Monday, September 30, 2019

CSR: Protecting The Endangered Asiatic Lion

Three months after at least 20 lions in Gujarat succumbed to a virus, the Centre and the Gujarat governments announced a Asiatic Lion Conservation Project. The Asiatic Lion is listed as ‘Endangered’ under the IUCN Red List. It is exposed to severe threats in the Gir region like shrinking habitat, vulnerability to diseases, death from linear infrastructure such as road, rail and electric fences, man-animal conflict.
The conservation project which has a “Species Conservation over a large landscape” focuses on disease management, habitat improvement and eco-development, making more sources of water available robust wildlife health service with a dedicated veterinary institute, lion ambulances”, back-up stocks of vaccines addressing of man-wild animal conflict issues, voluntary relocation of Protect Area inhabitants (Maldhari tribe), monitoring and tracking of animals, creating a wildlife crime cell, a task force for the Greater Gir region. It would also involve having in place a GPS-based tracking system, which would look at surveillance tracking, animal and vehicle tracking.
There would also be an automated sensor grid that would have magnetic sensors, movement sensors and infra-red heat sensors. The project also seeks to divide The Greater Gir Region that includes, area other than the existing Gir National Park, sanctuaries in Girnar, Pania and Mitiyala, into various zones and formulate various “zone plans and theme plans” for their management. Total budget of the project for 3 years that amounts to nearly INR 9,784 lakh will be funded from the Centrally Sponsored Scheme- Development of Wildlife Habitat (CSS-DWH) with the contributing ratio being 60:40 of Central and State share.
Reasons for translocation
The big cat population in Gujarat is the last of the Asiatic lions in the wild. In 2013, the Supreme Court had issued an order in this regard. Under this, lions from Gujarat are to be relocated to the Kuno sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. This was ordered as a check against the threat of epidemic. A smaller population with limited genetic strength are more vulnerable to diseases and calamities than a large and widespread population. The court noted how 30% of the lion population in Tanzania’s Serengeti was killed due to an outbreak of a viral disease. Asiatic lion has been restricted to only one single habitat i.e. the Gir National Forest and its surrounding areas. So an outbreak of possible epidemic or natural calamity might wipe off the entire species. Very recently, after the series of deaths, the Supreme Court has asked the Central government to look into it.
Gujarat unwilling to relocate
Gujarat has been unwilling to relocate its lions, calling them “its pride”. Gujarat has responded that lions are now spread over the Greater Gir region and this reduces the threat. When ill, lions are routinely picked up, medically treated, and then released. It thus said that good conservation practices and intensive wildlife healthcare had lead to epidemic free regime. It has also said that the lions there are metapopulations in the State, which may be geographically separate but have interactions and an exchange of individuals. So the current Asiatic lion population is not a single population confined to one place. It consists of “metapopulation spread over several locations within the Greater Gir Region”.
When wild animals go extinct locally, they are reintroduced as in the case of tigers in Sariska, Rajasthan. When hungry, they are fed artificially, and even provided salts as supplements. In other parts of India, wild animals are funnelled through artificial trenches, barriers and fences. But this is wildlife conservation in the age of man, where protected areas sometimes resemble zoos. In nature, wildlife conservation concerns itself with maintaining ecological processes and reducing threats to endangered species.
This does not entail treating wild animals for disease as done for domestic animals. As it is not conducive to the ‘natural’ process of life and death, it goes against the natural selection processes, and ultimately compromises immunity. So intensive artificial medical treatment of wild animals does not augur well for long-term sustainability.

The Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh was identified to be the most suitable for reintroducing the species, according to a Supreme Court-appointed technical expert committee.

Leopard kills two near Gir forest

Posted at: Sep 29 2019 4:07PM
Amreli, Sep 29 (UNI) Close on heels of the killing of a five year old boy by a leopard, the bodies of two people, suspected to be attacked and killed by a similar beast were found on the outskirts of Monwel village in Dhari taluka of Amreli district in Gujarat on Sunday.

Police said that bodies of Karsan B Sagathiya and his relative Bhutabhai A Vala were found in an agricultural field on the outskirts of the village today. They were labourers living in a farm house. There were marks of attack of a leopard on their bodies. It is suspected that they were attacked by the leopard late last night.

