- Recently 21 Asiatic lions died in Gujarat’s Gir National Park in less than a month which raises serious questions about the conservation of the big cats in their only habitat.
- Reasons for lion deaths:
- Infighting between lion prides: Male lions are known to maul each other to death but they never harm females.
- Viral infection: In 2012, the scientists from Indian Veterinary Research Institute identified the Goat Plague (Peste Des Petits Ruminants) virus in a lion carcass.
- According to a CAG report , more than 50 percent of the Gir lions have spilled out of the protected area and face threat of speeding trucks and trains, open wells and live wires. More than 30 lions have perished to accidents in the past two years, according to the park’s records.
- Supreme Court guidelines:
- In 2013, the Supreme Court directed the translocation of “some” lions from Gir to Kuno in Madhya Pradesh(MP) which Gujarat government refused, arguing that MP has not gone by the IUCN’s guidelines for translocation.
- However MP’s forest officials retort that Kuno satisfies all the conditions laid down by the Wildlife Institute of India (the agency mandated to monitor the relocation of Gir lions).
- Gujarat submitted before the Supreme Court that one of the reasons it did not want to part with the lions because there were metapopulation in the state spread over several locations within the Greater Gir Region.
- An epidemic caused by a virus wiped out more than a third of the lion population in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park in the 1990s.
- Gujarat should work towards colonising new habitats outside the Gir landscape within the State eg Barda wildlife sanctuary. close to Gir, which can increase suitable lion range from its present, much smaller area.
- A geographically separate population of Asiatic lions also needs to be created.
- Gujarat should also turn its attention to reducing the drivers of disease, which includes controlling feral dog populations.