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

United Arab Emirates BorneanTiger Offline
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( This post was last modified: 06-03-2019, 03:31 PM by BorneanTiger )

(05-08-2019, 10:43 PM)BorneanTiger Wrote: It seems that Greece or southeastern Europe wasn't the only place in Europe with modern lions: 

Credit: Louvre Abu Dhabi, Chapter 3, Page 52: https://tcaabudhabi.ae/DataFolder/report...-%20EN.pdf

*This image is copyright of its original author

Forward from (https://wildfact.com/forum/topic-europea...6#pid82046), Heptner and Sludskiy acknowledged the presence of the lion in southeastern Europe, in the region of the Black Sea, particularly Greece and the Balkans (https://archive.org/stream/mammalsofsov2...0/mode/2up), and this is supported by authors like Frazer (https://archive.org/stream/pausaniassdes...earch/lion), Douglas (http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks03/0300611h.html) and Jardine (https://archive.org/stream/naturalistsli...8/mode/2up), besides ancient scholars like Aristotle (https://archive.org/stream/wildbeastsstu...6/mode/2up), Homer (https://www.researchgate.net/publication...cal_record) and Agatharhides (https://snarla.wordpress.com/2007/08/31/arabian-lions/) of Greece, with the latter commenting that even Arabian lions were transported to Greece for entertainment or blood-games. It is assumed that these lions are the same race as the lions that are now found in India, but these encyclopædias from the 19th Century, when the range of the lion was much more extensive, say that 3 types of Asiatic lions were considered (https://books.google.com/books?id=TX7BmP...&q&f=falsehttps://books.google.com/books?id=GWslAA...on&f=false)!

Achelous River between Acarnania and Aetolia (these regions having been discussed here: https://wildfact.com/forum/topic-the-siz...ion?page=5) in Greece, which Herodotus (https://www.researchgate.net/publication...cal_record, https://archive.org/stream/wildbeastsstu...8/mode/2up) mentioned as a boundary of the Greek lion's range: http://www.greenfromgreece.gr/index.php/...lous-river 


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Marble lion statue from the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus: https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/c...6&partId=1 

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Black Figure Kylix: http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/obje...ut-540-bc/
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United Arab Emirates BorneanTiger Offline
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( This post was last modified: 05-23-2019, 03:41 PM by BorneanTiger )

Forward from (https://wildfact.com/forum/topic-the-siz...ion?page=5), there is something interesting about the place to where Marcelin Flandrin flew from Dakar in 1925, while taking the last known photo of a wild Atlas lion (https://journals.plos.org/plosone/articl...ne.0060174), that is Casablanca: 

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Casablanca has more than one zoo that was claimed to have Atlas lions: Parc Sindibad Zoo (https://www.journeybeyondtravel.com/blog...rocco.htmlhttps://www.tripadvisor.fr/LocationPhoto...2-d8610479, https://www.tripadvisor.fr/LocationPhoto...egion.html), Aïn Sebaâ Zoo (which had been poorly maintained (https://www.leconomiste.com/article/9174...ent-t-vacuhttp://forceanimalintervention.over-blog...41855.htmlhttps://observers.france24.com/en/201403...ap-animals), but is now being renovated: https://www.casa-amenagement.ma/en/nos-p...-ain-sebaa), and at Dream Village (where animals at Aïn Sebaâ were transferred to: https://lematin.ma/journal/2014/casablan...06795.html).

Parc Sindibad Zoo: http://parcsindibad.ma/afrique-sauvage/

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Aïn Sebaâ Zoo: 




Dream Village Zoo: 




I came across an interesting document about the history of the Royal Moroccan lions and Casablanca (pages 469470: https://www.researchgate.net/publication...on_Project). It says that Moroccan Monarchs are believed to have kept lions that were descended from lions caught from the Atlas Mountains, and that when Sultan Sidi Mohammed Ben Youssef (also known as King Mohammed V) abdicated and went into exile in 1953, 3 of his 21 lions in Rabat were transferred to a zoo in Casablanca, with the others being transferred to a zoo at Meknès, and then upon the return of the Sultan to Rabat in 1955, the lions at Meknès were returned to Rabat, but not those at Casablanca:
   
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United Arab Emirates BorneanTiger Offline
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( This post was last modified: 05-23-2019, 10:29 PM by BorneanTiger )

