ON THE EDGE OF EXTINCTION - B - THE LION (Panthera leo) - Printable Version

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ON THE EDGE OF EXTINCTION - B - THE LION (Panthera leo) - peter - 04-04-2014


Although there are more wild lions (25 000 - 30 000, experts think) than wild tigers (about 3 000), lions have rapidly lost ground in the last decades. The population in Gir (India) is more or less stable, but in Africa the situation is different.  

Lions are protected in well-known reserves, but they struggle in regions where they have to compete with humans. In many parts of Africa, they are faced with loss of habitat and poachers.

How solve this problem?  

The answer was saltwater crocs in Australia, some thought. Although they eat humans at times, their skin was the main reason they were hunted close to extinction. How save wild crocs and meet the demand? Croc farms!  

Could lion farms be a solution for problems in Africa?

Not quite. Wild lions, in contrast to crocs, compete with humans in that they use similar regions. They also eat them at times. How solve these problems when it is also known big game hunters like lions? Lion farms!

The main advantage of lion farms is revenues. Revenues for those who invested in these farms in particular. As they only make money when lions are sold to zoos or shot by hunters, lion farming compares to any other business in that it is about making a few bucks in the end. True, the owners say, but locals profit as well and some hunters prefer farm lions over wild lions, thus limiting poaching. Farm lions are bigger and hunting them is way easier than hunting wild lions. Murder, opponents say. True, but it has an effect on poaching and poaching in Africa is very big business. Many species in Africa walk the edge as a direct result.    

This thread is dedicated to wild lions. Anyone with good information (old and new) is invited to share it here.

RE: ON THE EDGE OF EXTINCTION - B - LIONS (Panthera leo) - GuateGojira - 04-04-2014

Dead is never the solution:

The lion (Panthera leo) is one of the most charismatic of the land mammals. He is very deep in our minds, most than other animals, because we evolved with them. Lions and humans are tied in a form that can’t be comparable with other animal. Both rise in Africa, both evolved with the same prey and the same competitors. Lions and humans travel from Africa to Europe in the same time (Cromerian era) and it was the first animal admired (not yet worshiped) by earlier humans. Cave paints show how they lived, from the eyes of these first humans, but it was until the history time (Egypt) that humans worship them. Interestingly, the mysticism that we create over them NEVER saves them from the hunt.

I recently buy the book “The story of Asia’s lions” from Divyabhanusinh (2006), and there is a great chapter about how evolved the relation between humans and lions. The point is that ALL human populations had hunted lions in greater number than lion had hunted men.

Humans had been the only real treat for lions since the beginning and the relation between these two species had not changed and seems that it will not.

According with official data, the population of African lions is about 35,000 animals, but the great bulk of them live in the East and Southern African region. Just a few countries like Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa, have populations over 1,000 specimens, while all the other countries have populations much more smaller. The lions in the West of Africa are the most endangered, with less than 250 specimens, they are even worse than the Indian lions or the Amur tigers! Let’s take in count that this population, together with the Indian lions, are a relic of an ancient subspecies that lived from Greece, north Africa, passing to Babylon, Persia and up to India (some dispute this last place, it will be discussed latter).

Indian lions, despite been highly inbreed and with a more or less stability of habitat and prey, are now a pretty well managed population, with over 411 specimens according with the last census of 2010. There are plans to relocate some of them into the Kuno region, but even with the order of the high Court of India, it seems that this is not going to happen, not in a near future, at least.

According with an interview with Dr Craig Packer, he predicted that in a near future, there will be only three places where lions would live:
1. The Kenya-Tanzania region: The Masai Mara, with the Serengeti and probably the Selous reserve.
2. The great Okavango region: surrounded by a desert, is well protected from the human intervention.
3. The Kruger National Park: protected with a large fence, it is like a huge “Jurassic Park” that if it is well managed, could be the last stand for the lion in the south.

The proposal of the lion farms is a controversial solution or could be also the worst solution ever stated. The premise is that as crocodiles or like domestic (specifically created for human consume, please take this in count), people could rise lions like cattle, feed them, use them as a show and later, when they are large-fat-useless, they could be used for the “fun” of the hunt. From my point of view, this is DISGUSTING AND NAUSEATING.

Humans had dignified themselves so much that had forgotten that God (if you believe in him, Evolution if not) had created every single creature with its own dignity and humans are like they caretaker. We can use animals, that is true, but we most dispose of them with dignity and with sense. But, where is the “sense” or the “dignity” in raising an animal just to kill it for fun???

Yes, money is the principal way, but how many times we most learned that money is not the solution for the world? The terrible dispersion of the wealth is the real problem, with the great capitalist piling all the money and the proletariat living with the crumbs. And check this out, the Communist countries ARE DOING THE SAME THING TOO!!! Hippocrates, this is they true, Capitalism or Communism, is the same sh……

Well, returning to the point, this hunting known as “Canned” lions is just a business of rich people that leave nothing to the communities around. Yes, they pay the taxes, yes they could be good citizens, but damn, Nazis in Germany were also good citizens, even when they were the pure evil!!!

Why people just respect this animals and they habitat and learn to earn money with tourism??? Check the model of East Africa at Masai Mara-Tanzania, there is no hunting there, and this are one of the places that are practically safe for the future. Even the great Dr Valmik Thapar say that India should learn from Kenya and Tanzania, that this is the best form to save tigers.

What South Africa has done is a bad move and a terrible solution. I am 100% sure that the hunting problem will be NOT resolved with the canned lions, with time, the same hunter sill say “hey, do you want the strength of a lion? Kill the wild ones, they are over “there””. Check this webpage:
Check the smile of these monsters with them dead lions. Do you think that this is the solution for lion conservation???

The conservation of wild animals is possible, Kenya and Tanzania shows this. What South Africa is doing is a stupidity and take in count that no, many if not ALL the canned lion’ bones, are now send to Asia to be sale like tiger bones!!! The conservation most be based in the free of the wild animals to live in them habitat, population polities must be created in the countries with overpopulation, like India, with education and support for the people.

Lions and humans have born in the same cauldron of Africa, they and us are more related than we think, why we could just stop killing them and treat them for what they are: a wonderful gift of nature? Sad

RE: ON THE EDGE OF EXTINCTION - B - LIONS (Panthera leo) - peter - 04-04-2014

This post, my friend, is the best one on the real meaning of conservation (and a lot more) I've read. Way better than the cynicsm I used in my lead post. I recommend you send it to a South-African newspaper, but any newspaper would do.

In today's world, nearly everything of value is only recognized if it can be expressed in money. The consequence is real value could vanish completely. And so could real life. Animals first. What is to follow?

I hope other posters will add a bit more, as this is a fundamental issue.

RE: ON THE EDGE OF EXTINCTION - B - LIONS (Panthera leo) - GuateGojira - 04-04-2014

Hello peter. In fact, that was the point of my post, to remove sensibilities and to show a reality that is "hidden" at simple view.

We most take in count that not only canned lions are been hunted in South Africa, there are also hunting tigers and jaguars!!!

This is already know by the Government of South Africa, but like I said before, if the killer pay its taxes, the Governments will be allays happy. :@

RE: ON THE EDGE OF EXTINCTION - B - LIONS (Panthera leo) - Kingtheropod - 04-05-2014



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The Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica) is a subspecies of the lion which survives today only in the Gir Forest of Gujarat, India. In 2010, the Gujarat government reported that 411 Asiatic lions were sighted in the Gir forest; a rise of 52 over the last census of 2005.

The Asiatic lion is one of the five major big cats found in India, the others being the Bengal tiger, the Indian leopard, the snow leopard and clouded leopard. The Asiatic lions once ranged from the Mediterranean to the north-eastern parts of the Indian subcontinent, but excessive hunting, water pollution and decline in natural prey reduced their habitat. Historically, Asiatic lions were classified into three kinds – Bengal, Arabian and Persian lions.

Their size corresponds to that of central African lions. In adult males, the maximum skull length is 330–340 mm, while that of females is 266–277 mm. They reach a weight of 160–190 kg. (n=4) for the males and 110–120 kg. (n=2) for the females. The scientific record for the longest male is of 292 cm, while the maximum height to the shoulders reported is of 107 cm. The Captain Smee hunted a male of 268 cm long, which weight 222.3 kg, excluding the entrails. The largest known wild male, in the hunting records, was exactly 3 m (9.9 ft) in length.

Until about 150 to 200 years ago, the Bengal Tiger, along with the Indian leopard, shared most of their habitat, where the Asiatic Lion was found in large parts of west and central India along with the Asiatic Cheetah, now locally extinct in India. However, Asiatic Cheetahs preferred open grasslands, and the Asiatic Lions preferred open forests interspersed with grasslands, which is also home to tigers and leopards. At one time, the Bengal Tiger and Asiatic lion might have competed with each other for food and territory.

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Not quite what I stated, old chap. I measured 35 lions skulls in Dutch museums (17 ♀, 18 ♂) and than read Mazak's table on tiger skulls in order to be able to establish the differences between African lions and Indian tigers. All skulls (both samples) of adult, wild animals only. Mazak's sample was larger and therefore more reliable.

