The Critically Endangered Asiatic Lion

The History

The Asiatic Lion, now more commonly known as the Indian Lion can be found only in the Gir Forest, in the state of Gujarat, India. They once ranged from the Mediterranean to India, covering most of the South-West Asia hence was once known as the Persian Lion.

The Indian Lion
A Male Asiatic Lion

Current Situation

Once covering such a large area, their population has dwindled to a few hundred and are now restricted to only one forest. The shock came after the 1936 census when there were only 234 Lions were recorded. Since then the government and other institutions have worked hard to keep the numbers strong. But with limited resources and a limited amount of land available, the race against extinction has been a tough one for these magnificent animals.

As per the 1996 census, their numbers were up to 359, but still there is a lot to be done for their conservation. In a country like India, where there is no primary source for education about such wildlife issues, the Asiatic Lion crisis has only made waves amongst a few people who actively participate in wildlife conservation and are wildlife enthusiasts.

The Tiger Conservation vs. The Lion Conservation

The Tiger, which has been the main area of concentration for wildlife conservation in India, has long since over-shadowed the pitiful state of the Asiatic lion.

The Gir National Park
The Gir National Park (marked in green)

Today there are 28 Tiger Reserves in India, with a total of 37,761 sq. km. of forest land dedicated to the tigers and only 1, Gir National Park, with a total area of 1412 sq. km. of forest land dedicated for the conservation of Asiatic Lion.  Even more unfair is the fact that there is more effort being put into the conservation of Tigers in India.

With such biased support to the tiger, the day won’t be far when the Asiatic Lion fades away into extinction.

Other Problems

The problems for the Asiatic Lions don’t end there. Inside the Gir Protected Area (PA), these lions share their territories with humans which is again a problem for them. Since the inception of the PA, the Lion population has risen but the PA has not been provided with more land since 1978.

As a result, the lions often roam outside the boundaries of the PA, entering into the villages and killing livestock. This creates hostility against the lions and the villagers often leave poisoned bait for the lions to consume.

The open wells that have been dug by the farmers for irrigation also act as a trap and many lions have drowned in them.

Crude Electric fences connected to high voltage overhead power lines, designed to keep the nilgai (blue bull) away from the crops, have also been the cause of a lot of lion deaths.

There have also been cases of poaching in the Gir forest, this is a direct result of the government and the National Parks tightening the security at the Tiger Reserves.

Inbreeding

One of the major problems that this big cat faces is Inbreeding. There are currently around 350 Asiatic Lions in the wild which have been derived from just 13 individuals. Hence they are more susseptable to diseases due to the weak immune systems. In certain studies, it is shown that the sperm of the lions was deformed and hence led to infertility.

Ray of Hope

In spite of all these problems, there still seems to be hope for these Lions. Currently, the Asiatic Lion Relocation Project is underway, in which the lions from the Gir forest are to be reintroduced into the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. A zoo bred pair of Asiatic Lions from Hyderabad, one male from Bhopal and a female from Delhi will be introduced into the forest. There is also feral wildlife in the forest, which has been left there by the villages that have been relocated which will act as buffer prey, till their actual prey increases.

We can do nothing but hope that one day, these beautiful beasts will be pulled back from the brink of extinction in the wild.

3 comments on “The Critically Endangered Asiatic Lion
  1. I really like your writing style, its not generic and extremly long and tedious like a lot of blog posts I read, you get to the point and I really enjoy reading your articles! Oh, and merry Christmas!

    • Thank you for your wishes and words,
      I try to keep it as easy as possible…I read a lot of blogs and it sometimes gets uninteresting to read if it’s too long….I try hard to get the point across and still keep it interesting…and a very happy new year to you too!

      Regards,

      Shaunak B Modi

  2. Panthera Leo Persica Lion is Proud of out Gujrat its Call “Dalamatho” is very safe in Gujarat Local people love lions and determined to protect it and as well as BJP government Perticular Naraendra Modiji. Late Manniya Shreemati Indiara Gandhiji had started Project Tiger but corrupt system couldn’t possible it and tiger became extinct from many tiger reserve. Let Gujarat do good work preservation of Asiatic Lion.

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