Asiatic lion to be shifted to Neyyar tomorrow


Nagaraj, a 10-year-old Asiatic male lion brought from the Sakkarbaug Zoological Garden in Gujarat last month and now lodged at the city zoo, will be relocated to the Lion Safari Park in Neyyar on Monday.
The lion will make the journey to Neyyar alone after Radha, the six-and-a-half-year-old lioness transported along with him, died at the zoo on Wednesday.

The two cats had been brought to the State in exchange for two giant Malabar squirrels.


Meanwhile, the cause of Radha’s death remains a mystery. She was seemingly well at the start of the journey. But all through the relocation, the lioness hardly ate anything. After reaching the zoo on August 18, its feeding pattern was erratic.
Finally, a blood test was done on August 25 and bacterial infection was suspected owing to the high total blood count. The lioness was then put on a range of antibiotics, to which she failed to respond.
A team of doctors was put on the case and they suspected pyomoetra caused by sepsis. In the meanwhile, the lioness was paralysed on September 2. When scanning ruled out pyometra, the doctors were back to square one.
They consulted with experts from veterinary colleges and even doctors working in critical care for human beings to get a break. The blood analysis of the cat, done every three days, did not match her physical condition or the fact that she continued to be alive. Even after the death of the lioness, the exact cause continues to elude the doctors.
Chief Forest Veterinary Officer Easwaran E.K. says tests are being considered using fresh kits for feline infectious peritonitis (FIP).
The doctors say deaths of Asiatic lions relocated from Sakkarbaug have been reported in other places, and if they are able to identify the cause of death, it will be a breakthrough. “Radha was the first Asiatic lion to be received by the State. For us, her death is not a closed chapter as yet.”

Gujarat: Gay lion pride on march in rainbow Gir

 AHMEDABAD: Same-sex couples among humans have to navigate through a forest of societal norms and penal codes, but no being can dare to cage the kings of the Gir jungle in the closet of prejudice.
Homosexuality in Gir lions and lionesses has been noted by forest officials, wildlifeconservators, and researchers in 1973, 1999, 2016, and most recently in 2017. So far, seven separate cases have been studied.
The 2017 case was recorded in the Devaliya interpretation zone near Sasan where zoo-bred lions are housed. "To avert conflict between two prides we released two males and two females with cubs separately," a keeper at the zone said. "Two days after the first set of male lions were released, they began a mating ritual and copulated."
Homosexuality in male lions was also recorded in the previous year in "Ecology of Lions In Greater Gir Area", a study carried out by Amreli naturalists Dr Jalpan Rupapara and Purvesh Kacha.
2 gay lions ruled over 70 sq km
"We used to track lion movements in the greater Gir outside the protected area," naturalist Dr Jalpan Rupapara said. "Often among male sub-adults - aged between 2.5 and 3.5 years - we observed pseudo-homosexuality, in which penetration did not occur. However, all the other characteristics of a sexual encounter were seen."
H S Singh, an Asiatic lion expert - and a member of the National Board of Wildlife - said: "This tendency is generally observed in nomadic lions without female mates."
The 1999 observation was recorded by B P Pati, the additional principal chief conservator of forests at the time. "During my posting at the Gir National Park and Sanctuary, homosexual behaviour in male lions was observed and reported multiple times, mainly from 1998 to 2000," Pati said. "The first photographic evidence of copulating male lions was recorded in 1999 in Khokhra range of the national park."
In 1999, Pati and two other forest officials - Chaitanya Joshi and Kautilya Bhatt - had observed two prime male lions engaging in an elaborate mating ritual for almost a week. The case was published in a paper in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society in 2000.
Pati's paper, titled "Homosexuality in Asiatic Lion: A Case Study from Gir National Park and Sanctuary", said: "The Asiatic lion is a social animal and its natural sexual behaviour is in general restricted to heterosexualism, but there are a few exceptions." The paper went on to say: "The heterosexual behaviour of Asiatic lions of the Gir Protected Areas is recorded and described in detail by Paul Joslin in 1973 and S P Sinha in 1987."
The paper said that in 1982, Sanat Chauhan - a forest official - reported lesbianism in lionesses of Gir. "But homosexuality in male Asiatic lions, which are prime territorial males, has never been recorded before in detail with photographic evidence," the paper said. It said a pair of prime territorial males of about 6 to 7 years from Khokhra showed this behaviour when they were not with females.
According to Pati, for one and a half years this dom

"Homosexual activity among these two males was first observed by a group of trackers in November 1999, for five days continuously, and later in December 1999, for three days," the paper said. "The method of mounting, the time taken during mounting, and repulsive action after mounting seen in the Khokhra males is similar to heterosexual mating."