The conclusion is, there isn't much to choose between African lions and Indian tigers for greatest total length and zygomatic width. Lions have slightly longer skulls, but the difference is very small indeed. Tigers have slightly broader rostrums and longer canines.

I, however, didn't state the skulls of both species were similar and differences were only visible for experts. There are many differences and these are so remarkable even a layman would be able to distinguish between both. It would take a number of lengthy posts to describe and show all and I decided against it.

Per Christiansen ('Distinguishing skulls of lions and tigers', in 'Mammalian Biology 73, 2008, pages 451-457) measured 104 tiger skulls (25 tigris - 25 corbetti - 17 sondaica - 16 sumatrae) and 134 lions skulls (3 subspecies) and concluded 4 variables were statistically significant:

1 - Nasal length (when divided to condylobasal skull length);
2 - Height of the snout (when divided to condylobasal skull length);
3 - Height (length) of the upper canine (when divided to length of the mandibula), and
4 - Height (length) of the lower canine (when divided to length of the mandibula).

Tigers, therefore, have longer nasals (1), lower snouts (2) and longer canines (3 + 4). Certainty, according to Christiansen, 100%. All other variables were unreliable.

To return to my table and Mazak's table. I thought it would be a good idea to post Maza's table again in order to see the diferences between African lion skulls and Indian tiger skulls at a glance.

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The only figures that I had personally found are those from Nowell & Jackson (1996) and a single record from Sterndale (1884). The figure of Sterndale is a male of 222 kg “cleaned”; those from Nowell & Jackson are 160 and 190 kg. The full reference mentions 4 males, but I had not found the other two. Here is the image, check the last part:

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Now I had found, in the “LeotigrisElite” forum, a very good list of measurements and weights of modern Indian lions. The figures were posted by SpiritLion a lion fan that had made a good investigation in the subject. Personally, I can’t say if the figures are true o not, but SpiritLion was a good poster and been a lion-fan I don’t think that he will diminish his beloved animal, so I believe that this data is accurate; here is the original link: http://leotigriselite.yuku.com/topic/594

And here is the list; I only put here those from the wild, as SpiritLion added 4 more captive specimens:

No. Sex Age (years) Weight (kg) Source

1 Male 4 - 5 156 Sasan Research Station

2 Male 4 - 5 152 Captured at Devalia

3 Male 4 - 5 146 Captured at Devalia

4 Male Adult 184 Wild-Gir East

5 Male 9 - 10 165 Sasan Research Station

6 Male > 10 146 Sakkarbuag-Hadala

7 Male 10 – 11 157 Sasan Research Station

8 Male 10 - 11 148 Sasan Research Station

9 Male 9 - 10 162 Sasan Research Station

10 Male > 12 150 Sakkarbuag-Sasan

11 Male > 14 159 Sakkarbuag Jashadhar

12 Male Very Old 150 Janak - from Gir Forest

13 Male Adult 157 Sarjit - from Costal area

The average weight of these 13 males is of 156.3 kg (range: 146 – 184 kg).

If we add the other two males from Nowell & Jackson, there we have that the modern Indian lion average 158.8 kg (n=15; range: 146 – 190 kg).

Finally, if we add the exceptional specimen of Sterndale (1884), we have this figure:

* Average weight of male Indian lion: 162.8 kg

* Range: 146-222 kg

* n= 16

So, even when this pictures of Indian lions show magnificent specimens, they are smaller than we tough.

Complementing the body weights, here is a list of body measurements of modern wild specimens:

No. Sex Age Total Length (cm) Tail Length (cm) Height (cm)

1 Male 8 269 79 115

2 Male 8 270 89 116

3 Male 4 -5 258 82 90

4 Male 4 -5 252 76 90

These were posted by SpiritLion.

Together with the record specimen of 292 kg in Nowell & Jackson (1996), I can say that the average total length of the modern Indian lion is of c.268 cm. Pocock mention two specimens, but he only say that were measured “in the flesh”, so is safe to say that those specimens were measured over curves.

Finally, here is the picture of the largest Indian lions that I had ever seen:

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Here is the data of the male lions, by James Stevenson-Hamilton

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Mane-development in one male:

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Bruce Patterson on lion evolution

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North African Lion - late XIX.

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Algerian lion - 1902

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Barbary lion at Bronx Zoo - 1911

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Sub adult Barbary lion at London Zoo - 1896

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Captive North African lioness

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Young North African lion - late XIX

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Lion photographed from an airplane - 1912 Morocco

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Asiatic lions

The article of Lt.-Col. Fenton was published in volumes 19 (part I) and 20 (part II) of the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. Long time ago, but interesting as a first-hand account.

Lt.-Col. Fenton hunted both big cats in India. His longest tiger (North-Kanara) was 9.8, whereas three large male Gir lions he shot taped 9.5, 9.1 and 9.0 respectively. The measurements of the last male he shot were not given. In his article, he also mentions the famous 9.7 Gir lion shot by Lord Harris. Apart from these, I found a reliable report on a 9.95 male in the JBNHS (letter of P.R. Cadell, dated April 9, 1935). All measurements taken 'between pegs'.

Long animals. One has, however, to remember experienced hunters, like Fenton, often selected large males (both species). In another article published in the Journal ('The Gir Forest and its Lions', M.A. Winter-Blyth and K.S. Dharmakumarsinhji, JBNHS, Vol. 48 and 49), only 4 of 20 males got to 9 feet or a little over 'between pegs'. The longest of these, a 9.4 male with a chest girth of no less than 60 inches (JBNHS, Vol. 49, pp. 694), was shot in december 1933.

The average total length 'between pegs' of 27 males (those shot by hunters included) was a trifle under 8.9 (range 8.05-9.95). I only found one weight, but Guate (on this thread) posted recent information he found on another site.

These scans are from the first part of the article (published in Vol. 19, pp. 4-15). In the first one, Fenton compared the skull of his 9.8 North-Kanara tiger with the 9.5 Gir lion. Both male skulls, in spite of the large size of the owners, below 14 inches for greatest total length.

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The 3 male skulls Pocock measured also ranged between 330,00-340,00 mm. for greatest total length. His sample, of course, was very small. Dubois, a Dutch zoologist, had a large male Indian skull exceeding 14 inches in greatest total length. I also saw and measured a skull of a captive Indian male lion (private collection) well exceeding 14 inches. My guess is the captive male in the photograph below also had a large skull.

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R.I. Pocock, while working as an assistent in the British Museum, wrote a number of interesting articles on different animals. One of these was discussed on the tiger-extinction thead. His book ('The Fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma', Mammalia, Volume I, Primates and Carnivora, London, 1939) still is one of the most interesting and I would recommend it to anyone interested in Indian wildlife.

In the part on Gir lions, tigers and who got where first, Pocock took a somewhat different stand than most. As it didn't look too bad for lions, I decided for a repost. In the pages posted, 7 parts are highlighted.

1 - On the distribution and numbers of lions in the thirties of the last century.

2 - On the reason of the limited distribution of lions in India: humans.

3 - On the reason of the extinction of lions in Europe and Asia: humans.

4 - On the difference in character between lions and tigers, seen from a hunter's point of view.

5 - On the assumption lions were driven out of India by tigers.

6 - On the outcome of a possible encounter between both.

7 - On size and habits of lions and tigers.

All in all, Pocock could have been right on most points. Reliable records on averages show Indian tigers are a bit larger than Gir lions, but the difference is limited and lions, of course, operate in small groups. This would prevent intrusion in areas preferred by lions, if not direct clashes, than in the long run (cubs). In areas preferred by tigers, lions, for food-related reasons, probably need to split up, meaning the chance they would face a competitor of equal or slightly larger size at some time probably increases significantly. Furthermore, cubs would face a much greater risk in an area with a large competitor. Too risky, one would think. That's why lions operate in more open terrain and tigers operate in more forested areas. And that's exactly what was seen a century ago.

I'm not so sure about the part on who got where first and my guess is few are. There's just not enough known. I read an article on fossils in Shri Lanka (Ceylon) and it seems skulls of big cats have been found. Meaning one of the two (lion and tiger) might have reached the island a long time ago after all. Only to succumb later on.

The most logical explanation on the question who was where first, most probably, is in the situation encountered a few centuries ago. Meaning lions tend to inhabit lion-country and tigers tend to inhabit tiger-country and my guess is it probably always was like that.

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It seems that every reputed person in the ''domain'', agrees that there is no correlation between tigers and the ''extinction'' of lions in Asia.I personally consider this rumor nothing more than a poor and hasty interpretation/excuse on the diminished numbers of the present Leo Persica.

