Thursday, April 25, 2013


Sunday , April 21 , 2013

The Gir lion is emblematic not just of the state of Gujarat. It is also the pride of India. The lions in the Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary are the last of the species called panthera leo persica and there are only around 400 of them left. For decades now these lions have been nurtured and looked after in the Gir National Park. The lion is not indigenous to India. According to one theory, lions from Persia and Africa first started being imported into India some 2000 years ago; the import increased with the demand for lions among Indian royals. It should be mentioned in contradistinction to the above theory that there are differences between the African lion and those found in Gir. The latter has a sparser mane, for example. The breeding of the Gir lion in India began in the 19th century. This was done under the direct patronage of the nawab of Junagadh under whose territory fell large tracts of the Gir forest. Apart from their dwindling numbers — in fact, they were retrieved from near extinction by the aforementioned nawab and the Gujarat state government — and their uniqueness there are certain other features that make the lions in the Gir National Park very distinctive. Observers have noted that the lions in the park are remarkably tame. This is probably related to the fact that for decades the lions have been intensely managed by human beings. They often behave like giant dogs and ignore the available cover. All these factors suggest that these lions need to be preserved.
It is, however, increasingly becoming a difficult proposition to preserve the lions in the Gir National Park. For one thing, the sanctuary is no longer large enough for the lion population and the lions are tending to move away from the river towards the sea. Further, it does not make sense to keep the entire species in one enclosed space. An epidemic attacking the lions or a natural disaster affecting the area could wipe out the population or a very large part of it. Environmentalists have been voicing their concern about this for a long time. Finally, a solution has been found. Experts in the Wildlife Institute of India have recommended that some of the lions should be relocated in the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, which, in terms of vegetation and cover, is best suited to be a habitat for lions. The Supreme Court of India has upheld the recommendation and directed that the lions be relocated. This is a major step in the preservation of the panthera leo persica.
The fear that because of this relocation Gujarat will lose some of its tourist traffic is unfounded. The Indian rhinoceros is found in forests like Jaldapara and Gorumara but lovers of wildlife still rush to Kaziranga to see the rhino. Similarly, Gir will remain associated with lions. Moving a pride of them will not diminish Gir’s or Gujarat’s pride. Politics is about human beings — keep lions and animals out of or above it.

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