a very large animal like an aggressive buffalo. However, once the kill is made, the males always get the first go at the meal. The bonding among a family of lions is extremely strong with aunts and sisters helping in the bringing up of all young. Females stay with the pride all through life, whereas the males tend to set out on their own around the age of three. They mostly lead solitary lives then onwards but have been known to also roam territories in pairs and trios. These Gazelle – Number 58 – October 2006