RE: ON THE EDGE OF EXTINCTION - B - LIONS (Panthera leo) - chaos - 04-06-2014

Smuts's weight tables regarding full grown males was based on only 14 lions. I thought the number would be
much higher. Interesting

RE: ON THE EDGE OF EXTINCTION - B - LIONS (Panthera leo) - GuateGojira - 04-07-2014

That is incorrect. Nowell & Jackson (1996) quotes the document of Smuts from 1976, when only 14 males were captured. However, latter Smuts and his team published a new document in 1980 with a sample of 41 adult males and a higher average weight. Check this out:

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Nowell & Jackson (1996) made many mistakes in the size issue, not only with lions, so I will not take them too seriously in the future.

By the way, the record length of 333 cm for lions is incorrect too, I have the original source of those lengths and resulted that those lions were taken from skin length pegged out, not between pegs. I will put the data here.

Greetings to all.


RE: ON THE EDGE OF EXTINCTION - B - LIONS (Panthera leo) - GuateGojira - 04-07-2014

Body size of the East African lions:

Here is my new tables about the size of the male and female African lions from the East region.

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Read it and save it for future references. [img]images/smilies/smile.gif[/img]


RE: ON THE EDGE OF EXTINCTION - B - LIONS (Panthera leo) - Pckts - 04-07-2014

Great info guys. TFS

RE: ON THE EDGE OF EXTINCTION - B - LIONS (Panthera leo) - Kingtheropod - 04-08-2014

Gay's Lion farm was in El Monte, California, which is about 13 miles from Los Angeles. Gay's Lion farm opened in 1919 and closed in 1942. At one time the "farm" housed the MGM lion and several lions that were used in Tarzan movies. The site was open to tourists and they sold post cards, as you can see from the collection here. The following old postcards, brochures and other images of Gay's Lion Farm, provide a great visual look back at Gay's Lion Farm's history

Possible Barbary or Persian mixed lions.

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Taming Lions with DrugsCAN a roaring, raging lion be permanently transformed into a tame and docile animal, by an amazing new drug treatment? Working under the supervision of Dr. Knight Dunlap and Dr. Howard Gilhousen, psychologists of the University of California at Los Angeles, Joseph Cooper is preparing to try the fascinating experiment. One of his subjects will be the most vicious of 155 lions and cubs that roam a five-acre enclosure at Gay’s Lion Farm, El Monte, Calif.About two years ago, Cooper explains, a Hungarian anatomy professor discovered that some human mental disorders responded favorably to repeated injections of a drug called metrazol. After an initial shock to the nervous system, complete cures frequently resulted. Dr. C. C. Speidel, professor of anatomy at the University of Virginia, recently learned how such cures take place. Treating tadpoles under the microscope, he found that metrazol attacked certain nerve endings and junctions in the brain, so that they literally disappeared. New-ones soon grew in their places, and the sick brain became well once more. It was like breaking a poor telephone connection, and substituting a good one.

Boldly carrying on the experiments with the most dangerous of subjects, Cooper has been trying out metrazol injections on African lions to determine the dosage needed to bring about mental changes. For safety, the animal subject is placed in a “squeeze cage” devised at the farm for veterinary treatment (P. S. M., June ’39, p. 96). Secured in any desired position by four notched handles, one side of the cage moves inward to pin the animal against the opposite side, while Cooper deftly injects the chemical into its blood stream.After these preliminary experiments, Cooper intends to try the metrazol “taming” treatment upon Dynamite, his prize patient. This hulking mass of concentrated meanness has killed five other male lions in gang fights. So much as point a finger at him, as he glowers at you from a cage, and the pupils of his eyes open with camera-shutter speed from the size of a dime to that of a half dollar. Roaring and clawing to get at you, he flies into tantrums of rage, exhibiting all the outward symptoms of homicidal mania. If Cooper can give a lion like Dynamite the disposition of a lamb, he will have accomplished a feat never before achieved by a psychologist—or by anybody else. Twice weekly for two years, Cooper has been studying the mental processes of African lions. In “psychoanalyzing” his subjects, he doesn’t make them run through mazes, like rats and guinea pigs. Instead, he constantly observes their natural behavior, in fighting, playing, feeding, and mating. His keen-eyed observations at the big lion farm, jotted down in his ever-handy notebook, reveal fascinating and little-known facts about the habits of the king of beasts.During his 1,000-hour vigil, 150 litters were born. Cubs a few-weeks old, he observed, snarl ferociously—with the incongruous accompaniment of a sound like a kitten’s purr. By the time their first birthdays roll around, the snarl is backed up by a roar that no one could mistake.Older lions attack unusual objects, when they are released from their cages into the open stockades. They made short work of a pair of dummies in an old car. A strange animal would meet the same fate. When lions occasionally quarrel among themselves, they first square off and box with forepaws. After one lunges, others join in.When Cooper first came to the El Monte farm, he could tell one lion from another only by its size. Soon he learned another way to recognize them. Twenty minutes before the noonday meal—two tons of succulent horse tenderloin—one lion scratches at the steel-sheathed gate. Another, as nearly as a lion can, turns handsprings. Some sit tensely; others pace the cage.Again, when Cooper approaches cubs sunning themselves on an elevated platform, they show marked differences in temperament. Some hang back, while the more venturesome come forward. One snaps repeatedly at his hand. Perhaps metrazol will save this budding trouble maker from Dynamite’s unhappy state



This article written by V. Mazak (the original one) and A.M. Husson was published by the former State Museum of Natural History in Leiden (now known as Naturalis) in 'Zoologische Mededelingen', Part 37, Volume 7, which appeared at November 21 1960. 

The article, although lengthy, is interesting and I decided to scan and post it. It was written in German and I don't have the time to translate everything. I will, however, translate the main points of every page posted. 

The article, by the way, shows V. Mazak, who wrote 'The Tiger', knew his way around regarding lions. He measured well over 200 lion skulls and also found quite a number of reliable records on length and weight. In 'The Tiger', he reported on the 583-pound Orange Freestate lion.


At this page, the writers refer to Jentink (for more on every name mentioned, see the page with references). Jentink reported on a skeleton (in the Museum mentioned above) of a lion from what was then known as the Cape Colony. The museum also had two skulls of that area. Both skulls probably were collected before 1860.

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The Cape lion, which was generally regarded as the largest subspecies, was the first to go extinct. Mazak and Husson referred to descriptions of Harris (1840), Smith (1858) and Fitzinger (1868), who were in general agreement as to the characteristics of this subspecies. The Cape lion was described as a large and heavy animal with a luxurious and often very dark mane, a darkish ground colour and a relatively short, but broad skull with a typical depression just before the broad muzzle.       

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On this page, Mazak and Husson concentrate on the very typical, bull-dog shaped, skull. Lundholm's description of a  female skull (1952) is in general agreement with the observations of others. Cape skulls all show shortened and straightened occiputs (like in Javan tiger skulls), short but wide rostrums (like in Caspian tiger skulls), larger and stronger teeth (like in Indonesian tiger skulls) and slightly protruding lower jaws. Most typical features resemble those seen in typical tiger skulls, that is.

There was very little known on body dimensions and weight. Mazak and Husson referred to Roberts (1951) and Menegaux (1902). The last one stated Cape lions could reach 550 pounds (for a mature male, one has to assume) and even more. He was the one who referred to the 583-pound Orange Freestate lion.  


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This page has an interesting table on the size of a number of  female lion skulls. All records from articles and books and only skulls of 300 mm. or close to were selected. There's only one male skull (at the very right of the table). At the extreme left of the table, you'll find (in that order):

Rasse (subspecies) - Anzahl (sample) - Geschlecht (sex) - Großte Schädellänge (greatest total length) - Unterkieferlänge (lower jaw length) - and lower jaw length times 100 divided by greatest total length.

The table, without a shadow of doubt, shows the longest skulls belong to Panthera leo krugeri. The female Cape skull, however, was relatively very wide.     

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Thi page has two detailed descriptions of two adult male Cape lions. Apart from the skull, they differed from other subspecies in the both shoulder and belly mane. The mane extended to the back, just past the shoulders. The belly mane covered the entire region (from chest to hind legs) and also was longer (see the next page).

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This page speaks for itself, with one addition. The large ears were seen as another feature typical for the Cape lion. Larger than in Barbary lions and all other subspecies.


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Below the drawing, you'll find hair length in (stuffed) Cape lions (in the Leiden en Paris Natural History Museums) and 2 Prague Zoo lions. The table speaks for itself.

After that, the results of the skull table are discussed. Mazak and Husson argue that Kruger and Cape lions, regarding a number of features (rostrum and teeth), could be quite close.

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This page has another table that speak for itself. Mazak and Husson refer to the Rembrandt drawing of a resting lion. This drawing of a captive could be one of the best images of a Cape lion. The lion in the drawing shows all the typical features discussed above.


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*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author


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Cape lion

Two of the eight recognized lion subspecies, North African Barbary lion (Panthera leo leo) and South African Cape lion (Panthera leo melanochaita), have become extinct in the wild in the last 150 years. Based on sequences of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region (HVR1) extracted from museum specimens of four Barbary and one Cape lion, the former was probably a distinct population characterized by an invariable, unique mtDNA haplotype, whilst the latter was likely a part of the extant southern African lion

.. Although they have become extinct in the wild, both Barbary and Cape lions had previously been exhibited in European zoos (especially the former, apparently being the most commonly exhibited lion), and hence, their genes may still be present in captive lions (Guggisberg 1963; Hemmer 1978).