Forward from (https://wildfact.com/forum/topic-asiatic...6#pid82086), that southern Italian or Spanish lion statue from the Bronze Age (https://tcaabudhabi.ae/DataFolder/report...-%20EN.pdf) wasn't the only lion statue or piece of art that the Louvre Abu Dhabi had, from places where lions wouldn't be seen nowadays. Here are my own photos of lions in ancient or prehistoric Arabian art, from Saudi Arabia or Yemen: 
           

Additionally, one can see a lion-like figure amongst the animals in this piece of rock art, similar to what is depicted here (http://saudi-archaeology.com/subjects/lion/): 
   
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United Arab Emirates BorneanTiger Offline
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(05-23-2019, 10:27 PM)BorneanTiger Wrote: Forward from (https://wildfact.com/forum/topic-asiatic...6#pid82086), that southern Italian or Spanish lion statue from the Bronze Age (https://tcaabudhabi.ae/DataFolder/report...-%20EN.pdf) wasn't the only lion statue or piece of art that the Louvre Abu Dhabi had, from places where lions wouldn't be seen nowadays, here are my own photos of lions in ancient or prehistoric Arabian art, from Saudi Arabia or Yemen: 

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Additionally, one can see a lion-like figure amongst the animals in this piece of rock art, similar to what is depicted here (http://saudi-archaeology.com/subjects/lion/): 

*This image is copyright of its original author

About the Greek or Roman-looking lion figures in the middle, one should bear in mind that the ancient Greeks (https://snarla.wordpress.com/2007/08/31/arabian-lions/) and Romans had contact with the Arabs, and the Romans even ruled a northwestern section of the Arabian Peninsula as part of what was known as "Arabia Petræa" (https://www.unrv.com/provinces/arabia.php, https://www.britannica.com/place/Arabia-Petraea).
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Thought this is interesting a cape lion in the Antwerp zoo


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Source: https://www.akpool.de/ansichtskarten/27688470-ansichtskarte-postkarte-antwerpen-anvers-flandern-jardin-zoologique-lion-du-cap
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(05-13-2019, 11:15 PM)BorneanTiger Wrote: Iran wants to bring back the Asiatic lion to its wilderness, and it already has a captive male at Tehran Zoological Park, but considering what the situation is with the cheetah there, I wonder how they'll manage? https://en.mehrnews.com/news/144891/Will...nce-pushed

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A female is set to join this male: https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/436578/...on-in-Iran
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United States Pckts Online
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So, about 80 years after the extinction of milk in Iran, for the first time, an Iranian lion was transferred to Tehran in collaboration with the EEP extinction threats, the European Institute of Zoos, EAZA and the Tehran Zoo.

Finding a lion in a northwest of Dezful in 1941 by an Indian surveyor is one of the latest reports of lion sight in Iran. In the same years, Iranian milk was completely eliminated from the nature of the country due to its unbridled hunting, shrinkage of its habitat and destruction of its prey. To make

Before the complete extinction, a number of lions who were the symbol of the power of courage were presented to foreign counterparts by Iranian kings.

This is the lion's remnant of lions made by the Qajar kings to the Queen of England and European kings.

The name of this six-year-old milk, which is a purely pure Iranian lion, has been eradicated.
An Iranian lion, a four-year-old woman called Hilda, is being transferred from Dublin to Tehran on Wednesday.

To this end, a standard place has been established with the supervision of the aforementioned institutes in the Tehran Zoo.

This action has been taken to promote the culture of conservation of valuable species and to preserve the valuable Iranian lion's genetic reserve.

Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency, despite the assistance of international organizations for the transfer of Iranian milk to the country, has no plans to use this capacity and re-introducing such valuable to the nature of the country.

Iranian Environment Watch



Film Two days ago # Kamran Iranian Iranian Lion Zoo # Bristol # UK along with her brother
? Photo # Kamran The Iranian breast of the British Bristol Zoo, along with his brother in 2013, is very difficult to eat, after eight years of living together.
And the beautiful pictures of Kamran in the garden
Bristol Beast of England ♦ ️ We just hope that there is no experience of bad life in Iran. After 80 years, this Persian heritage heritage, the Iranian Environment Watch


Iranian Milk Material also arrives in Tehran / Hirman and Ilda will soon get acquainted

After the Iranian male lion named Hirman entered the Tehran Zoo in the middle of May, two days ago an Iranian lion named Ilda arrived in Tehran. (The first is the female milk and the second is male milk.) This Iranian milk ingredient, four years old and called Ilda, has been sent to Tehran from the Irish Dublin Zoo.

