Distinctive Lions Will Live Better Lives Thanks to Genetic Testing
Scientists thought there was something different about the fifteen lions living in the rundown Addis Ababa Lion Zoo. The male lions living in the Ethiopian zoo have large, dark brown manes that extend down their chests through their front legs, down their backs below
their shoulders and the length of their belly through the groin. These male lions are also smaller in body size than their cousins from eastern and southern Africa. These distinguishing features in the Addis Ababa Lions made the biologists think this group of lions are distinctive, and in fact, made them wonder if they could be the relatives of an extinct lion subspecies.
It had been speculated that the Addis Ababa lions might be the last pure relatives of North African Barbary lions or South African Cape lions, both subspecies now extinct. Or could these 15 lions be a completely genetically distinctive population of lion?
The lions are descended from a private collection of the last Ethiopian ruler, Emperor Haile Selassie, who captured their ancestors from the wild and brought them to his palaces in the 1940′s. Today, these lions live in the same holding pens as the first lions captured, only now the zoo is in poor condition and the lions are lacking proper nutrition, and inadequate space.
Addis Lion zookeepers became so overwhelmed caring for the lions that they reached out to their German “sister city” Leipzig, for help. Vets from the Leipzig zoo traveled to Ethiopia to check the health status of the lions. While examining the lions, a team of vets took blood samples for genetic investigations for an international breeding program in case the results confirmed these lions are their own subspecies or perhaps their own genetic construction.
by Joanne McGonagle
Richard Turere’s “Lion Lights” Save Lives
Maasai, Richard took over the responsibility for herding and safeguarding his family’s livestock when he was only 9 years old. One of the threats to his family’s cattle, sheep and goats is the presence of African lions when they wander out of Nairobi National Park following the path of zebra and other prey animals searching for savannah grasses.
Richard grew up hating lions because at night, lions would sneak in and kill the family’s livestock while the boy was sleeping. Determined to protect the families valuable livestock, Richard knew he had to think of a way to help him protect his animals from lion attacks.
Richard first built a fire, but realized even though the lions are afraid of fire, they were not afraid to go around the fire and snatch up a meal and in fact their path was made easier by the light of the fire. Richard then tried to place a scarecrow to fool the lions into thinking that he was guarding his cattle, but this only worked for one night. Richard said, the lions are very clever, so when they returned the second night, they must have realized this scarecrow is not moving and so were no longer intimidated.
Male and Female Lions Hunt Using Different Strategies
I t has long been thought that male lions did not hunt, but rather were dependent on the lioness’s hunting prowess to sustain the pride. A study recently published in the March 2013 issue of Animal Behaviour discusses how researchers used airborne Light Detection and Ranging (LDAR) measurements of vegetation structure in Kruger National Park, and combined a global positioning system (GPS) telemetry data on lion kills to quantify lines-of-sight where lion kills occurred as compared to where lions rested. What they found was significant differences in use of vegetation structure by male and female lions during hunts.
Males Ambush and Females Work as Team
Circuses End Performing Lions and Tigers in the United Kingdom
Big changes are underway under the Big Top in the United Kingdom. Traveling circuses have started their season but for the first time no circus will be entertaining the crowd with performing big cats. The Great British Circus was the last show to feature tigers doing tricks and they sent their cats to an operator in Ireland just in time before the new animal welfare regulations became active last month.
The Victorian era ushered in circuses with performing elephants, lions and tigers on tour. The last time the circuses toured without exotic animals was around 1768 when the first modern circus entertained the spectators with horses and riders performing daring feats. Wild animals did not debut in the circus until after the British empire expanded in the 19th century. Wild animals were captured and brought back to be put on display at a time when the average person had little chance of seeing a live lion, tiger or elephant let alone watch them performing tricks.
Over the last couple hundred years, our world is a very different place. We have access to learning about and seeing lions, tigers and elephants from many sources, whether that be a zoological park, a sanctuary, learning via the internet or nature programs on television. We also know more about the big cats that share our world and most people are concerned about how they are treated and find physical abuse unacceptable in modern society.
The African Lion needs our help.
