Lions to Live Better Lives Thanks to Genetic Testing

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

Lion Addis Lion Zoo

Male Lion in the Addis Ababa Lion Zoo

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.

[Read more…]