According to Dr Iman Memarian, veterinarian and director of the Tehran Eram Zomor, the place of Hirman and Ilda are now separate from each other, but they are introduced to each other for another month.

So, 80 years after the extinction of lion in Iran, for the first time, an Iranian lion and an Iranian lion milk were transmitted to the Tehran Zoo in collaboration with the EEP Endangered Species Program, the European Institute of Zoos, the EAZA.

These lions are the survivors of lions made by the Qajar kings to the Queen of England and the European kings.

To this end, a standard place has been established with the supervision of the aforementioned institutes in the Tehran Zoo.

Unfortunately, despite the assistance of international organizations for the transfer of Iranian milk to the country, there is no plan to use this capacity and re-introducing such a valuable item to the nature of the country.

Iranian milk called Panthera leo persica is under the guise of lions, which is now found only in wildlife in Gujarat, India, but there are a number of these subspecies in different zoos.

The Iranian lion has lived in the plains of our country in the past with a great deal of population, and it is considered a national symbol of Iranians.

There are reports of lion sight in the middle of the twentieth century. Finding a lion in 1941, 64 kilometers north of Dezful, by a British Indian surveyor, is one of the last reports of lion sight in Iran, and probably several years later, there were several lions in Iran.

Ultimately, Iranian livelihoods are completely eliminated from the nature of the country due to over-hunting, shrinking habitat and destroying its prey.

Iranian Environment Watch
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"Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not, and a sense of humor was provided to console him for what he is."
-Oscar Wilde
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United Arab Emirates BorneanTiger Offline
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The mother's name 'Khalilah' is Arabic indeed, but did they check the genes of the parents of the new cubs at Dvur Kralove's Safari Park in the Czech Republic, or is the name of the Barbary lion a marketing brand for them? These cubs are nevertheless cute: https://www.apnews.com/6f5660f5a939403fb5b60e77b3ff1d76https://www.reuters.com/article/us-czech...SKCN1U410Khttps://en.annahar.com/article/994684-2-...kle/450994 

AP:

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United Kingdom Sully Offline
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( This post was last modified: 07-22-2019, 08:06 PM by Sully )

Successful lion reintroduction in Akagera national park, with a tripling in population from the 7 originally released

https://twitter.com/AfricanParks/status/...04161?s=19
"When the tiger stalks the jungle like the lowering clouds of a thunderstorm, the leopard moves as silently as mist drifting on a dawn wind." -Indian proverb
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United Arab Emirates BorneanTiger Offline
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(05-24-2019, 06:09 PM)Lycaon Wrote: Thought this is interesting a cape lion in the Antwerp zoo


*This image is copyright of its original author


Source: https://www.akpool.de/ansichtskarten/27688470-ansichtskarte-postkarte-antwerpen-anvers-flandern-jardin-zoologique-lion-du-cap

For others also, here are more pictures and information regarding the "black-maned" Cape lion of South Africa, which had such an extensive mane that it covered the belly, like the Barbary lion of the Maghreb (Northwest Africa): https://wildfact.com/forum/topic-lions-i...6#pid89856
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See what was posted about lions and tigers at Hagenbeck Zoo in Germany: https://wildfact.com/forum/topic-lions-i...2#pid90122
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United Arab Emirates BorneanTiger Offline
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A white cub, among others, got rescued from an illegal trafficker in my country: https://wildfact.com/forum/topic-bigcats...5#pid90615
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(08-10-2018, 07:41 PM)BorneanTiger Wrote: Before 2017, the following were recognised as subspecies (Heptner and Sludskiy: https://archive.org/stream/mammalsofsov2...4/mode/2up, Wozencraft: http://www.departments.bucknell.edu/biol...d=14000228, and Haas et al.: https://web.archive.org/web/201707281311...ra_leo.pdf): 

1) 1758: The nominate subspecies, the Barbary lion (Panthera leo leo) in North Africa 

