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The breeding program for Asiatic lion outside India started in the 1960s. Read about Indian lions breeding programs.

Asiatic Lion Breeding Program

The first effort in respect of Asiatic (Indian) lion breeding program was made as far back as the 1960s. Attempts were made at inter-zoo co-operative breeding. For the purpose, studbooks were organized for the first time to trace out the origin and history of the captive individuals. Thereafter, in the 1970s, breeding program for Asiatic Lions was made more organized as well as controlled. In the year 1981, American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) started the Species Survival Program (SSP), a breeding program for the Indian lions.

The Species Survival Program aimed at handling animals of the same species, lodged at different zoos as a single populace. The genetic and demographic data about the entire population was collected and organized into a studbook. The decisions regarding which animals should breed and with whom were to be taken on the basis of the studbook. On the same basis, it was to be decided whether a particular animal should be removed from the breeding recommendation or from the program itself.

The program started with the management of over 200 Indian lion descendants, which were kept in western zoos. The studbook as well as the management plan was established with a retrospective effect. The entire captive population of Asiatic lion outside India came from only seven founder lions, which were traced to be native to India. The small number of founder lions led to the dangers of inbreeding and the exposure of harmful recessive traits. At the same time, a report by S.J. O'Brien revealed that majority of the captive population was not purely Asiatic also.

The result of the above-mentioned complications was the discontinuance of the Species Survival Program. In the year 1990, European Breeding Program (EEP) was founded. London Zoo imported four purely Asiatic lions (2 males, 2 females) from India. Thereafter, zoos situated in Zurich and Helsinki also received Asiatic lions in 1991 and 1992 respectively. The program was formalized in 1994, with the established of a new studbook. By the end of 1996, the membership of the Asiatic lion EEP had increased to twelve.