The Cape lion

Unlike the Barbary lion, our results do not support the ‘‘distinctness’’ of the Cape lion. This is consistent with a geography-based idea, upon which the continuous lion distribution in Southern Africa challenges the ‘‘distinctness’’ of the Cape lion (Yamaguchi 2000). Admittedly, only one sample that yielded a sequence originated from the southern parts of the former Cape Province and Orange Free State, Republic of South Africa. However, we found only two haplotypes (haplotypes-2 and )5) over the entire lion range in southern Africa (see Figure 1) surrounding the region where the Cape lion was formerly found (Maza´k 1975), and the sample from the southern Cape itself possesses one of these two haplotypes. Considering these findings, it seems quite probable that the Cape lion was not a phylogenetically distinct population, but the southernmost population of the extant southern African lion. In this context, we suggest that the Cape lion may be restored in situ by using the extant southern African lion, although defining a population based only on neutral genetic markers would need careful evaluation (Wayne and Brown 2001). Unless further evidence suggests otherwise, the southern African lions possessing haplotype-5 should be used for the restoration of the Cape lion.


In contrast, the origin-known Cape lion had haplotype-5, one of the two haplotypes (haplotypes-2 and )5) that were widespread in eastern-southern Africa.
Implications for ex situ lion conservation.

Resource-effective strategy is necessary for ex situ conservation as available space and other resources are limited (Ryder 1986). It is suggested that taxon identification, at both subspecies and species levels, is a necessary step for a resourceeffective ex situ conservation (Uphyrkina and O’Brien 2003; Chen et al. 2004). Although this may justify animals of known-origin receiving

higher priority for breeding compared to generic zoo animals, ironically, doing so may decrease the overall genetic diversity of some species (Nowell and Jackson 1996; Hendrickson et al. 2000; Uphyrkina and O’Brien 2003). If generic animals contain the genes of extinct populations, they should prove crucial for preserving the overall genetic diversity of the species. According to the International Species Information System (http://www.isis.org/abstracts/abs.asp), approximately 77% of c. 1,300 lions registered have uncertain origins. Admittedly, our results show only maternal lines, and further studies are necessary before deciding which animals should be given breeding priorities. However, the apparent lack of haplotypes- 10 and )11 within the current geographic range of the lion may suggest the importance of keeping any animal possessing either haplotype. Also, saving wild lion populations in the Sahel (steppe/savannah areas immediately south of the Sahara) (see Figure 2) is a conservation priority (Nowell and Jackson 1996; Bauer and van der Merwe 2002). Therefore, although the Moroccan King’s lions are unlikely to be maternally Barbary, it would be worthwhile maintaining the collection for the purpose of preserving overall lion genetic diversity


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The most significant difficulty associated with this approach is that mtDNA, which is commonly used for aDNA analysis, is inherited strictly from the mother, and therefore can only provide insight into the maternal lineage of the specimen investigated. Techniques in aDNA analysis are advancing rapidly, however, and it may soon be possible to isolate paternal-specific DNA sequences (e.g. Y-chromosome DNA) from large numbers of specimens, which will enable identification of both the maternal and paternal lineages. Such advances will provide significant insights into the historical phylogenetics and behaviour of the lion (e.g. sexual difference in their dispersal pattern), in addition to making possible the accurate assignation geographic origin to poorly documented museum specimens. In spite of the difficulties associated with aDNA research, it would be worthwhile for museums to re-examine old lion specimens of unknown origin. Newly “discovered” specimens originated from extinct lion populations would increase our understanding of these lost populations, which in turn would help us understand the true diversity (e.g. morphological, anatomical, and genetic) of the lion. In addition to those science- and conservation-oriented interests, specimens from extinct lion populations would increase in value, and underscore the significance of museum collections.

Steve Mandel, Santa Cruz County Stories: Award-winning photographer rescues endangered Asiatic Lions 
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 Steve Mandel's award-winning photograph of ring-tailed lemurs will be included in a show at the Smithsonian's natural History Museum in Washington (Shmuel Thaler/Sentinel) 
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 It all started with a tree kangaroo.  In 2007 Steve Mandel went to Australia with his 15-year-old son, Alex, where they visited the Atherton Tablelands, the last remnants of a rainforest once teeming with rare, exotic animals.  "Standing on a hill that used to be in the middle of the rainforest, if you looked 360 degrees around, all you saw was little green grass all the way to the blue horizon, where they had chopped down the forest 40 years ago for forestry and cattle grazing," Mandel recalled. "There was a tiny tree kangaroo, which is near extinction, alone in an isolated tree, and our guide said he didn't know how it got out there but it would probably die.  "I'll never forget that moment," the Soquel resident continued. "It sickened me that humans could do that to the planet. Because of that tree kangaroo I decided to dedicate all of my discretionary time to wildlife conservation."  Upon returning to the U.S. Mandel, a communications consultant and accomplished photographer who had previously focused on astrophotography, launched himself into wildlife photography, taking courses and studying with renowned photographers including Santa Cruz's Frans Lanting and Stanford University biology professor Susan McConnell.  Then in 2008, Mandel took his first business trip to India, where he fell in love with the endangered Asiatic lions of the Gir pronounced "gear" Forest in Gujarat. One of seven sub-species of lions, Panthera leo persica are smaller and lighter than their African counterparts. By 1900, hunting and habitat destruction had reduced this majestic species to a mere dozen animals. By 2008, conservation efforts had gradually increased those numbers, but one critical threat remained -- more than 12,000 open pit wells built by local farmers, which created a drowning hazard for animals and humans alike.  In response, Mandel started the Lions of Gir Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the construction of barricades around the wells. Collaborating with an India-based nonprofit called the Wildlife Conservation Trust, Mandel has already raised enough money to barricade 2,000 wells while providing local villagers with employment. There are now about 475 of the lions remaining in the wild, according to Mandel.  Today he travels the world, using his award-winning wildlife photography to raise awareness and inspire action for conservation. His captivating image of lemurs in Madagascar was recently selected for display in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, a broad platform for engaging public support [ http://www.naturesbestphotography.com].  "Photos create a personal connection with people and get them thinking about the plight of wild animals worldwide," Mandel said. "It would be a shame not to have wild lions, mountain gorillas, or orangutans, and only see them in a zoo. But that's the direction we're going in. It's heartbreaking. This is a small, tangible thing I can do, to make one little dent in one little place in the world."  GETTING TO KNOW Steve Mandel Day job: Mandel is founder of Mandel Communications Inc, a management communications firm based in Capitola with 55 employees worldwide.  Family: Wife Carol and sons ages 40, 24 and 20. 'We're a family of photographers, but Carol is much better than me. She's an artist. I have to really work at it.'  Published works: 'Light in the Sky,' a book of astronomical images, and 'Effective Presentation Skills,' a guide for business professionals. Mandel's articles and photographs have appeared in astronomy magazines, The New York Times, Forbes, on NASA websites, and in numerous scientific publications.  Next photography trip: 'I'm going to a sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica. When you see these little things you just fall in love.'  Camera of choice: 'I use Canon professional equipment because I like its user interface and functionality. That being said, Nikon professional gear is just as good.'  Advice for budding wildlife photographers: 'Become really well-grounded in the basics of photography, study animal behavior so you can visualize your shots based on what the animal is most likely to do, and develop patience if you don't have any.' Signs a lion is getting anxious and you should back off: If its tail twitches and its ears stand up.  What other countries can learn from India: Lions occasionally take grazing cattle, but the Indian government is good about reimbursing farmers for their loss. In Kenya, for instance, they don't reimburse very well, so farmers kill lions to protect the herd.  How you can help: Buy photos or make a tax-deductible contribution. A well barricade can be built for as little as $150. For more information: The Lions of Gir Foundation: http://www.lionsofgir.com  The Wildlife Conservation Trust: http://www.asiaticlion.org  Steve Mandel Photography: http://www.mandelphoto.com http://www.santacruzsenti...ty-stories-award-winning

Cape lions could have been very closely related to Kruger lions. Makes sense, as a decent Kruger lion visiting his Cape relatives would need a few days only. I, however, have some doubts.

01 - I read some of the old Dutch journals. Journals of colonists travelling north in what's now known as South-Africa. Long time ago. Lions were mentioned more than once and they were described as large and bold. Reports only, of course, but the writers actually saw these lions. First hand reports, that is. 

02 - The alleged size of Cape lions was discussed more than once on this thread. All who reported on the subject stated they were large animals. Larger than Kruger lions. Do have a look at these posts. And remember Mazak (1983, pp. 195-196), who wrote about the 563-pound Orange Freestate lion.

