Thursday, August 28, 2014
'Lion survival in Central and North India difficult'.
AHMEDABAD: Lions would find it difficult to survive in the hot climate of central and north India, particularly during summers. The climate of these areas has changed over time because of loss of forests, reduced flow of water in streams and rivers during summers, and an increase in maximum temperatures.
These are the views of H S Singh, a former officer of the state forest department who has just been appointed to the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) as a wildlife expert, and also as member of the board's standing committee.
Talking to the Times of India, Singh said that just because lions had existed in central and north India in the past, it does not mean that they can survive in these areas even today despite the change in climatic conditions.
"For introduction of the lion, the habitat of such areas should be examined in the present context of changed climate and also the changing environment. The guidelines of the IUCN Species Survival Commission clearly mention that the new habitat should be evaluated in the background of change in temperature likely in the future due to global warming," said Singh.
Kuno-Palpur used to have lions for nearly five centuries - between years 1350 and 1850. But the climate then was much cooler in comparison, so much so that this period is termed the 'mild ice-age'. Now, temperatures in Madhya Pradesh often rise beyond 45 degree Celsius and this is not conducive to the survival of the big cats, he said.
Singh further said that Agriculture University, Junagadh, has recorded the monthly mean minimum temperatures of the coldest month (January) for the past 26 years (1987 to 2009). According to the data gathered by the university, the mean minimum temperature for January had varied from 11.3 degree Celsius to 14.2 degree Celsius while the mean maximum temperature of the hottest months (April-May) varied from 36.1 to 41.2 degree Celsius. On the other hand, in Kuno-Palpur (which is in central India), the maximum temperatures have touched even 50 degree Celsius.
"Apart from the technical aspect, translocation would have a negative impact on conservation efforts in Gir. The people of Gir have conserved lions for the past 40 years with the help of the forest department. The people here take pride in the presence of lions in their area. Translocation of the lions for 20 years would have a negative impact on the social structure in Gir and also in the prides from which the lions would be chosen for shifting," said Singh.
On Kuno-Palpur having a presence of tigers, Singh said: "I personally feel that when the area is already accepted as an important tiger territory, why shift the lions to the same area? In fact, some plans should be made for tiger conservation in Kuno."
On whether lions and tigers could co-exist, Singh said that it is difficult to say anything on this topic as the habitat of the two big cats is different. "Lions prefer open forest, savannah-type regions which are also shared by human beings. In the case of tigers, it is other way round. In the past also, the two have existed in the same region but did not share the same habitat," he said.
Singh further said that if translocation does takes place, there should be no eco-tourism in Kuno-Palpur in the initial years. "Constant interaction with human beings visiting the area will not allow the lions to settle down in the new environment," he said.