The paper said that during the homosexual liaison, the animals avoided food but changed their area - which is unusual during heterosexual mating. inant pair held territory of about 70 sq km in Sasan. The two lions had their separate families including female partners and cubs. This area had four prime females with cubs. The Khokhra males had an established record of mating with three females, of which two had four cubs.

Leopard kills 70 yr old woman near Gir forest in Gujarat

Amreli, Sep 20 (UNI) A leopard on Friday attacked and killed a 70 year old woman in Mujiyasar village close to Tulshishyam range of Gir East forests in Amreli district of Gujarat.

CCF Junagadh D T Vasavada said that the leopard attacked Nanuben Rambhai Parmar at around 530am this morning when the lady had gone out to attend the nature's call.

Her body was later found from a farmland at around 700 meters away from her home.

Cages have been put in the area to nab the leopard.

Proposal for leopard safari in Gurugram to be ready by next month

Updated: Sep 19, 2019 21:12 IST
Dhananjay Jha
Dhananjay Jha 

Gurugram A detailed project report (DPR) for setting up a leopard safari and a lake in the foothills of the Aravalli forest at Gairatpur Bas — located 15 kilometres from Rajiv Chowk, close to Sector 77/78 — is likely to be ready by October 31, state forest minister Rao Narbir Singh said on Thursday.
He said that a sum of ₹300 crores will be allocated for the development of the leopard safari and lake over an area of 1,000 acres. A consultant, appointed last week, is likely to submit the DPR by the end of next month, when the next government will likely be formed in the state.
“The DPR preparation work began a week ago and I have asked the forest officials to submit it to the forest department by the end of October. We will have to place the DPR before the Cabinet for approval, after which a tender will be floated to start work. A sum of ₹300 crores will be allocated,” said Singh, adding that this will be the first safari in the entire National Capital Region (NCR) and Haryana.
The government hopes that the leopard safari will become a tourist hub, as Gairatpur Bas is a natural leopard zone. He said there is also scope for developing a lake for boating.
The locals said that leopards can be spotted moving freely in Gairatpur Bas. They said that the leopards rarely enter areas of human habitation and that barricades for setting up the safari would confine the movement of leopards.
Rambir Singh, a resident of Gairatpur Bas, said, “Leopards are wild animals and they are already facing a threat of losing their territory because of the ruin the Aravalli forest has been facing over the past two to three decades. They should not be put in any enclosure.”
Vinod Kumar, additional principal chief conservator forest Haryana, said, “Once the DPR is ready, we will be in a better position to comment what kind of safari it will be. We will not disturb the natural movement, feeding and breeding of leopards. We are working in consultation with wildlife experts of the country and under the guidance of the ministry of environment and forest.” He said there are about 100 leopards in the Aravallis, including 18 cubs.
A team of forest and wildlife officials, including Singh, had visited the lion safari at Gir in Gujarat, and Etawah (UP) last month ago. CR Babu, a Delhi-based wildlife expert and the man behind the development of the biodiversity park in south Delhi, said, “Without disturbing the natural movement of leopards, people can watch them, like in Gir forest and others. The leopards should not be confined to an enclosure.”

Asiatic lioness brought from Gujarat dies at Thiruvananthapuram zoo

Aswin J Kumar | TNN | Updated: Sep 19, 2019, 12:11 IST
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Radha, the Asiatic lion brought from Sakkarbaug Zoological GardenGujarat died at Thiruvananthapuram zoo on Wednesday late night. She had been ailing since the day of her arrival and a team of experts comprising pathologists and veterinarians were trying to identify the source of infection which had weakened her considerably. Nagaraj, the male lion and Radha were brought from Gujarat and officials were planning to shift them to Neyyar Safari park when Radha fell ill.

The team was planning to conduct a digital X-ray on her on Friday. The post-mortem will be conducted by a team from the State Institute for Animal Diseases, Palode on Thursday. She will be cremated in the zoo premises. Radha was rescued as a cub and brought to Gujarat zoo where she was handraised by zoo-keepers. She had two cubs.
Radha was also diagnosed with posterior paralysis. The veterinarians were hoping that she would recover after 45 days however Radha’s condition deteriorated.

