Thursday, August 5, 2010

Can we hear the roar again?

The Asiatic Lion is classified as one of the most endangered mammals in India. There are just 360 of them left in the wild. A disturbing fact, indeed.

Once the king of the forests, today he stands in need of protection. The Asiatic Lion ( Panthera leo persica) or Persian Lion is a subspecies of the lions which survive today only in the Gir Forest of Gujarat. The Asiatic Lion is one of the five major big cats found in India, the others being the Bengal tiger, the Indian leopard, the snow leopard and the clouded leopard. These majestic beasts were prevalent from the Mediterranean to the north-eastern parts of the Indian subcontinent, but excessive hunting, water pollution and decline in natural prey have reduced their habitat.
The minute you say that you are going to visit a forest area in India, almost everyone asks, “Do you get to see the Lion there?”
But we need to realise that in India the Asiatic Lion lives only in the Gir National Park and Sanctuary, Gujarat.
The Asiatic Lion once roamed Asia from Palestine in the West to India in the East. Over the many years they were wiped out throughout their range mainly due to habitat alteration and hunting. In India they were found from Haryana in the north to Baroda in the south and Palamau in the east. However, big game hunting by several kings and British rulers resulted in the disappearance of this king of the beast from many parts of India during the mid 20 {+t} {+h} century.
The British administrators and more importantly, the Nawab of Junagadh state realised that there was a need to protect this carnivore. In 1879, the sixth Nawab of Junagadh state, Mahbatkhanji II ordered strict protection of the lions in his state. After him Mahbatkhanji III and Nawab Rasulkhanji continued the protection by setting up exclusive reserve for lions. Due to their initiative and the protection by the Government of India since then, a single population now thrives in the Gir National Park and Sanctuary and in the surrounding areas in Gujarat. The Asiatic Lion is classified as one of the most endangered mammals in India since there are only about 360 individuals left in the wild.
A crowded home
The Asiatic Lion is a social animal. Generally they live in a small pride comprising one to three males and one to four females with their young ones. Breeding season falls largely between January and June.
The period of gestation is about four months. Generally a female gives birth to two cubs, occasionally three. The Asiatic Lions prey upon spotted deer, sambar, nilgai and several smaller animals and livestock in the Gir forest.
Although the population is stable and increasing in and around the Gir Sanctuary, scientists believe that inbreeding within this small population is a major cause of concern.
They also warn that any fatal outbreak of disease and natural disaster would surely wipe out the only global population of the Asiatic Lion. Being a large carnivore it needs large areas to roam around to fulfil its daily requirements.
The space at Gir is not sufficient to support a large number of lions and also they are surrounded by human habitation.
Hence scientists have recommended the Palpur-Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh as a second home for the Asiatic Lion. This will reduce the pressure among the densely populated Gir lions.
This place was selected because is one of the former ranges of the Asiatic Lions, and has a similar type of forest and prey animals.
The writer is a Coordinator, with the Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore
All pictures by Misha Shukla

Let's count
Scientists use several methods to estimate the population of Asiatic Lion. One interesting method is to recognise them individually by markings on their faces, as well as counting and noting down the arrangement of their whisker-spots. These whisker-spots at the base are prominent and easy to spot with binoculars as well as from photographs. The top two rows of the whisker-spot pattern of a lion are counted and diagrammatically represented in a document. In addition to this, other facial markings are also noted. These markings and whisker-spot patterns differ from one lion to another. By counting the presence or absence of the known and unknown lions, scientists estimate the population in a given area.

It's everywhere
The Asiatic Lion is represented in various forms. The Hindus consider the lion as a Vahan of Durga. It is also represented in many ancient sculptures in Indian temples. It adorns our national emblem — of Ashok Pillar. We can see our lion in the symbol of Reserve Bank of India. And the Government of India has published a series of stamps on the Asiatic Lion.

1 comment:

yogesh apani said...

yes, you are right because today government is protected Gir Lion,but no one can care about that b'coz we proud that one sasn gir forest is one place for Asiatic Lion and we care of them ....