European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 59, Issue 2, pp 215–225 | Cite as

A genetically distinct lion (Panthera leo) population from Ethiopia

  • Susann BrucheEmail author
  • Markus Gusset
  • Sebastian Lippold
  • Ross Barnett
  • Klaus Eulenberger
  • Jörg Junhold
  • Carlos A. Driscoll
  • Michael Hofreiter
Original Paper


Lion (Panthera leo) numbers are in serious decline and two of only a handful of evolutionary significant units have already become extinct in the wild. However, there is continued debate about the genetic distinctiveness of different lion populations, a discussion delaying the initiation of conservation actions for endangered populations. Some lions from Ethiopia are phenotypically distinct from other extant lions in that the males possess an extensive dark mane. In this study, we investigated the microsatellite variation over ten loci in 15 lions from Addis Ababa Zoo in Ethiopia. A comparison with six wild lion populations identifies the Addis Ababa lions as being not only phenotypically but also genetically distinct from other lions. In addition, a comparison of the mitochondrial cytochrome b (CytB) gene sequence of these lions to sequences of wild lions of different origins supports the notion of their genetic uniqueness. Our examination of the genetic diversity of this captive lion population shows little effect of inbreeding. Immediate conservation actions, including a captive breeding programme designed to conserve genetic diversity and maintain the lineage, are urgently needed to preserve this unique lion population.


Addis Ababa Captive breeding Cytochrome B Ethiopia Lion Microsatellites Zoo 



We thank Yidnekachew Sahlu from Addis Ababa Zoo for his excellent veterinary and organizational assistance and the Max Planck Society and Leipzig Zoo for financial support. We are grateful for the permit of the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (formerly Wildlife Conservation Department) to obtain and export blood samples of the lions investigated here. We thank Nobuyuki Yamaguchi for his permission to use and modify a figure originally prepared by him (Fig. 2). The authors would also like to thank three anonymous referees for their comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susann Bruche
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Markus Gusset
    • 3
    • 4
  • Sebastian Lippold
    • 2
  • Ross Barnett
    • 5
  • Klaus Eulenberger
    • 3
  • Jörg Junhold
    • 3
  • Carlos A. Driscoll
    • 4
  • Michael Hofreiter
    • 2
    • 6
  1. 1.National Heart and Lung Institute, Faculty of MedicineImperial College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Research Group Molecular EcologyMax Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyLeipzigGermany
  3. 3.Leipzig ZooLeipzigGermany
  4. 4.Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of ZoologyUniversity of OxfordAbingdonUK
  5. 5.Department of ArchaeologyDurham UniversityDurhamUK
  6. 6.Department of BiologyThe University of YorkYorkUK

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