03 - Yamaguchi compared Bali and Indian tiger skulls with Kruger skulls. The average of 15 adult male Kruger skulls was 381,00 mm. We also know adult males of this subspecies (Stevenson-Hamilton, 1947) averaged a trifle under 9 feet in total length ('between pegs'). Finally, we know adult males average somewhere between 400-425 pounds or thereabout. Large animals with very long skulls, that is.

04 - Only very few Cape lion skulls remain. Two are in the Leiden Naturalis Museum. I saw and measured both when they were in the Zoological Museum Amsterdam. Both skulls were decidly shorter than Kruger skulls. But they were muscular and massive. And it can't be excluded other skulls could have been larger.

05 - If 1-4 are combined, we can conclude Cape lions, apparently, were very large animals with shortish skulls. Is this combination seen in other lion subspecies? The answer is it seems to be the other way round. Compared to tigers, lions, for their length and weight, have relatively long skulls. But the combination shown in Cape lions is seen in some tiger subspecies and those of the Caspian area in particular.

06 - The two skulls I saw had large, broad and muscular faces and a short, relatively narrow and straitish occiput. And the only lion subspecies that compares is Panthera leo persica. Also not that far from the ocean.  

07 - The conclusion is Cape lions, although very close to Kruger and Etosha lions, could have been a different animal. Larger, belly mane all the way to hind legs and shortish, but muscular skulls. More tigerlike than all other subspecies.

Pictures and statistics always help. 

08 - Profiles of adult male lions. Cape lion top left.

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09 - Dorsal view. Cape lion top left.

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10 - Some measurements. No. 001 is the Cape lion and no. 006 is the longest I measured. Variables 1-4 (length an width) in mm. and 5-8 in cm. Last one (weight) in kg.

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11 - If the information in this post is added to the information provided in other posts on Cape lions, one has to conclude the statement on the relation between Cape and Kruger lions made in Asad's post is, ahemm, somewhat tentative. Everything known points in another direction.

Capstick was a professional hunter in Africa. Southern parts of Africa, to be more precise. Born in the US, he left for Africa when he could. He had quite a reputation and wrote a number of books on his experiences. On lions, he was as experienced as they come.

I ordered most of his books. Safari Press, Huntington Beach. Have a look at what they have. Interesting. The pages below are from this book:

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Here's his experience on size. Very close to what others thought:

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A particularly large male lion tapes about nine feet straight (274,3 cm.), stands 38-42 inches at the shoulder (96,5-106,7 cm.) and weighs about 400 pounds (181,4 kg.). In another book, he gave details of two unusually big male lions he shot. They taped 9.1 straight and might have been close to 500 pounds (not weighed, but his estimate is good enough for me). He knew about records of larger animals, but had severe doubts as to the reliability of these records. Same here.

Remember Capstick measured lions himself in the correct way. He was as experienced as they come and he hunted in those parts of Africa which have the largest regional types. His conclusions are very close to those of Stevenson-Hamilton (Warden of Kruger about a century ago) and other reliable hunters. Biologists, many decades later, confirmed Capstick's findings. The Kruger lions sample probably is the best. Adult males averaged 187,5 kg. (413-414 pounds) and the heaviest scaled 225 kg. (496 pounds). Anything over is so remarkable, one would want to see all details.

Trying to downgrade lions here? No. I am as interested in lions as you. One of the aims is to find out about the real size of big cats. That's why I measure captive animals myself and why I collect reliable information on wild animals. The information I have points towards 8.6-9.0 and 380-420 pounds for an average male of a large regional type. Male Crater lions, at about 212 kg. (468 pounds), probably are the heaviest, but I don't think they are longer or taller than Kruger and Etosha lions. They are more robust. It could be the prey-rich Crater is the best explanation, meaning they are able to get to their full potential. In wild male lions, full potential seems to be in robustness, not length. 

Exceptional animals can be found anywhere. Some will get to 500 pounds and over, but animals of that size are few and far between. The experience I have in captive animals suggests big animals usually are not longer or taller, but more robust. Of the male lions I measured, the shortest also was the heaviest. Couldn't weigh him, but he almost compared to the heaviest captive Amur tigers I measured. This tiger was 211-215 kg. (465-475 pounds roughly) when he was transported to China a few years after I measured him. At 287 cm. (9.5) in total length straight, he was almost 9 inches longer than the big lion, who taped 265 cm. in total length (just over 8.8). The differences were in head and body (tiger longer), chest (lion bigger) and the fore-arms (tiger).  

Compared to most tigers, lions are a bit shorter, but more robust: more weight for their length. At the level of subspecies, wild Indian tigers are the exception to the general rule in that they are long, tall and robust. Wild male Amur tigers seem to compare to lions from southern parts of Africa for (relative) robustness, but their weight seems to be in the head and arms, whereas lions seem to have larger chests and skulls. The longest and heaviest wild big cats are Indian and Amur tigers, but some lions from southern parts of Africa almost compare. The main difference is in the averages: there are more large tigers than large lions.   

This is some data I ca find on the shoulder height of the African lion and tigers of asia...

Shoulder height data - Standing height or height between pegs:

Male African lions:

* 101 cm (n=50). Range: 86-109 cm. Stevenson-Hamilton (1947) – South Africa.
* 96.2 cm (n=14). Range: 81.3 cm-107 cm. Meinertzhagen (1938) – Kenya, East Africa.

* 101.6 cm. No range. Dewalt Keet (2010) – South Africa
* 107.1 cm (n=N/A) Sam Ferreira & Paul J. Funston (2010) – Location?

* 97.2 cm (n=8). Range: 86-108 cm. Edouard Foà (1986) – Central Africa

* 92.2 cm (n=3). Range 89-96.5 cm. Edward Bennet (1914) – East Africa

* 92 cm (n=3). Range 88-96 cm . Ernest Thompson Seton (1896) – Captive 

* 91 cm. No Range. Arthur Nicols (1885) – Captive 
* 97 cm (n=?). No range. Pocock (1939) - Captive.
* 114 cm Max. recorded in the Wild (Pitman, 1945).
* 112 cm. Max. recorded in captivity (Wood, 1983).
Male Bengal tigers:
* 109.3 cm (n=6). Range: 104-114 cm. Brown (1893) – Purneah, India.
* 103 cm (n=2) Range: 102-104 cm. Meinertzhagen (1938) – Southwest India.
* 100 cm (n=43). Range: 88-114 cm ♂. Cooch Behar (1908) – Northeast India.
* 99 cm (n=42). Range: 91-112 cm. Brander (1923) – Central India.

* 101.6 cm. No range. Sweny (1896) – Central India
* 93.3 cm (n=5). Range: 89-99 cm. Mazák (1983) – Captive.

* 91 cm. No Range. Arthur Nicols (1885) – Captive 
* 91 cm (n=?). No range. Pocock (1939) - Captive.
* 114 cm Max. recorded in the Wild (Cooch Behar (1908) – Brown (1893)).
* 118 cm Max. recorded standing height in any big cat (Ward, 1914).
Male Amur tigers:
* 95 cm (n=11). Range: 82-106 cm. Kerley et al. (2005) – Sikhote-Alin ZP, Russia.
* 102 cm (n=7). Range: 96-106 cm. Mazák (1983) - Captive.
* 106 cm Max. recorded in the Wild (Kerley et al., 2005).



I reread his article in the JBNHS and scanned pages 11 and 12. Fenton isn't specific on the method he used. There is, however, indirect information.

a - The part on measurements in Fenton's article is extensive. He obviously was interested in measurements and interpretations, meaning it is likely he would have been aware of the debate on methods. 

b - He was precise regarding measurements and interpretations. A keen observer, I concluded. 

c - Fenton indirectly referred to the debate on methods in that he wrote that a big cat should be measured " ... in the recognized way ... ". My guess is he distinguished between straight line and curve measurements. A measurement taken " ... in the recognized way ...", in my opinion, refers to a measurement 'between pegs'. 

d - He measured skulls between uprights. I know skulls and body measurements are two different things, but he again showed he was aware of straight line and curve measurements.

e - The measurements he provided are in line with others. The lions he shot were large animals, but Fenton was a hunter going for large males. The leopard he shot also was a large animal, but in line with other measurements from the region.

Based on what I read, I concluded Fenton was aware of the debate on methods. I think he measured big cats " ... in the recognized way ... ". Between pegs, that is. Judge for yourself.

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*This image is copyright of its original author


Their article on Gir lions in the JBNHS had three parts. This is the cover of the third and last part:

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This is the Appendix with the measurements. Watch the bottom of the first page (underlined in red). All animals mentioned in the Appendix were measured 'between pegs'. They are shorter than the ones Fenton shot, but Fenton might have selected the animals he hunted. Experienced hunters usually hunt large animals.  

I used all animals for my table, except for those shot in 1871 (at the bottom of the second page). The reason is big cats were measured 'over curves' back then. Not all hunters did, but most. The lions mentioned (two males of 9.0 and 9.1 and a lioness of 8.6) were not out of line and it also is a fact the authors wrote all animals in the Appendix were measured 'between pegs', but I'm not quite sure. 