Gir lions in London Zoo beat heat with ice lollies

Himanshu Kaushik | TNN | Updated: Sep 19, 2019, 13:11 ISTAHMEDABAD: The five Asiatic lions at ZSL London Zoo were in for a cool treat when zookeepers came up with the idea of providing them ice lollies to beat the heat.
With the mercury soaring above 30°C in September, the zookeepers were busy finding ways to make the big cats comfortable. Their solution was to dangle blood-soaked ice candies in front of the lions, who readily approved of the measure and licked them clean. Onlookers said the lions were seen springing with joy when the ice-lollies arrived.
From a large stone wall entrance with the words ‘Land of the Lions’ inscribed on it, to a train station, a crumbling temple clearing, a high street and a guard hut, a piece of Gujarat’s Sasan Gir has been replicated at the ZSL London Zoo. The zoo, one of the world’s oldest, houses five Asiatic lions.
Spread out meal for Lions in UK
Land of the Lions’ tells the story of this critically endangered species, which is only found in one small area of India — the Gir forest region.
The Asiatic lion pride at ZSL London Zoo is fed fresh raw meat including beef, chicken and duck, said Emma Edwards, head of content and communications, Zoological Society of London (ZSL). The London Zoo is run by ZSL.
The lions are fed every day in a variety of ways. Sometimes the keepers scatter food for them to chase; other times they hide their food and leave scent trails for them to follow, Edwards added. At times, large joints are hung from trees so that lions are required to use their natural strength and skills to feed.

“In India, we cannot feed anything other than fresh meat to the lions. According to Central Zoo Authority guidelines it has to be served within six hours of slaughtering,” said R K Sahoo, director of Ahmedabad’s Kankaria zoo.
He said that in the absence of such guidelines in foreign countries, frozen food is served to carnivores in small quantities to keep them active. “In overseas zoos, the big cats are seen following the keeper for food, which is not the case in India,” Sahoo added.

4 Lions Rescued From 100-Foot Deep Well In Gujarat's Gir Forest

Gir Forest, Gujarat: The unused well was about 100 feet deep and was situated on a farm in Manavav, and the four big cats, in the 2-3 year age group, fell into it on Saturday evening, Sarasiya Range Forest Officer MR Odedra said.

Gujarat: Group of lions walk into Junagarh city, sent back to Gir Sanctuary

Junagarh (Gujarat) , Sept 14 : A pride of about seven lions was seen roaming around a city road in Junagadh, near Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary.
The scene was captured by a passerby on Friday night in a video that has since then surfaced on the Internet and is being widely shared on social media.

Following heavy rainfall in the area, the lions came towards the city, from the forest area in search of food and shelter. 

There have been no reports of any untoward incidents so far.

According to the reports, the Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary is home to more than 60 lions.

The pride of lions was taken back to the Sanctuary after locals informed forest officials.


The lioness is not responding to antibiotics and is currently at the Thiruvananthapuram Zoo, which was meant to be a transit point on its way to Safari Park at Neyyar.

  • Tuesday, September 17, 2019 - 16:17
    A lioness brought from Sakkarbaug Zoological Gardens, Gujarat, to Thiruvananthapuram's Safari Park at Neyyar, is seriously ill and has been diagnosed with posterior paralysis. The lioness is presently in Thiruvananthapuram Zoo, which was meant to be a transit point on its way to Safari Park.
    Radha and Nagaraj, an Asiatic lioness and lion pair, were brought  to Kerala in August, in exchange for two giant Malabar squirrels, Diana and George. Radha was weak from the first day the animal reached the city.
    "The lioness's forelegs and front part of the body are active. Its white blood cell counts are high which shows that the animal has a bacterial infection, but we could not find where it is despite doing all tests," Dr Easwaran EK, Chief Forest Veterinary Officer told TNM.
    The officer said that like other forms of life, lions too harbour bacteria in their body and that due to the stress induced by long travel, the animal's immunity level could have dropped. This may have caused an infection to flare up. However, the animal is not responding to medication.
    "The lioness is not responding to antibiotics for the last three weeks. Generally, in such infections, antibiotics should be effective," he said.
    The Gujarat zoo had certified the lion pair as healthy before they were transported to Kerala.
    "We had done all the preparations one month prior to the transit," Dr Easwaran said, adding that all precautionary measures were taken to make the animals comfortable throughout the travel.
    "Two of our caretakers were sent to Sakkarbaug Zoo a month before the transit to get acquainted with the animals . We only traveled 500 kilometres a day to avoid causing stress to them. Apart from that, we stopped at certain intervals to provide them water and food," he said.
    Earlier in 2014, a white tiger was brought to Thiruvananthapuram Zoo from Delhi.  Dr Easwaran observes that such infections happen mostly with lions rather than tigers.
    "Tigers are solitary animals, whereas lions live in groups. Separating them can also be a reason for their stress," he said.
    The authorities at Neyyar Safari Park were hoping that Radha and Nagaraj would save the zoo from closure. The park once had 15 lions and the number dwindled to just two by 2019. In February this, one of the two last lions died and the park was on the verge of closure. The State Tourism Department had targeted a higher number of visitors during Onam season.
    Dr Easwaran said that earlier, the Gujarat zoo was not willing to give Asiatic lions. However, frequent deaths of the animals due to canine distemper virus persuaded the authorities to start sending them to other zoos.
    George and Diana, the two Malabar squirrels, seem to be healthy in the Gujarat zoo, according to the officials.