Hope for Lions through Protection
Some of you might remember when we talked about The African Lion Hope through Protection last year. If so, you might remember that on March 1, 2011, an alliance of wildlife protection and conservation groups petitioned the Secretary of the Interior to list the African lion as an endangered subspecies pursuant to the United States Endangered Species Act (ESA). These groups included Born Free USA and Born Free Foundation, Defenders of Wildlife, The Fund for Animals, Humane Society International and The Humane Society of the United States and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
The USA is the world’s largest importer of sport-hunted African Lion trophies
The United States is the world’s largest importer of African lion parts, for hunting trophies and for commercial use. From 1999 and 2008, 7090 lions from a wild source were traded internationally for recreational hunting purposes. Most of these lions, 64% of the total, were imported to the United States. Even though there has been a continuous population and range decline for the lion, the United States lion trophy imports have increased. Imports in 2008 were larger than any other year in the decade and twice the 1999 number. The Endangered Species Listing would make a significant difference to crackdown the trophy trade. A listing under the ESA would put strict controls on the import of lion “trophies” by Americans, and would ban the commercial trade of lion parts in the United States.
African Lions are the ONLY big cat not protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act!
On November 26, 2012, the U.S. government issued a favorable finding that a listing may be warranted, but before making a final decision, they’ve allowed for a 60 day public comment period. They want to hear from you. African lions are the only big cat not protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
Take Action! Please add your signature and comment in favor of the ESA listing for the African Lion now!
The Story of Sikiria
Last year we posted a survey about African lions and asked you to tell us which lion caught your eye and why. For those of you that participated in the survey, you might remember the short story of Sikiria that was part of the survey question.
Here is the excerpt from the survey:
The Lion Guardians have been extraordinarily successful at stopping lion killing. This program is one of the first in East Africa that combines traditional knowledge with modern scientific techniques.
In order to learn more about the African lion, a radio collar is attached to track each lion’s movement. Once a lion is given a collar, the Lion Guardians give the lion a Maasai name.
The names usually reference either a physical characteristic or a behavior unique to that particular lion. For example, one lion was given the name Sikiria, which means “he of the donkey”. This name was given to him because he liked to eat donkeys. This name and telling of stories about him helps diffuse the anger and retaliation from the Maasai when Sikiria goes looking for a donkey. Now watchful eyes can keep Sikiria out of trouble and the donkeys safe by relaying messages about Sikiria’s location. It is also much easier to forgive behavior when you know the name of the lion and their unique traits.
The Lion Guardians named him “he of the donkeys”
Happy New Year!
In 2011, we threw out making resolutions and decided that in 2012 we wanted to focus on gratitude. One of the things we are grateful for are stories of positive change, of hope and of a spirit that remind each and every one of us that changes, however small can and do make a difference. The Maasai and The Lion Guardians are a shining example of how an idea sparked change and is bringing hope for the African Lion.
Even though Kenya’s Masai Mara is a protected area, it doesn’t mean that our big cat cousins don’t get into trouble. Recently a young lion cub got himself into a life threatening predicament when he slipped over the edge and was clinging for survival on a cliff wall above a ravine. The cub’s mother’s love and determination to save him was captured by photographer Jean-Francois Lagrot.
The lion cub hangs on for dear life on the side of a cliff while his mother contemplates how to rescue her son.
Are you afraid of the dark? Has your heart raced and your imagination conjured up images of creatures lurking in
the black of night? Have you tried to overcome your fear with logic and reason but you still have an instinctive nagging voice that sparks your heart to race and your mouth to go dry when things go bump in the night?
Does your feeling of restlessness increase with the onset of the full moon? If so, it probably doesn’t help that the words lunatic and lunacy have their origins in the word lunar. Throughout human history, people around the world have been bewitched by the moon. Myths about the moon persist to this day even though the science doesn’t back up the claims. The belief that werewolves change into their canine incarnations when the moon is full certainly adds to the myth and I bet you will find folks that swear the full moon leads to more aggressive behavior and crime.
Friends, did you know that you can identify a lion from the whisker spots that are found in rows on each side of the face? We learned that we can also identify a male lion by his mane in our post Lion Guardians Give Each Lion a Maasai Name, but a mane can change throughout the lion’s life depending upon age and health. Only the whisker spots remain unchanged throughout a lion’s life.
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