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*This image is copyright of its original author


Here's a scan of his letter published in the JBNHS. Unfortunately, I lost a number of pages. This means I'm not sure about the edition of the JBNHS.

Cadell, like Fenton, referred to the 9.7 lion shot by a Lord Harris. This lion was mentioned by others as the longest shot until then (1935). I didn't find anything on the way this lion was measured, but as he was mentioned by experienced hunters, I assumed he was measured 'between pegs'.

Although Gir lions seem to be about average in length. The average I found for (large) Gir lions shot by hunters was 9.1 'between pegs'. Compares to the average for large lions shot by Stevenson-Hamilton in South Africa. 

Male Gir lions, like most African lions, were 8.7-8.8 in total length 'between pegs'. Exceptional animals might have tipped 10.0 straight or just over.    

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I found this interesting article, which I believe is relevant on the topic of Asian lions in India.
The Gir Lions – Panthera Leo Persica
October/December 1982: Lying awake, just before dawn, I heard the lions Roar. In the silence of the jungle they sounded much closer than they probably were. Restless and eager to start the day, I washed and dressed in the dark and before I could finish my cup of tea, I heard Haidu's gentle greeting. Haidu, the head pugee, who would be my guide for the day, was a tracker with an almost psychic understanding of lions.
We left at dawn to escape the noisy crowds at Gir's famous `lion shows'. With our water canteens filled and a small sling bag with dry chapattis and vegetables around Haidu's neck, we set off into the scrub jungle. I had my binoculars and camera equipment with me. I have always been a keen photographer, even in the old days when jungle outings, more often than not, meant shikar.  The sun was up before we had covered two miles and all around us I could see the rugged, picturesque terrain that was home to the last remaining representatives of Panthera leo persica.
Sitting near a streambed, a clatter of hooves suddenly caused me to look in the direction of a large nilgai bull, accompanied by two cows. They probably hadn't seen us till they were quite near. I usually maintain a strict silence in the jungle, talking only in whispers when signs or signals are inadequate. A golden-backed woodpecker had set up a staccato-like scream nearby and a flurry of activity from a thick karambdi bush revealed the dull-grey form of a pea-hen followed by a brood of four or five juvenile birds. It was getting warm and perspiration streaked my dusty clothes. I had a drink of water and casually asked Haidu if he could locate `Ubhado' and `Bhelio', two lions with whom I had been acquainted during earlier visits. "Shall we take a chance?" he asked. I readily agreed. With Haidu in the lead, we now took a new route, which, to my mild consternation, betrayed no traces of lion pug-marks. Haidu, of course, was unconcerned. He walked purposefully on, occasionally checking to ensure that I followed close behind. An hour later, with the sun now fairly high in the sky, we reached a place where fallen teak leaves carpeted the floor. He stopped here, removed his shoes and proceeded alone. Moments later, he gestured to me to join him.  Following his example, I removed my shoes and traced his footsteps to where he was seated. I then knelt down beside him and there, behold, less than 30 metres in front of us were the two lions I had enquired after. They lay peacefully in the shade of a tree, oblivious of our presence. Haidu had pinpointed their resting place after having heard them roar before daybreak. This was a clear demonstration of the Gir trackers' legendary capabilities. This was the way lions used to be located years ago, before the baiting of show-lions had been introduced.
A tenuous existence
India's first `national animal' was the lion, depicted in the Republic of India's crest, the inspiration drawn from Emperor Ashoka's pillar at Sarnath. The choice was made not because of the Iion's endangered status, but on cultural grounds. Over the years many nations, from Europe, Africa and Asia, have chosen the lion to represent them; the intended symbolism projecting the nations' and the lions' common qualities – courage, magnanimity, justice and power. Howsoever unscientific such anthropomorphic attributes may be, the fact remains that man has always held the lion in great admiration and awe.
When the British ruled the Indian subcontinent, lions were abundant throughout northern and central India, from Sind to Bengal and down to the Narmada river. Unfortunately, the animals were ruthlessly persecuted right from Mughal times and were thus steadily wiped out. Today, just over 200 Asiatic lions remain and the Gir forest of Kathiawar, Gujarat, is their last bastion.
Lord Curzon took the first step to protect these endangered lions by his refusal to shoot one, despite an invitation from the Nawab of Junagadh in whose territory most of the lions were found. Perhaps this public stance, in favour of the lions, brought home to the erstwhile rulers the predicament into which years of indiscriminate hunting had placed the lion. Ever since, the lions have received protection though sporadic poaching incidents continued. The Nawabs, of course, still invited VIPs to shoot `their' animals, but a restriction of three full-grown males per year was imposed. In any event, lion populations stabilised considerably under the mantle of Junagadh's protection.
During the devastating famine of 1899 and 1900 the prey species on which the lions survived were considerably depleted. Consequently, some reports indicate that the lions resorted to man-eating. These were bleak years for the wildlife of Kathiawar; nevertheless, the `discreet' hunting of lions by special invitees continued till after Independence. At this juncture, President Rajendra Prasad and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited Gir and vehemently insisted that the safety of India's national animal be ensured. Despite this, on more than a few occasions, lions continued to be shot with the permission of the Rajpramukh of Saurashtra. This `privilege' was withdrawn only as recently as 1960 when the State of Gujarat was formally set up.
The first serious attempt to census the Gir lions was undertaken by the Saurashtra State Forest Department in 1950. I was a part of that census team and our organiser was none other than the well-known naturalist, M.A. WynterBlyth, (then the Principal of Rajkumar College, Rajkot). On the basis of a pug-mark tally, we concluded that there were between 219 and 227 lions in Gir. The 1936 estimates, made by the Junagadh Forest Department, had placed their number at 287 and the downward trend was alarming. (Ironically, while world attention was centered on saving the lions, the grey hornbill, locally known as `Chilotro', was quietly extirpated from the Gir forest. Killed on account of its presumed medicinal value, the bird was reintroduced into Gir in 1979.)
Not so long ago, the range of the Gir lions included extended forested tracts, totalling just over 3,800 sq.km. Despite the fact that the area was unsuitable for agriculture, many different people chose to settle here and slowly the forests suffered. Nomads of the Rabari and Charan tribes, termed as `maldharis' or herdsmen, have been living in close proximity to the lions for many years. Habitat destruction coupled with the construction of irrigation tanks and extension of farmlands, eventually reduced the vital lion biome to less than 1,300 sq.km. Even this reduced area was dissected by roads built in all directions to facilitate the extraction of timber. Somehow a way had to be found for man and animal to survive together and this has been the main concern of those interested in Gir, for over 30 years.
Man and the Lion
Lions generally resent human presence. Yet strangely, in Gir, the large cats seem less scared of the maldharis than of their buffaloes who readily charge when agitated. On two occasions I actually witnessed a maldhari `whoop' his whole herd of buffaloes towards two lions who fled unceremoniously, followed by the triumphant little man waving his staff high and yodelling as loud as he could. The maldhari is a very astute judge of lion character and a pugee's perfect imitation of a goat's bleating will often make a lion pause and turn in surprise. In fact, the pugees can actually `summon' the show lions by calling repeatedly in this manner.
The maldharis are kind and hospitable folk, some of them bards and poets. Being largely vegetarians they cause no direct harm to wildlife.  They have strong family bonds and have dedicated themselves to husbandry of the famous Gir cattle and buffaloes, from whose milk they produce ghee, a refined butter. However, when the artificial feeding of lions became a practice for the purpose of lion-shows (soon after the formation of Gujarat State), lions got bold, killing livestock fearlessly. The maldharis retaliated by poisoning the lions, resulting in a steep decline in the cat population.
 Gir – Last Bastion of the Asiatic Lion
An overview
Africa and India are the only countries in the world fortunate enough to house lions (Panthera leo). The Asiatic lion was once widespread, from Asia Minor and Arabia through Persia to India, but today just over 200 animals, survive tenuously in the Gir forest of Kathiawar.
The total area of the Gir Sanctuary is 1,412.13 sq.km. and within it a 140.4 sq.km. area has been designated as a National Park. A metre high rubble wall of over 400 km. has been constructed to keep unwanted cattle out of the park. However, animals such as nilgai, chausinga, chital and sambar, find no difficulty in bounding over the wall. Effective management plans have shown encouraging results in recent years, though a still greater effort is necessary to ensure the long term survival of the lions.
Census figures of Gir lions from 1950 to 1979 are as under:
Year of census     Method                      Lion population                      Total
                                                                Male     Female    Cubs
1950                Pug mark count           (adults  179/187)  40            219 to 227*
1955                      – do –                        141            100     49            290
1963                      – do –                         82             134     69            285 **
1968                Visual count                    60               66     51            177
1974                      – do –                         53               77     50            180
1979                      – do –                         65               82     58           205 1979 census figures for other Gir animals are as under:
Panther                                      161
Hyena                                          84
Spotted deer                         8,431
Sambar                                     760
Nilgai                                      2,036
Wild boar                                2,365
Four horned antelope          1,042
Chinkara                                    330
Monkey                                    6,895 The following are some of the prominent animals to be found in the Gir. Their local names have been mentioned alongside in italics. Lion – Sawaj of Sinh. Untia Bagh (Gujarat); Leopard – Dipado; Jungle cat –Jungali bilado or rani bilado; Hyena – Jarakh; Wolf – Naar; Jackal – Shial; Fox – Lonkdi; Ratel – Ghor-khodio or Bootado; Civet cat – Jabadio; Mongoose – Nolio; Sambar – Sembar; Chital – Pashu or pahu and Cheetal; Nilgai – Roj or Nilgai; Fourhorned antelope – Ghuntavdo; Blackbuck – Haran; Chinkara – Kal Punchha or Chikaro; Wild boar – Dukkar or Kala Janwar or Bhund; Pangolin – Salvo; Porcupine – Shedhadi; Crocodile – Mughar; Monitor lizard – Gho; Python – Chitalo or Ajgar; Langur – Vandaro; Hare – Saslo; Star-shelled tortoise – Dhal Kachlo or Dungaral Kachlo; Chameleon – Lilo mankido. * Detailed figures showing the male/female ratio were not available. ** According to the author the census figures for 1963 are suspect.  