December date for zoo lion cubs’ first public appearance

Krishnendu Mukherjee | TNN | Updated: Sep 18, 2019, 10:45 ISTKOLKATA: If all goes well, two lion cubs, born to six-year-old Asiatic lion Shruti this June at Alipore zoo, will greet the visitors this winter.
The other cub, a male, which was born weak and has been kept at the zoo hospital ever since, is also doing well and may join his siblings at a separate enclosure in the main zoo complex later in January next year — when all three will turn seven months.
Alipore zoo director Asish Kumar Samanta said that the mother has become very protective ever since the birth of the cubs. “That’s why we have been keeping a watch on her 24x7 through 
CCTV cameras fixed at the enclosure,” Samanta added.
And, the cameras in the enclosure have revealed some intimate moments of bonding between the mother and two cubs.
“Shruti always keeps a watch on her cubs — be it while relaxing, eating — she doesn’t let them go even for a moment. All of them cuddle together when they sleep,” said Samanta.
According to the zoo director, the cubs have also got a taste of meat now. “They are two and a half months old now and depend on mother’s milk. But they have already started licking the meat that we offer their mother. The CCTV cameras have revealed this. In December, when they will turn six months, we have plans to release them in the open enclosure with their mother so that the visitors get a glimpse of the duo,” added Samanta. Later in January next year, the zoo officials are planning to keep all three cubs together at an enclosure.
“The open area for lion is connected with eight enclosures. We will keep all three cubs at one of them in January. If they don’t fight, we might consider putting them on display together from January itself. By then, they will also shift to a diet of chicken,” the senior zoo official added.
According to Samanta, since Shruti is a nursing mother, she’s being offered meat twice daily.
“We are giving her 3kg chicken in the morning and 4kg buffalo meat in the evening. Besides, she is on medication for vitamin and calcium,” he added.

Usually, big carnivores like lion and tiger are given meat once a day for six days in the zoo. They are made to fast on the seventh day. But, since Shruti is nursing two cubs, special care is being given to her.
On the third cub, a male, Samanta said it’s also doing well. “We are keeping it in a balcony on the hospital premises throughout the day to ensure space for it. At night, we are shifting it to a cage kept inside a room,” he added. On being asked if they have named the cubs, Samanta said that the sex of two cubs, which are with the mother, is yet to be confirmed. “Once that’s done, we will name them together,” he added.

When One Big Cat Is Almost Like the Other

India’s Supreme Court has to decide if African cheetahs could sub in for the country’s long-lost population of Asiatic cheetahs.

The Indian government has spent decades trying to bring cheetahs back. At first, conservationists imagined either importing or cloning Asiatic cheetahs, the subspecies that once thrived in India. When that strategy failed, they turned their attention to a closely related subspecies, found across Africa in pockets of the south, west, and east.