Photo by Nelson Robinson, the New York Zoological Society, 1897 (https://archive.org/stream/annualreporto...#page/n141

*This image is copyright of its original author


2) 1826: the Persian lion (Panthera leo persica) in Asia, and the Senegal lion (Panthera leo senegalensis) in West Africa 

Photo of an Asiatic lion in Natureinfocus.com (https://hive.natureinfocus.in/photo_sharing/royal-walk/

*This image is copyright of its original author


Photo of a Senegal lion by Panthera (http://am1070theanswer.com/news/entertai...icas-lions

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3) 1842: The Cape lion (Panthera leo melanochaita) in the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa 

Photo by an unknown photographer in Jardin des Plantes, Paris, circa 1860 (https://books.google.dk/books?id=15AsyQ8...&q&f=false

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4) 1843: The Nubian lion (Panthera leo nubica) in Northeast Africa (treated as belonging to the Barbary subspecies by Wozencraft, and the Masai subspecies by Haas et al.), and the Gambian lion (Panthera leo gambianus) in West Africa (treated as belonging to the Senegalese subspecies by Wozencraft and Haas et al.

Photo of a young Nubian lion in the New York Zoological Gardens by Elwin Sanborn (https://archive.org/stream/annualreportn...9/mode/1up

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Photo of a Gambian lion in BookAllSafaris (https://www.bookallsafaris.com/sam-s-tou...ark-gambia

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5) 18911964: The Somali lion (Panthera leo somaliensis or Panthera leo webbiensis) in the Horn of Africa (treated as belonging to the Barbary subspecies by Wozencraft, and the Masai subspecies by Haas et al.

Photo of a lion in the Horn of Africa by Feisal Omar of Reuters (https://www.businessinsider.com/the-self...of-china-1

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6) 18921895: The Masai lion (Panthera leo massaica) in East Africa 

Photo of a Masai lion by Alison Buttigieg (http://www.alisonbuttigieg.com/border_galleries/lions/

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7) 1900: The Kilimanjaro lion (Panthera leo sabakiensis) in East Africa (treated as belonging to the Masai subspecies by Wozencraft and Haas et al.), and the Cameroon lion (Panthera leo kampzi) in Cameroon or West-Central Africa (treated as belonging to the Senegalese subspecies by Haas et al., and as a subspecies of its own by Wozencraft) 

Photo of a Kenyan lion in front of Mount Kilimanjaro by Stuart Abraham of Alamy (https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-male-l...71851.html

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Photo of a Cameroon lion by photo316 (https://www.flickr.com/photos/29844852@N06/2790086463

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8) 1913: The Ugandan lion (Panthera leo nyanzæ) in East Africa (treated as belonging to the Masai subspecies by Haas et al., and as a subspecies of its own by Wozencraft) 

Photo in the website of Marianah Tourist Hotel (https://marianahthotel.wordpress.com/saf...onal-park/

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9) 1914: The Katanga lion (Panthera leo bleyenberghi) in what is now southern D R Congo and Southwest Africa, the Sotik lion (Panthera leo hollisteri) in what is now Kenya in East Africa (treated as belonging to the Masai subspecies by Haas et al., and as a subspecies of its own by Wozencraft), and the Ethiopian lion (Panthera leo roosevelti) in Northeast Africa (treated as belonging to the Masai subspecies by Haas et al. and Wozencraft)

Photo of a Namibian lion by Minden (https://www.mindenpictures.com/search/pr...09167.html

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Stuffed Sotik lion shot by US President Theodore Roosevelt, photo by Jayne Orenstein in The Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/spea...ad97648320

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Ethiopian lion in Bale Mountains National Park, video by the National Geographic (https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017...d-species/)

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10) 1924: The Congolese lion (Panthera leo azandica) in the northeastern part of what is now D R Congo 

Photo by Adrian Treves (https://savevirunga.com/2012/07/02/1-000...irunga-10/

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11) 1929: The Transvaal lion (Panthera leo krugeri) in what is now the Greater Kruger or Transvaal region of South Africa, and Southeast Africa  

Photo of a Kruger lion by Bernard Dupont (https://www.flickr.com/photos/berniedup/16757912564/

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12) 1945: The Kalahari lion (Panthera leo vernayi) in Southwest Africa (treated as belonging to the Transvaal subspecies by Haas et al.

