lions in middle east

in the OT, there are many references to lions in the area around Israel–what happened to them, and when?

People showed up, a person got attacked and or eaten and then everyone else got into a hissy and got their spears/bows and arrows/guns and killed them all.

The Encyclopaedia Judaica says, “There are evidences that there were lions in the country in mishnaic and talmudic and even in crusader times (in the Negev). The last lions in the Middle East were destroyed in the 19th century.” See also : “Lions could still be found in the vicinity of Samaria, Lejun (near Megiddo), Ramla, the area of Nahr (River) Al-Auja and the coastal forests in the early 14th century (Khalaf-von Jaffa, 2001, 2006).”

Leopards survived in Israel longer, the last of them into the 2000s.

As for what happened to them, the short answer is that humans happened to them, same as big cats everywhere.

It might be noted that lions still survived in Greece up until about the 4th Century AD. As in Israel, they were killed off by people.

Lions figure heavily in European myths and stories as well. Also exterminated, in historical times, sometime before the Roman Empire’s penchant for animal fights really got going. The Romans were very influential in exterminating the North African lion, however.

A population of Asian lions exists in India. The population is small, its under lots of stress as habitat shrinks, and the local human population is under a love/hate relationship with this small population, as given by a recent PBS Nature (or Nova, I don’t pay attention) program.

I mention the Asian lions in India because this sub-species is apparently morphologicaly (a small dark mane, for example) and behaviorally (more solitary, for one thing) similar to what the European, Middle Eastern and North African lion was supposed to be like, given descriptions and fossils. And they’re distinct from the African lion.

If Human population is the leading cause for the lions extinction in Europe and Middle-East, then why did they survive in India ? India probably has/had more human population pressure.

Also note that the rate of decline of Lions in India was far more heavier under the British colonial rule. Indian Maharajahs also used to hunt but the British lust for wild blood was unparalleled.

India has (still) vast tracks of forests and jungles and such. The Middle East is at the opposite end of the scale. (Their big forests went away long ago.) Humans and prey concentrate in places like river valleys. So lions go there. It’s a lot easier to wipe out big animals like lions in “linear”, open geography.

In short, the percentage of the land area where a lion could survive is just much, much smaller.

Not really - in some ways India had less population pressure. Until historically recent times, anyway. The reason India as a region had such large populations was much the same as China - large belts of enormously productive farmland, with the massive Gangetic Plain being the by far the largest. But this population density tended to be highly concentrated and India is very geographically diverse. Large swaths of India are quite rugged and were historically only lightly populated.

But beyond that the main reason lions survived in their last Asian stronghold of the Gir forest was due to quasi-feudalism. Which is to say that the Gir preserve was once the massive private hunting park of the local nawab ;). They were a Muslim family who wanted to secede to Pakistan, but that didn’t work out that well for them. The lion population had sunk as low as a dozen at that point. The Indian government deserves some credit for rehabilitating that population to its current ~500.

Okay, now I reckon that the reasoning has changed from population pressure to vegetation pressure.

From Wikipedia - “In Eastern Europe, the lion inhabited part of the Balkan peninsula up to Hungary and Ukraine during the Neolithic period.[25][26] It survived in Bulgaria until the 4th or 3rd century BC, and in mainland Greece until about 100 AD.[22][27] It became extinct in the Peloponnese around 1,000 BC.[2][28] It disappeared from Macedonia around the first century AD, and in Thessaly in the 4th century AD.[25][26][29][30][31] Possibly it survived longer farther south. In the 4th century AD, Themistius regrets that in his time the lion disappeared in Thessaly and no more lions could be furnished for beast-shows.[3][20]“

So even parts of Europe where there was and continued to be forest cover also lost lions.

Forests disappearing and Lions disappearing certainly seems to be related but is human population the cause for both ? What about climate change ? Or disease ?

It’s humans - we don’t tend to tolerate other large apex predators that well. Lions used to live all over the place. Like tigers they had a broad range of habitat tolerance. Unlike tigers they are not solitary. It’s easier to disrupt the long-term successful breeding and hunting behavior of a pack animal. It is likely they require larger quantities of game in a more concentrated area to feed multiple litters and a minimum number of functioning adults in a pride to retain social cohesion for breeding success.

Tigers are actually doing much worse overall( both have been doing just fucking awful in the last couple of decades in particular ), but have managed to hang on across a more geographically expansive area probably in part due to their solitary nature.

There is usually no single cause for extinctions, and you can’t say because one reason was dominant here, another reason couldn’t have been dominant somewhere else.

In general, large predators have disappeared from much of their historic ranges through a combination of human persecution (as a threat to people or livestock or competitors for game), habitat loss (deforestation, conversion to agriculture or pasture), or loss of their wild prey from human hunting. All these causes are due to humans. Climate change may have had some effect in a few places, but hasn’t been a significant cause in historic times. Disease has probably not been a major cause, although canine distemper may affect some populations of predators.

The lion once had one of the largest ranges of any species on Earth, extending from Africa and southern Europe, across most of Asia, and into North America and possibly even reaching South America. The American populations have sometimes been classed as a separate species but were pretty similar.

Agree fully.

Okay - this is the part I don’t understand. We are talking more than 1000 years ago here. Assuming that human activity and the resulting habitat losses would be similar in Europe / Middle - East / India. Why would this result in the disappearance of a animal in all the other places but not in India ?

Lions were being wiped out in India at the same time (19th century) they were disappearing in northern Africa, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, etc. If any survived in the Gir Forest (wiki says about a dozen at the end of the 19th century) then it was due to luck and some conservation efforts; reportedly the Nawab loved animals.

Tamerlane explained why. Special circumstances.

Even if an animal is being wiped out across most of its range it may still survive in small pockets due to fortuitous circumstances. And it is not going to be wiped out uniformly at the same rate across its range. There is ultimately going to be some “last place” where it still survives. The Gir forest happened to be that place for Asia.

Are you seriously questioning that human impact was the major reason for the disappearance of lions outside of Africa? If so, please suggest some alternative hypothesis.

Better firearms, maybe? I wouldn’t want to go up against a lion with a single-shot flintlock.

Again - on the surface this seems to make sense but it does not stands to examination. Muslim rule began in India in the 13th century and Pakistan was created in 1947.

We are talking about the disappearance of lions from Europe a lot lot before then.

Also - human population concentrations around fertile rivers / valleys is the same in Middle East as well as Europe.

So Colibri - what’s the special conditions that led to the survival of the Lions in India but not in Middle East / Europe ?

As I said, Tamerlane has explained them. If those aren’t good enough for you, I can’t help you further.

I think this is the crux of the disconnect. The above assumption is simply incorrect. Land use patterns vary enormously depending on geography and also vary widely through time.

You can do it with a stack of spears, or a bow and arrow, even vs a tiger, which is a larger and more vicious cat. 'Course you do this from the top of an elephant, like any proper mughul. Then again, if you want to get rid of a big cat, you don’t have to be so prosaic – lots of ways to ruin a big cat’s day:

Missed edit window.

effing bird lime? Versus a big cat? Damn, its sometimes creepy to belong to such an evil species as humanity.