Thursday, March 31, 2016

Indian villagers honor presence of Asiatic lions, save them from extinction

Villagers do not blame lions for killing cattle or humans
by Ces Dimalanta
March 26, 2016
(Screen grab from 'Asiatic Lions of Sasan Gir, India' video/ Contemporary Nomad via YouTube)
(Screen grab from ‘Asiatic Lions of Sasan Gir, India’ video/ Contemporary Nomad via YouTube)
From being an endangered species to a pride roaming freely across 8,000 square miles of land in Gujarat, the Asiatic lions are now making a stronger comeback at the Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary. Thanks to the Indian villagers who do not mind living with the wild mammals, the conservation of wildlife became one of the greatest success stories in the world.
Asiatic lions once roamed across the Middle East and northern India but their kind have been cut down to only about 20 by the early 20th century due to the presence of hunters and poachers in the area. By 2005, they were declared as endangered species.
According to a report from TelegraphAsiatic lions owe their survival to the Indian prince, the Gujarat Forest Department (GFD), and the support of local villagers who do not show fear towards the lions.
(Screen grab from 'Sasan Gir -Gir National Park'/ Kathiyawadi Khamir via YouTube)
(Screen grab from ‘Sasan Gir -Gir National Park’/ Kathiyawadi Khamir via YouTube)
The villagers honor the presence of the animals and even mourn them when they die. Humans getting killed by lions do not stir up fear and resentment to their kind. Thus, even farm animals being eaten by lions is not an issue. People even rescue trapped lions, protect, and revere them.
British imperialists and Indian maharajas were reported to have shot India’s remaining lions, except for those residing in Gir, Junagarh as Saheb Sir Muhammad Rasul Khanji II declared Gir a protected area. He took care of the last lions as he himself struggled to find one for the Duke of Clarence to shoot in 1890.
Being succeeded by his son, Sir Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III, the younger ruler also banned all shooting at the protected area of Gir to ensure the lions’ survival.
In 1965, the Gir sanctuary was established with about 170 lions.
The GFD has also invested in conserving the specie, even imposing a 20 kilometer-per-hour speed limit on trains that pass through routes that are visited by lions.
(Screen grab from 'Sasan Gir -Gir National Park'/ Kathiyawadi Khamir via YouTube)
(Screen grab from ‘Sasan Gir -Gir National Park’/ Kathiyawadi Khamir via YouTube)
Rangers, composed mostly of women, are also assisting in keeping the count of the beasts. They track the lions while only being armed with bamboo sticks. They have already brought about 100 lions who have been hurt in fights or traps to treatment centers.
Outside Junagarh, slaughter of animals is also prohibited by emperor Ashoka. Lions were welcomed in their territory to scare off boars, deers, and other animals that pester their crops.
Through the continuous efforts of the sanctuary, GFD, leaders, and local villagers, the Asiatic lions have now grown to over 520 in number and have started to explore neighboring lands which they have roamed years before.


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