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Fully grown Asiatic adult Lion desperately waiting for the food!

Jan 15, 2018

The Asiatic lion (Panthera leo leo)[3] is a lion population in Gujarat, India, which is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List because of its small population size.[1] Since 2010, the lion population in and around Gir Forest National Park has steadily increased.[4] In May 2015, the 14th Asiatic Lion Census was conducted over an area of about 20,000 km2 (7,700 sq mi); the lion population was estimated at 523 individuals, comprising 109 adult males, 201 adult females and 213 cubs.[5][6] In August 2017, the Asiatic Lion Census revealed 650 wild individuals.[7][8]

In the Gir Forest, an area of 1,412.1 km2 (545.2 sq mi) was declared as a sanctuary for Asiatic lion conservation in 1965. This sanctuary and the surrounding areas in Saurashtra, Western India, are the only wild habitats supporting the Asiatic lion.[4] After 1965, a national park covering an area of 258.71 km2 (99.89 sq mi) was established where no human activity is allowed. In the surrounding sanctuary only Maldharis have the right to graze their livestock.[39]

The population recovered from the brink of extinction to 411 individuals in 2010. Lions occupy remnant forest habitats in the two hill systems of Gir and Girnar that comprise Gujarat's largest tracts of dry deciduous forest, thorny forest and savanna and provide valuable habitat for a diverse flora and fauna. Five protected areas currently exist to protect the Asiatic lion: Gir Sanctuary, Gir National Park, Pania Sanctuary, Mitiyala Sanctuary, and Girnar Sanctuary. The first three protected areas form the Gir Conservation Area, a 1,452 km2 (561 sq mi) forest block that represents the core habitat of the Asiatic lions. The other two sanctuaries, Mitiyala and Girnar, protect satellite areas within dispersal distance of the Gir Conservation Area. An additional sanctuary is being established in the nearby Barda Wildlife Sanctuary to serve as an alternative home for Gir lions.[4] The drier eastern part is vegetated with acacia thorn savanna and receives about 650 mm (26 in) annual rainfall; rainfall in the west is higher at about 1,000 mm (39 in) per year.[31]

As of 2010, approximately 105 lions, comprising 35 males, 35 females, 19 subadults, and 16 cubs existed outside the Gir forest, representing a full quarter of the entire lion population. The increase in satellite lion populations may represent the saturation of the lion population in the Gir forest and subsequent dispersal by sub-adults compelled to search for new territories outside their natal pride. Over the past two decades, these satellite areas became established, self-sustaining populations as evidenced by the presence of cubs since 1995.[4]

As of May 2016, the lion population was estimated at 493 individuals, comprising 258 individuals in the Junagadh district, 39 in the Gir Somnath District, 164 in the Amreli District and 32 in the Bhavnagar District.[5]

The Asiatic lion currently exists as a single subpopulation, and is thus vulnerable to extinction from unpredictable events, such as an epidemic or large forest fire. There are indications of poaching incidents in recent years. There are reports that organized gangs have switched attention from tigers to these lions. There have also been a number of drowning incidents after lions fell into wells.[1]

Prior to the resettlement of Maldharis, the Gir forest was heavily degraded and used by livestock, which competed with and restricted the population sizes of native ungulates. Various studies reveal tremendous habitat recovery and increases in wild ungulate populations following the Maldhari resettlement during the last four decades.[4]

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