Photo by Alison Buttigieg (http://www.alisonbuttigieg.com/border_galleries/lions/

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In 2017, the Cat Classification Taskforce of the Cat Specialist Group (Pages 7173: https://repository.si.edu/bitstream/hand...sAllowed=y) revised lion subspecies. They recognised lions in Asia and Northern, Western and Central Africa as belonging to the subspecies Panthera leo leo, and those in Eastern and Southern Africa as belonging to the subspecies Panthera leo melanochaita, but there is a problem, the 2 subspecies appear to overlap in the Northeast African country of Ethiopia, which would mean that Ethiopian lions (formerly Panthera leo roosevelti or Felis leo roosevelti, in honor of the US President Theodore Roosevelt (https://archive.org/stream/smithsonianmi...3/mode/2up), but also treated as belonging to the Masai subspecies by Haas et al. and Wozencraft) are neither purely Panthera leo leo nor Panthera leo melanochaita, but a mixture (Panthera leo leo × Panthera leo melanochaita or Panthera leo leo + Panthera leo melanochaita), and the Cat Specialist Group put a question mark over the Horn of Africa in Page 72: 

Credit: the Cat Specialist Group 

Ethiopian lions have been in the news for their genetic makeup before. In 2012, Bruche et al. (https://link.springer.com/article/10.100...012-0668-5) had tested them, and found them to be genetically different to other lions. 

Photo of a captive Ethiopian lion at Addis Abeba Zoo in an article by ZeHabesha (https://www.zehabesha.com/ethiopias-iron...ding-fast/

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See this new thread that I have made to list the genetic or taxonomic 'headaches' for the CSG's revision of subspecies of felids like the lion, such as the confusing situation regarding lions in Central and Northeast Africa: https://wildfact.com/forum/topic-genetic...7#pid90827
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http://theconversation.com/sneaky-lions-...tterbutton

Sneaky lions in Zambia are moving across areas thought uninhabitable for them                               

Zambia, a country in southeast Africa, has approximately 1,200 lions, one of the largest lion populations on the continent. More than 40% of the U-shaped country is protected land, with over 120,000 square miles of national parks, sanctuaries and game management areas for lions to roam.

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Zambia’s lion populations benefit from lots of protected lands. Curry et al., PLOS ONE 2019, CC BY-ND
Zambian lions are split into two subpopulations, with one in the Greater Kafue Ecosystem in the west and the other in the Luangwa Valley Ecosystem in the east. Between these two geographically different regions lies Lusaka, Zambia’s largest city, which is surrounded by farmland.
People had assumed that the two groups of lions did not – even could not – mix. After all, they’re separated by a geographical barrier: the two regions feature different habitats, with the east an offshoot of the Great Rift Valley system and the west part of the southern savannas. The lions are also separated by what’s called an anthropogenic barrier: a big city that lacks wildlife protection, making it seemingly unsuitable for lions.
So my colleagues and I were surprised when we found that a small number of lions are in fact moving across the area in between presumed to be uninhabitable by lions. These sneaky lions – and their mating habits – are causing the high levels of genetic diversity we found in the entire Zambian lion population.
Identifying which genes are where
Working with the Zambian Wildlife Authority, biologist Paula White collected hundreds of biological samples from lions across Zambia between 2004 and 2012. Eventually a box of this hair, skin, bone and tissue, meticulously packaged and labeled with collection notes and sampling locations, arrived at my lab at Texas A&M University.

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Unwrapping African samples in a Texas lab. Caitlin J. Curry, CC BY-ND
Our goal was to investigate genetic diversity and the movement of various genes across Zambia by extracting and analyzing DNA from the lion samples.
From 409 lions found inside and outside of protected lands, I looked at two kinds of genes, mitochondrial and nuclear. You inherit mitochondrial DNA only from your mom, while you inherit nuclear DNA from both of your parents. Because of these differences, mitochondrial and nuclear genes can tell different genetic stories that, when combined, paint a more complete picture of how a population behaves.