Both Asiatic and African cheetahs are sleek and elegant, with sand-colored coats covered in black spots, and black “teardrop” marks that run downward from their eyes. Asiatic cheetahs, however, are slightly smaller, and their coats a lighter shade. But those small distinctions mask fundamental questions about what defines a native species and whether one subspecies can be swapped in for another. In the past few years, a narrow scientific debate about cheetah genetics has become a question of legal import, reaching all the way up to India’s Supreme Court.
In 2012, as the court was hearing a case about the protection of India’s native lions, it learned about a government plan to bring African cheetahs into India. Ravi Chellam, the former director of the Wildlife Conservation Society of India and an expert witness in the case, argued that India should spend its limited conservation resources to improve the management of the species it currently has. “Should we be investing to conserve African species right now?” he asked. “Is that really a priority for us?”
The court agreed, ruling in 2013 that African cheetahs were a “foreign species … which never existed in India” and could not be legally introduced to the country. But now, because of a request from the Indian government, the Supreme Court is reexamining that injunction, and the cheetah has a new chance to return.
The government first failed to reintroduce cheetahs in the 1970s, when it considered a swap of Asiatic cats between India and Iran. Today, a critically endangered population of roughly 40 Asiatic cheetahs survives in Iran, but four decades ago, hundreds lived there. India, for its part, had several hundred Asiatic lions, which Iran wanted to reintroduce.
Before the trade could happen, though, India needed to develop a prey base for the cheetah. As the country’s grasslands were repurposed for agriculture, both the cheetah and its prey were pushed into suboptimal habitats, where they struggled to survive. Conservationists, including M. K. Ranjitsinh, India’s first director of wildlife preservation, saw this trade as the best chance to preserve not just the country’s cheetah legacy, but also the land where the cats once thrived. “In India, symbols are very important. In the name of the tiger, we saved something more valuable than the tiger: We saved the habitat of the tiger,” Ranjitsinh told me. “By that same token, I was hoping the cheetah could save our most productive ecosystems, the grasslands.”
Conservationists began work to increase populations of prey such as the blackbuck (Indian antelope) and the chikara (Indian gazelle). But talks with Iran fell apart after the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
The idea of reinvigorating India’s Asiatic-cheetah population had a second life, though. Twenty-two years later, in 2001, Lalji Singh, the “father of DNA fingerprinting in India,” came to Iran with a new proposition: Let his lab collect sperm and tissue samples from Asiatic cheetahs, in order to clone one. He planned to use an Indian leopard as a surrogate mother for the newly cloned cheetah cub. Iran rejected the approach, and the idea fizzled out.
With the Asiatic cheetah off the table, conservationists considered a new approach: introduce an African subspecies into India. Ranjitsinh and other experts believed that African cheetahs could sub in for the Asiatic as the top predator of the grassland’s food chain. In 2009, they organized an international conference in Rajasthan to discuss the idea with other influential conservationists. For that group, the prospect of redeveloping cheetah habitats in India was exciting; the species as a whole has lost approximately 90 percent of its former range and is classified as vulnerable.
One of the attendees was Stephen O’Brien, a geneticist who founded the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity at the National Cancer Institute. O’Brien had long been interested in animal genetics, and he was inclined to see African cheetahs as a suitable replacement for Asiatic ones. Since the 1980s, his research has advanced the theory that the cheetah genome, across subspecies, is remarkably uniform.
O’Brien attributes that uniformity to two genetic “bottlenecks,” or brushes with extinction. A small number of cheetahs—which evolved first in North America—survived the first bottleneck by crossing the Bering Strait into Eurasia and Africa more than 100,000 years ago. Their population rebounded until hitting the second bottleneck toward the end of the last Ice Age, 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, which wiped out most of the world’s large mammals. The cheetah lived but, O’Brien argues, emerged genetically limited, having resorted to inbreeding to survive. In this version of events, some subspecies diverged from one another as little as 5,000 years ago, and today the minute genetic variation in cheetahs is “like the amount of distance between the people of Baltimore and the people of Philadelphia,” O’Brien says.
Other experts disagree. The work of the conservation geneticist Pamela Burger and a team of researchers from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna revealed “significant divergences” among different subspecies of cheetah and showed both Asiatic and Northeast African cheetahs to be genetically distinct from South African cheetahs. The theory of a 12,000-year-old genetic bottleneck is “not written in stone,” Burger says, and the bottleneck could have happened 40,000 years ago, giving subspecies more time to differentiate.
This seemingly esoteric argument over bottlenecks and subspecies has real consequences for the future of the world’s cheetahs. Introducing African cheetahs to India, where they would have another habitat in which to reproduce, could aid the long-term survival of the whole species. But substituting one subspecies for another risks erasing valuable genetic adaptations. Burger suggests, for example, that Asiatic cheetahs developed specialized traits that made them adept at living in mountainous regions.
The data produced by Burger and her fellow researchers intensified the call to save the remaining Asiatic cheetahs in Iran, but the results were also used in India to convince the Supreme Court that African cheetahs could not be substituted for Asiatic cheetahs. O’Brien says he does not believe that his work and Burger’s are in conflict, but rather that they interpreted the data differently. However, in 2017, he co-authored an unofficial rebuttal in the Journal of Heredity that said Burger’s research included “ambiguous and imprecise dating calculations,” which the Supreme Court relied on.
For her part, Burger believes her team’s data stand on their own and provide an “enlarged view” of the different cheetah subspecies. She’s not vehemently opposed to the introduction of African cheetahs in India, but explains, “It would be like having an African lion in a wild park in Europe. Of course, you can have that, but then it’s an African lion living in Europe. Not a European lion.”
This experiment—African cheetahs living in India—could still happen. At a hearing in early August, the Supreme Court suggested it might allow several African cheetahs to be translocated into India for a pilot program, potentially opening the door to a larger introduction of an African subspecies into India.
If the Supreme Court does allow African cheetahs into the subcontinent, the government would need to ensure that there was enough prey to sustain them, and enough room to minimize human-cheetah conflict. India has a mixed record when it comes to protecting its cats, however, and currently hundreds of Asiatic lions are languishing in a wildlife reserve, despite a 2013 mandate from the Supreme Court to move some of them to a secondary habitat in another state. Ritwick Dutta, an environmental lawyer who worked on those proceedings, calls cheetah reintroduction “a clear case of misplaced priorities” that diverts time and resources from the endangered species that already live in India.
But the conservationist Laurie Marker, who sequenced several complete African-cheetah genomes with O’Brien in 2015, says that if Indian authorities were willing to dedicate sufficient resources, “they would not be on their own.” Marker’s organization, the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia, would likely help select suitable cheetahs for translocation to India. Cheetahs with the best chance of success would be those that don’t have a history of attacking livestock, are savvy to threats from stronger predators, and fit within certain age parameters. Marker is optimistic about the effort, provided that it’s handled correctly. “Cheetahs,” she says, “are very adaptable.”
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Seven Asiatic lions from Gujarat to roar in Yogi’s den

