Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ethiopian lions

The Ethiopian lion is depicted on the country's flag and currency as symbolic of Haile Selassie I (1892–1975). Now there is proof, through DNA analysis, that 15 offspring of lions from the emperor's private menagerie are genetically distinct from other lions. The Ethiopian lion in the flesh - of which there may be less than a few hundred - is distinguished by a dark mane and a more compact frame than other African lions. The lions in the Addis Ababa Zoo (video here) are the direct descendants of a group of 7 males and 2 females taken from the wild in 1948. “We therefore believe the Addis Ababa lions should be treated as a distinct conservation management unit and are urging immediate conservation actions, including a captive breeding programme, to preserve this unique lion population,” says researcher Michael Hofreiter of the University of York. The goal is to conserve lions in general, since their numbers have dwindled and the 2 populations that shared the dark brown mane of the Ethiopian lion have already gone extinct in the wild. “A great amount of genetic diversity in lions has most likely already been lost, largely due to human influences. Every effort should be made to preserve as much of the lion's genetic heritage as possible,” says Susann Bruche of Imperial College London, lead author of the study published in the European Journal of Wildlife Research.
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