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Both nuclear (left) and mitochondrial (right) analyses show two genetically distinct Zambian lion subpopulations. Photo by Wade Lambert, diagram by Caitlin J. Curry, CC BY-ND
My mitochondrial analysis verified that, genetically, there are two isolated subpopulations of lions in Zambia, one in the east and one in the west. However, by also looking at the nuclear genes, we found evidence that small numbers of lions are moving across the “unsuitable” habitat. Including nuclear genes provided a more complex picture that tells us not only which lions were moving but also where.
Genes on the move as lions roam
The amount of variation from alternate forms of genes found within a population is known as genetic diversity. Genetic diversity is important for a wildlife population because more genetic options give animals a greater chance for adaptation in a changing environment. Genetic diversity can also tell biologists about ways a population can fluctuate.
To a geneticist, migration, also referred to as gene flow, is the movement of genes from one geographical place to another. Mitochondrial DNA, inherited from the mother, can only tell researchers where genes from mom have been.
In the lion mating system, males travel long distances to find new prides, while females remain in or close to the pride they were born in. So, for the lion, it’s primarily males that are responsible for the movement of genes between prides. This male-mediated gene flow explains the lack of gene flow seen in mitochondrial genes compared to that of nuclear genes – female lions aren’t making the journey, but they do mate with new males who come from far away.
Male-mediated gene flow has helped keep the lions of Zambia genetically healthy, increasing genetic diversity by introducing new genes to new areas as male lions move between subpopulations. The eastern and western subpopulations each have high levels of genetic diversity; since only a few lions move between the groups each generation, the subpopulations stay genetically distinct.

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How genetically similar are individual lions? Represented by dots, individuals clustered together share more genes than those far apart. Lion dots are colored based on which national park they were found in. Curry et al, PLOS ONE, 2019, CC BY-ND
My colleagues and I were also able to determine where the lions are moving based on which individuals are more genetically similar to each other. Lions in the North and South Luangwa National Parks, part of the eastern subpopulation, appear completely separated from the western subpopulation. Gene flow is occurring through the southern regions of the eastern subpopulation.
Lions are most likely traveling a route between the Lower Zambezi National Park and eastern corridor to the Kafue National Park in the west, possibly along the Kafue River. We can’t tell which way they’re moving, but by looking at where lions are more closely related, we can see where genes are being moved.

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It’s male lions that travel to find new prides. Paula White, CC BY-ND
Lion data can help manage wildlife overall
Human-lion conflict is a big issue in Zambia, particularly outside of protected land. If lions were moving across human dominated areas, you’d think they’d be seen and reported. But these lions are sneaking through virtually undetected – until we look at their genes.
As a large, charismatic carnivore, lion research and conservation influences many other species that share their habitat.
Wildlife managers can use these findings to help with lion conservation and other wildlife management in and around Zambia. Now that we generally know where lions are moving, managers can focus on these areas to find the actual route the big cats are taking and work to maintain or even increase how many lions can move across these areas. One of the ways of doing this is by creating more protected land, like corridors, to better connect suitable habitat.
"When the tiger stalks the jungle like the lowering clouds of a thunderstorm, the leopard moves as silently as mist drifting on a dawn wind." -Indian proverb
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United Arab Emirates BorneanTiger Offline
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(10-01-2019, 04:12 AM)Sully Wrote: http://theconversation.com/sneaky-lions-...tterbutton

Sneaky lions in Zambia are moving across areas thought uninhabitable for them                               

Zambia, a country in southeast Africa, has approximately 1,200 lions, one of the largest lion populations on the continent. More than 40% of the U-shaped country is protected land, with over 120,000 square miles of national parks, sanctuaries and game management areas for lions to roam.

*This image is copyright of its original author


Zambia’s lion populations benefit from lots of protected lands. Curry et al., PLOS ONE 2019, CC BY-ND
Zambian lions are split into two subpopulations, with one in the Greater Kafue Ecosystem in the west and the other in the Luangwa Valley Ecosystem in the east. Between these two geographically different regions lies Lusaka, Zambia’s largest city, which is surrounded by farmland.
People had assumed that the two groups of lions did not – even could not – mix. After all, they’re separated by a geographical barrier: the two regions feature different habitats, with the east an offshoot of the Great Rift Valley system and the west part of the southern savannas. The lions are also separated by what’s called an anthropogenic barrier: a big city that lacks wildlife protection, making it seemingly unsuitable for lions.
So my colleagues and I were surprised when we found that a small number of lions are in fact moving across the area in between presumed to be uninhabitable by lions. These sneaky lions – and their mating habits – are causing the high levels of genetic diversity we found in the entire Zambian lion population.
Identifying which genes are where
Working with the Zambian Wildlife Authority, biologist Paula White collected hundreds of biological samples from lions across Zambia between 2004 and 2012. Eventually a box of this hair, skin, bone and tissue, meticulously packaged and labeled with collection notes and sampling locations, arrived at my lab at Texas A&M University.