At this time a very harmful factor revealed itself in the form of a massive influx of cattle into Gir from drought-stricken areas. This caused unprecedented destruction to the entire ecosystem. It also further encouraged the lions to become cattle-lifters and there came a stage when much of their diet was accounted for by domestic animals. This grave situation drew the attention of international biologists and in 1970 a highly qualified team (Berwick: USA, Joslyn: Canada, Hodd: Britain) arrived to study the problem under World Wildlife Fund, Project 298. The research was aided by the Smithsonian Institution, and was sponsored by the Bombay Natural History Society. I was also closely involved with the project at the time. It was observed that, during droughts, the maldharis lopped trees to sustain their herds; but the gravity of the situation was further aggravated by incessant clear felling, resulting in the maldharis becoming scapegoats for the denudation of the forest.
The Gujarat Government, realising the danger to the ecosystem and the severe economic pressures being borne by the maldharis, executed a project to demarcate and protect the Gir Sanctuary by building a one metre high rubble wall with live hedges to prevent illicit grazing. At the same time a scheme was launched to rehabilitate the maldharis to the peripheral areas. This project took excellent shape and the Gir Sanctuary was awarded the Chairman's Trophy for the best managed National Park cum Wildlife Sanctuary in India by the Indian Board for Wildlife in 1976. The dramatic progress recorded in subsequent years was clearly evident in the improved forest vegetal cover and increased wildlife numbers. Moreover, the cessation of felling combined with progressive wildlife management was of considerable benefit to the ecosystem, an outcome of the painstaking work carried out by the Gujarat State Forest Department and supported by the Centre.
But, as is so often the case with habitat management plans, solutions to one set of problems led to the creation of others. Moving the maldharis to the peripheral regions resulted in the lions following their easy prey. The government's attempt to compensate the maldharis' loss of cattle, as a result of lion predation, was somewhat negated by the fact that many kills were made away from the core areas.
Another deterrent factor to the peaceful coexistence of lion and man is the fact that the buffer areas around the main forests have increasingly come under the plough. Not only because the maldharis were re-located here, but because new settlers arrived in large numbers. Nilgai and wildboar readily take to crop land and in the process of following them, lions often come into conflict with farmers. An unfortunate state of affairs indeed. The truth is, that in the past, the maldharis never seriously complained of lion predation. They had learned to live peaceably with the great cats and were even sometimes beholden to them for the protection they afforded the simple herdsmen from roving bands of trespassers and wood-poachers.
There is need to constantly monitor the complex problems and to understand the ecology of the Gir. It is also imperative that, with all the modern facilities at our disposal, we should make a concerted effort to assess, in depth, the behaviour of the lions.
The King of the jungle.
I watched fascinated from the cover of a thick bush as the lioness lay crouched below a steep river bank 30 metres away. I was struck by her patience, as she remained, watchful, in the same position for well over 20 minutes. The river formed a small pool which was frequented by a variety of game, the hoof prints of sambar, nilgai and chital could clearly be seen in the sand. Clumps of earth tossed about probably indicated that this was a favourite wallowing spot for wild boar as well. A loud piercing call punctuated the stillness of the air as a redwattled lapwing described a perfect arch in mid-flight, to settle knee-deep in the shallow water's edge. Another 15 minutes passed by slowly. It seemed likely that both the lioness and I would be disappointed. The jungle seemed particularly lifeless; the only creature that had come to drink was a long-tailed mongoose; its ferret eyes constantly darting about while it slaked its thirst.
My patience exhausted at the end of an hour, I quietly withdrew from the scene, leaving the lioness to her fate. I often wonder whether she was able to make a kill that day. In any event, the drama of hunter and hunted which has taken place ceaselessly since pre-history has begun to pale in the face of man's rabid assault on habitats of all descriptions.  And only very determined efforts by conservationists have enabled forests like Gir to remain relatively whole.
The behaviour of Gir lions is somewhat different to that of their African counterparts. In the rugged terrain of Gir, lions have difficulty in sighting their prey from a distance, especially in a canopy of forest. They therefore, take full advantage of ravines, bushes, boulders, logs and grass to stalk and ambush their prey.
In the teak habitat of Gir, during the dry, hot season, lions find it difficult to stalk their prey because of the large, crispy, dry leaves which crackle underfoot. At this time the lions generally prefer to follow well-worn paths and dusty roads. Those prey species, habituated to lie up under shady trees or bushes are relatively safe, as the lions' concentration is focussed mainly on the gregarious ungulates who betray themselves by sound or movement. Hunting lions make full use of wind direction. Preferring to hunt upwind, they listen and even sniff the air for traces of scent of their prey. Group hunting, using the strategy of encircling the prey, no doubt makes for easier kills. However, owing to the well-wooded terrain of Gir, hunting in large prides is neither easy nor suitable. Together the lions would be spotted by innumerable birds and mammals who would raise an alarm and thus warn away prospective prey.
The ideal hunting combination of the Gir lion is in pairs; known locally as `Belad', such a pair often consists of two males. Small prides may form hunting units but these normally roam the more open, grassy hills or flat scrub-lands. Solitary well-maned lions are an uncommon sight in the Gir unless an old male has been driven out of a pride. One such animal was `Govinda' whose tail tuft had been severed in combat and who, in his last days, had been driven out of his territory by younger lions. A fine, black and tawny-maned beast, Govinda, unlike most loners, had an even disposition and he thrilled visitors by allowing them to approach him at close quarters on foot. Another fine lion `Teelio', from whose photograph a postage stamp was made, could be identified by an old scar close to his eye. Earlier, before the lion-shows, regular visitors to Gir had learned to recognise `Champlo', a magnificent specimen, from his perceptible limp. But it was not always possible to sight these handsome creatures and one had to resort to using blinds or machans, and even then the lions were suspicious of any unfamiliar sound or smell. This `wild' behaviour of the lions was infinitely preferable to the `tame' conduct of today's show-lions, a fact that was strongly remarked upon by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, when she visited Gir in 1981.
The lion you see today at Gir is a far cry from the tall, heavy, woolly-maned animal that roamed the plains of North India centuries ago. He is a stockier beast, adapted to climbing the steep, rugged, Gir hills and capable of swift attacks from short distances. Moreover, the mild winters of Kathiawar no longer compel him to grow the thick underwool or hoary belly fringe once so characteristic of this sub-species. All males develop manes though some may be scantier than others. (The report of one Captain Smee, that the Gujarat lion is maneless cannot be accepted.) Two types of Gir lions are known to local people, the Gadhio a dark-maned robust animal and the Welio a light-maned longish animal. The manes of African lions are generally more prominent but one very visible difference between the two, is the larger elbow and tail tufts of the Gir-Asiatic species. It is entirely possible that these characteristics may eventually be sufficient to establish the Gir lion as a new race.
It was mooted at one time that competition from leopards endangered the well-being of lions by depleting their food stock. What a mistaken notion! Yes, the leopard's range overlaps, but his habits are considerably different. A solitary, nocturnal hunter, the leopard preys on the smaller game such as four-horned antelope, pig, porcupine, langur, hare, jackal, pea-fowl and reptiles in addition to rodents, pariah dogs, poultry and goats. Only very occasionally will he kill the larger game on which the lion is dependent. In any case, panthers generally inhabit the scrub, euphorbia and grassland hills closer to habitation. They are also suited to steep, rocky terrain into which lions seldom venture. On the very rare occasions that the two do confront each other, the leopard will submit to the larger and stronger lion. I have, in fact, evidence of a lion killing a panther, the fight being a totally one-sided affair. All jungles are intricate ecosystems.  They require scientific management in which unnecessary human interference must be prevented, so as to allow the animals to strike their own balance. If my fifty years in Indian jungles have taught me anything it is this very basic fact.
In the Gir, fortunately for lions, there is no competition from wild dogs, who hunt in very efficient packs elsewhere and are more than a match for any large cat.
There has been much speculation about whether the lion or the tiger were once in conflict and if so, as to which would have been the victor in the event of a clash. The truth is that lions and tigers have such vastly differing habits that the likelihood of their ever coming into conflict would have been slim indeed. The tiger prefers leafy, shaded forest cover and is intolerant of heat. He will lie submerged in a jungle pool or river to cool his body when the heat gets unbearable. The lion on the other hand, can stand intense heat and at best will seek refuge under the shade of a stunted tree or large clump of euphorbia if the sun gets uncomfortably strong. The lion is also partial to dusty, dry country, (he often enjoys `dust-baths') which the tiger would avoid. To my mind the reason why tigers have a wider distribution than lions has less to do with their interspecific relationship than with the fact that lions, being social animals, provided easy targets for hunters' guns and were thus wiped out very easily by indiscriminate killing.
There are two wildlife projects, pertaining to lions, currently being implemented in Kathiawar. One attempts to re-locate some of the Gir lions to another 200 sq.km. forest block in the Barda Hills in western Kathiawar. The reasoning, that all our eggs should not remain in one basket, cannot be faulted, but great care will have to be taken to ensure that the environment of the new site is perfectly suited to carnivores. There must be sufficient buffer stocks of wild game for instance, and from the very onset, human interference should be restricted to the minimum. The second project, the creation of a lion safari park close to Sasan Gir is, in my opinion, ill-conceived. Why pen lions for visitors when they can be allowed the opportunity of seeing them in their glory, free and wild? A safari park at Gir would be justified only in the unfortunate likelihood of the wild lions becoming extinct!
Admittedly, today's tourists are rushed for time and the staged shows have enabled many to photograph and watch them at close range, but I feel that audio-visual orientation programmes could easily educate visitors to appreciate the thrill of watching animals in their natural, undisturbed state.
Gir is spectacular from December to March when it is cool and the flame of the forest is in bloom. Wildlife sightings would, of course, be better in summer when most water courses dry up. With the first few showers the Gir forests turn verdant, stimulating the ubiquitous magpie robin to burst into full song, as do many other birds, thus creating a chorus of avian music. This symphony, of bird and animal sounds, is what makes the land of the lion so charming. Yet, without Panthera leo, how diminished would be the attraction. For the sake of us all, I hope the Gir National Park and Sanctuary can meet the imposing challenge of ensuring the vital safety of the Gir ecosystem and the peaceful co-existence of maldharis, lions and tourists. This was the basic purpose of establishing the park and on its success will depend the future of the last Asiatic lions.
by Dharmakumarsinhji
Published in Sanctuary Asia, Vol II No. 4, October/December 1982
 Available: http://www.sanctuaryasia.com/magazines/conservation/8389-the-gir-lions-panthera-leo-persica.html

