Himanshu Kaushik | TNN | Aug 13, 2016, 11.08 AM IST
AHMEDABAD: Stating that the lion population outside the protected area of Gir Sanctuary has increased by around 400%, the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in its latest report for the year 2016 has raised an alarm that lions in Gujarat are under threat of illegal trade in body parts similar to that of their counterparts in Africa.
The IUCN in its report states that "Asia is home to a single contiguous sub-population in the Indian state of Gujarat. While the population has stabilized inside the Gir reserve, the socalled 'satellite population' in the surrounding countryside has expanded by over 400% in the past 21 years."
On the other hand, the report points out that "lion population in Africa is inferred to have undergone a reduction of approximately 43% over the past 21 years (approximately three lion generations, 1993-2014)". Forest minister Ganpat Vasava said the department will study the IUCN report in depth. "We will initiate whatever action is best needed for conservation of Asiatic lions which are the pride of Gujarat."
The Asiatic lion census in 2015 had shown that there are around 523 lions in Gujarat of which over 168 lions have moved out in un protected parts of Amreli, Bhavnagar, Gir-Somnath, Rajkot and Junagadh districts.
Their actual number is said to be much hig her than the cen sus count. The 1990 census had revealed only 284 lions in Gir and nearby areas, of which around 250 were in the Gir Sanctuary.
The IUCN report states that "illegal trade in lion body parts for medicinal purposes is considered a threat to African lion sub-populations as well as to the small sub-population in India's Gir forest". The apex conservation body has stated that there is a need for Africa, India and other countries to prohibit trade in lion bones and other parts and products.
CID (crime) investigations into the case of poaching of the eight lions in Saurashtra in 2007 had revealed that the poachers gang from Madhya Pradesh had killed lions for selling skin and bones. Lions have become targets of poachers as the tiger population is falling. Body parts of lions and tigers are in great demand in China. There have, however, been no known cases of lion poaching in Gujarat in the last 10 years.