Published on July 4, 2013
Gir Lion Project: a rare conservation success story Call of the Helpless King Gujarat, India
Quick Facts about Asiatic Lion There are estimated to be 350-400 lions left Once the Asiatic Lion roamed widely throughout Asia Minor, Arabia, Persia and India Today the Gir Forest in Gujarat in NW India is their only remaining home The Asiatic lion is on of seven sub-species of lion They eat wild pigs, cattle, antelope and deer Their average lifespan in the wild is between 14-15 years An adult weighs between 300-500lbs Litter sizes are between 2-4 cubs Cub mortality is high with only about 25% surviving beyond 2 years. Aggressive males, starvation, predation and disease are the main issues Poisoned kills, rail and road accidents and falling into wells kill many adult lions The Asian Lion population represents only 1.7% of lions on earth
~ Importance of Gir and Asiatic Lion ~ The Gir Protected Area, spread over 1412 km2, is located in Gujarat (India). It is the only place in the world where the Asiatic Lion survives. It is one of the rarest wild cats in the world. It is classified as "Critically Endangered" by World Conservation Union.
Do we want our children to see these beautiful cats only in a Museum or Zoo? • In the beginning of 19th century when there were about 20 lions in wild, efforts of the Nawab (King) of Gir saved it from extinction. • Today due to conservation efforts of the Gujarat Forest Department and tolerant local people, the lion population has gone up to 359.
~ Threats Today ~ • Asiatic Lion faces many threats like congestion, roads & religious places inside the GPA, human pressure, man-animal conflict, genetic limitations and poaching. Man-made Open Wells surrounding the Gir forest is also the most severe threat that the lion and other wild animals face today.
What can you see in this picture? Tree Electric Pole Electric Wires Greenery & Landscape Man Made - UNPROTECTED or OPEN WELL Greenery & Landscape… Tree… But You can also see Electric pole, Man Made open wells….And yes there are electric wires too….
~ Human Interference ~ • Lions and other wild animals regularly stray outside due to over-crowding inside the sanctuary and in search of food creating threats for humans and kill some livestock • In 1973, the Gir Lion Project relocated almost 600 resident Maldhari families and their livestock and banished hundreds of thousands of cattle that seasonally get eaten in Gir. • Easing the pressure from domestic animals allowed the vegetation to recover, and as a consequence, wild herbivores bounced back ten-fold. From living off cattle in the early days of the Project, the felines changed their diets to spotted deer, sambhar and nilgai. But several Maldhari families remain and livestock continue to use the forest as grassland.
Cats Hunting for Prey • Reasons that the cats are able to live outside the forest because of the plentiful livestock and the surprising tolerance of people. • The surrounding farmlands were predominantly growing wheat in the 1960s and 70s, until irrigation made sugarcane cultivation possible in the 1980s. These have now given way to extensive plantations of mangoes. • Tree cover with minimal human activity provides shelter and plenty of domestic animals offer sustenance. • Large cats without any forests to call home will settle for much less. So clearly the challenge to conservation lies here, outside the protected Gir forests. • Tree cover with minimal human activity provides shelter and plenty of domestic animals offer sustenance. • Lions are luxuriant animals and, as long as Gir is well-protected, they will always be found in the surrounding landscape.
Cats get trapped • There are more than 9000 open-wells in 6km periphery surrounding the Gir Forest • They are dug by farmers as a source of water for irrigation and livestock. • Most of the farmers in Gir are poor with very small land holding. Hence most of them cannot afford to barricade their wells. • Most of these wells are hidden in the surrounding vegetation and by the time animal realizes it’s presence it is too late. • They die due to drowning. • The Gir Protected Area is a big area with poor internal roads. Thus, it is not always possible to reach the incidence spot and successfully rescue the animal. • Rescued animals are seriously injured and sometimes permanently disabled. They are not fit to be released back into the wild.
Cats get trapped • Any change in land use, such as mining, industrialization, and crops, or even the weather, may tilt the balance against the cats • Until very recently it was believed that the lions were free from the threat of poaching. However, the field staff on the frontline have witnessed an increase in poaching since 2007 and have been unprepared - and ill equipped to - to tackle the emerging problem.
~ Measures Taken & Govt & NGO’s ~ • Wildlife Conservation Trust are the first NGO to sign MoU with the Forest Department to barricade Open Wells. In association with other NGOs and Corporates, they have completed barricading 781 Wells. • Currently WCT are working with TATA Chemicals Ltd, ‘Lions of Gir Foundation – USA’ by US citizen Mr. Steve Mandel and Vanishing Herds Foundation for barricading more wells. • Along similar lines to the Sunderbans Tiger Project that DSWF supported through emergency funding in 2001, DSWF is now providing funds to help train and equip the forest guards as well as sponsoring research carried out by the Wildlife Trust of India. • Recent funding has helped enhance the capacity of the frontline field staff by training them in wildlife crime prevention techniques to ensure that they are better prepared to tackle the crisis.
~ Media Coverage & Appeal to Govt. ~ • PM should head Gir lions project: Nathwani • Group president of Reliance Industries Ltd and MP Parimal Nathwani has demanded that the 'Gir Lions Project' should be headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. • Nathwani, president of the Vadodara Stock Exchange Limited, has also demanded that the Asiatic lion should be made the national animal, replacing the tiger. • The Planning Commission has given an in-principle approval to a project for 'Conservation of Asiatic lion in Greater Gir Region' to be implemented by Government of Gujarat over a period of five years at a cost of Rs 262.36 crore, which includes Centre's assistance of Rs 236.63 crore. • According to estimates, there are around 411 Asiatic lions in Gir National Park and other areas of Greater Gir as per the last Gir lions census conducted in April 2010.
~ Thoughts ~ • Surrounding villages and the villagers should co-operate & coordinately work with Forest department on the conservation drive. • Forest department to be more focused and equipped to tackle the crises such as poaching and rescuing lions from wells • Appeal to nation for their help in monitory terms for the conservation project along with the help in kind for the villagers • Appeal to corporate firms to make there contribution to the cause.
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