Neha Shukla | TNN | Updated: Sep 17, 2019, 7:07 ISTLUCKNOW:Seven Asiatic lions from Gujarat will roar in UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s backyard on September 26. Gifted by his Gujarat counterpart, Vijay Rupani, it was Yogi’s dream to usher the royal guests to Gorakhpur zoo. The initial plan was to bring eight lions from Junagadh zoo, but a female among the species was found medically unfit.
In 2014, the issue triggered a flare-up between then UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and BJP’s PM-candidate Narendra Modi, when Samajwadi Party government brought lions for Etawah lion safari. However, five years down the line, it was a quiet advent of lions, five of whom are females. Sources said, the Gujarat government has agreed to part with the lions without seeking animals in exchange.

Till Gorakhpur zoo is ready, lions will be lodged at Etawah safari, thus promising hope for Yadav’s safari project as well. It’s after three-and-half years that lions are being brought to UP from Gujarat.
Of the 10 lions brought from Gujarat under CZA-approved animal exchange programme for the Yadav’s ambitious Etawah lion safari project between 2013 and 2015, five died of canine distemper virus (CDV) and the government drew criticism. Five cubs born to different lion pairs also died, though not of CDV.
The Etawah safari was later sanitized against the contagion with a vaccine provided by San Diego zoo, US, and is now safe. The UP government, to be doubly sure of lions’ health, got the thorough medical check-up of the felines at their native zoo. Two veterinarians from UP sent to Gujarat had checked each of the eight lions. After a female was found unfit, the government decided to bring seven.“Each lion has a chip embedded in its tail and carries a unique identity,” said V K Singh, director, Etawah lion safari. Though the Gujarat government handed over custody of the lions to UP on June 11, the Yogi government waited for conducive weather to bring the big cats.
The fact that Gorakhpur zoo can house only three lions might make the state government decide to house the remaining big cats at Etawah safari, which is yet to attain minimum number of 10 cubs and has only one lioness, Jessica, as a potential breeder. The safari, at present, has six cubs which were born to Jessica since 2016