*This image is copyright of its original author


Unwrapping African samples in a Texas lab. Caitlin J. Curry, CC BY-ND
Our goal was to investigate genetic diversity and the movement of various genes across Zambia by extracting and analyzing DNA from the lion samples.
From 409 lions found inside and outside of protected lands, I looked at two kinds of genes, mitochondrial and nuclear. You inherit mitochondrial DNA only from your mom, while you inherit nuclear DNA from both of your parents. Because of these differences, mitochondrial and nuclear genes can tell different genetic stories that, when combined, paint a more complete picture of how a population behaves.

*This image is copyright of its original author


Both nuclear (left) and mitochondrial (right) analyses show two genetically distinct Zambian lion subpopulations. Photo by Wade Lambert, diagram by Caitlin J. Curry, CC BY-ND
My mitochondrial analysis verified that, genetically, there are two isolated subpopulations of lions in Zambia, one in the east and one in the west. However, by also looking at the nuclear genes, we found evidence that small numbers of lions are moving across the “unsuitable” habitat. Including nuclear genes provided a more complex picture that tells us not only which lions were moving but also where.
Genes on the move as lions roam
The amount of variation from alternate forms of genes found within a population is known as genetic diversity. Genetic diversity is important for a wildlife population because more genetic options give animals a greater chance for adaptation in a changing environment. Genetic diversity can also tell biologists about ways a population can fluctuate.
To a geneticist, migration, also referred to as gene flow, is the movement of genes from one geographical place to another. Mitochondrial DNA, inherited from the mother, can only tell researchers where genes from mom have been.
In the lion mating system, males travel long distances to find new prides, while females remain in or close to the pride they were born in. So, for the lion, it’s primarily males that are responsible for the movement of genes between prides. This male-mediated gene flow explains the lack of gene flow seen in mitochondrial genes compared to that of nuclear genes – female lions aren’t making the journey, but they do mate with new males who come from far away.
Male-mediated gene flow has helped keep the lions of Zambia genetically healthy, increasing genetic diversity by introducing new genes to new areas as male lions move between subpopulations. The eastern and western subpopulations each have high levels of genetic diversity; since only a few lions move between the groups each generation, the subpopulations stay genetically distinct.

*This image is copyright of its original author


How genetically similar are individual lions? Represented by dots, individuals clustered together share more genes than those far apart. Lion dots are colored based on which national park they were found in. Curry et al, PLOS ONE, 2019, CC BY-ND
My colleagues and I were also able to determine where the lions are moving based on which individuals are more genetically similar to each other. Lions in the North and South Luangwa National Parks, part of the eastern subpopulation, appear completely separated from the western subpopulation. Gene flow is occurring through the southern regions of the eastern subpopulation.
Lions are most likely traveling a route between the Lower Zambezi National Park and eastern corridor to the Kafue National Park in the west, possibly along the Kafue River. We can’t tell which way they’re moving, but by looking at where lions are more closely related, we can see where genes are being moved.

*This image is copyright of its original author


It’s male lions that travel to find new prides. Paula White, CC BY-ND
Lion data can help manage wildlife overall
Human-lion conflict is a big issue in Zambia, particularly outside of protected land. If lions were moving across human dominated areas, you’d think they’d be seen and reported. But these lions are sneaking through virtually undetected – until we look at their genes.
As a large, charismatic carnivore, lion research and conservation influences many other species that share their habitat.
Wildlife managers can use these findings to help with lion conservation and other wildlife management in and around Zambia. Now that we generally know where lions are moving, managers can focus on these areas to find the actual route the big cats are taking and work to maintain or even increase how many lions can move across these areas. One of the ways of doing this is by creating more protected land, like corridors, to better connect suitable habitat.

Almost a coincidence, yesterday, I came across this article on the Southeast African country of Zambia being a bridge between different populations of Southern lions (Panthera leo melanochaita) in Eastern and Southern Africa.
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