It seems that Dharmakumarsinhji & Wynter-Blyth were not just "hunters" but famous naturalists in the area. This added reliability to the lions reported by them.


Their weight and chest girth as recorded by Bertram and Packer are equal to those recorded by Smuts for Kruger lions at around 190kg and 122cm respectively. I actually find Serengeti/Mara lions quite impressive looking, they tend to have broad heads, stocky bodies, and often very full and dark manes.

A massive looking young male from the Serengeti.

*This image is copyright of its original author

Regarding the lions of Botswana and the Ngamiland area (Okavango/Chobe) in particular I would also respectfully disagree. The Okavango/Chobe region is well protected and has a naturally high abundance of prey, ideal for producing big lions. There doesn’t appear to be much data available on

RE: ON THE EDGE OF EXTINCTION - B - LIONS (Panthera leo) - chaos - 04-08-2014

Good informative article.

RE: ON THE EDGE OF EXTINCTION - B - LIONS (Panthera leo) - peter - 04-12-2014

Good to see you here, Chaos. We haven't started debates anywhere just yet, but I'll inform you as soon as we are in business. You ok? Interested in politics?

As for the copied and pasted old posts. I agree it's good info, but I would prefer a bit more clarity. I propose to cut and paste in the future, meaning I'd like to see a bit more structure. You could post on any topic regarding lions and concentrate on it. A title would also help. Same for pictures. Everything for readability.

Today I saw a new documentary on the BBC. Lions and elephants. Northern part of the Kalahari (Botswana). A bit like the Okavango Delta, but less rain. In the months without rain, all animals come to the few remaining drinking holes. These are controlled by lions. As they live in prides, they need to hunt large animals. A pride just starting out as a pride (young animals mostly and no resident male) went for elephants. They killed 15 in just two months. Not big bulls, but calves, young animals and animals close to death on account of not enough water and food.

Why did they decide for elephant? Bad conditions, many elephants and calves, many weak animals and opportunities. Big cats are opportunists and lions have to weigh need, opportunity, risk and ability. Great documentary. See it if you can.

RE: ON THE EDGE OF EXTINCTION - B - LIONS (Panthera leo) - chaos - 04-12-2014

Thanks for the warm welcome Peter. It's genuinely appreciated. All is well in my domain. Yes, I am  interested in politics. Unfortunately,
true knowledge in that field is hindered by the stark reality "we the people"  know only what the government wants us to. Too many disingenuous politicos dot the landscape. That's another topic for another day my friend.  Good to hear from you!

RE: ON THE EDGE OF EXTINCTION - B - LIONS (Panthera leo) - Kingtheropod - 04-23-2014

 Regarding the lions of Botswana and the Ngamiland area (Okavango/Chobe) in particular I would also respectfully disagree. The Okavango/Chobe region is well protected and has a naturally high abundance of prey, ideal for producing big lions. There doesn’t appear to be much data available on their weight but they were regarded as being large and impressive by professional hunters and their skulls feature prominently in the record books. For example, even Peter Capstick who you’ve noted above considered Botswanan lions among the biggest as did John Kingsley-Heath, another experienced professional hunter of the 60s/70s.  Apart from the 2 unusually low weights reported by Smithers which I suspect were taken from animals in poor condition the only other recorded weight from Botswana I’m aware of for a male lion is from the Central Kalahari Lion Research Project. On their old website it was stated that the biggest of the 4 males they had collared at the time (about 3 years ago) weighed 222kg. Also, in the book “Cry of the Kalahari” written by researchers, Mark and Delia Owens it is stated that a pair of young adult males each weighed over 450lbs (205kg). The Owens did collar some of the lions they studied but it’s not clear whether these lions were actually weighed or whether this was an estimate.

A big male lion immobilized by the CKLR project, possibly the 222kg specimen.

*This image is copyright of its original author

Excerpt from “Cry of the Kalahari” pertaining to the weight of 2 young adult males from the Central Kalahari GR in Botswana.

*This image is copyright of its original author

Though there doesn’t appear to be any published data on lion weights from northern Botswana (Okavango/Chobe) we do have pretty good data from the surrounding regions. Average weights from Namibia in the west, the Kalahari in the south, and Zimbabwe in the east fall in the 400-440lb range so it’s reasonable to suspect something similar from the Okavango. In fact, the highest weights are from north-western Zimbabwe from the Matetsi/Hwange region which is right on the border with northern Botswana and forms a continuous block of wilderness with the Chobe NP and the Okavango. The lions of Matetsi/Hwange are actually part of the same population block as those in northern Botswana. Thus with the same genes and more abundant prey I would expect the Okavango lions to be at least as large.

Lion skulls from the 1975 Rowland Wards. Skulls from Botswana feature prominently in these records with a number over 400mm (15.75") from the region. Note: Ngamiland refers to northern Botswana (Okavango/Chobe region) and specific places such as Khwai, Xugana, Khurunzaragha, Savuti all lie within this region.

*This image is copyright of its original author

*This image is copyright of its original author

And in case you guys haven't already seen this, here’s some data on Namibian lions from the paper, "The use of Sernylan as an immobilising agent and anaesthetic for wild carnivorous mammals in South West Africa" 1970.  Four adult males which were weighed averaged 422.5lbs (192kg), ranging from 390lb to 500lbs.

*This image is copyright of its original author

There's no indication given in the paper that baits were used to capture lions. The methods section from the paper.

*This image is copyright of its original author

And yes some of the lions were indeed weighed. Only those marked in the table by "c" were estimates, this should be obvious. And though it certainly is unlikely that the exact weights of all those lions ended exactly in O's, the recorded weight would depend on the type of scale used as some are less precise than others and give figures rounded to the nearest 10lbs. That means a lion which weighs 403lbs would register as 400lbs on such a scale, doesn’t change the fact that lion was weighed.  At the very least it gives a very precise estimate of weight (ie. 395-405lbs)

Photo of a lion being weighed from the same paper.

*This image is copyright of its original author

RE: ON THE EDGE OF EXTINCTION - B - LIONS (Panthera leo) - Pckts - 04-24-2014

The 0s at the end are always a little fishy. But they do look to be weighed. The one that stands out is obviously the C 600lb estimate.