Chief Conservator of Forests says his book may come handy for writing future management plans
Express News Service
Ahmedabad, June 4: RECENTLY in the news for large-scale poaching, the critically endangered Gir lion might be threatened by yet another force. A new book on the big cat says that global warming is the next big threat to the animal. Written by State Forest Department's Chief Conservator of Forests H S Singh, and to be released by Chief Minister Narendra Modi today, "The Gir Lion" is an encyclopedic account on the big cat, says the author in conversation with Abhishek Kapoor.
Q. What made you write this book?
A.I have been fortunate in having over two decades of exposure to the Gir lion. My two years as conservator of the Sasan Wildlife Sanctuary (1994-96) were particularly fruitful as I got to observe the big cat up, close, and personal. This was also the time when I wrote the first Gir management plan.
The book is the result of that relationship and a tribute to the large-hearted big cat. It gives detailed account of the society of Gir lion, its structure, grouping system, social behaviour, communication, sexual behaviour and reproduction, predation pattern and prey-predator dynamics inside Gir.
Q. How valuable is the effort from the conservation point of view?
A.The book, with 320 pages and over 300 photographs, sketches, and maps, traces Gir Lion's antecedents and chronicles its life through the ages up to the present times. It also delves in detail on a likely conservation footprint in the light of recent developments. Apart from academic purposes, the book can be useful for writing future management plans for large cats in India and outside.
Q. You say in your book that Gujarat's conservation efforts are a model to be followed. Does it not contradict the recent happenings that saw at least eight lions poached inside the high security Sasan Sanctuary?
A.The management of Gir Sanctuary is nationally acclaimed for increasing the lion population by two folds in over two decades and to that extent remains a model in conservation.
Recent developments are bad and unprecedented in Gir's history and constitute a wake up call. They must caution the management to improve protection measures and plug the loopholes by using modern tools and technology. Over all administrative efficiency in Gir needs a facelift.
Q. Can you elaborate?
A.The satellite population of Gir lions needs focus. Work needs to be done on developing continuous corridors to allow good contact between scattered cats. At the same time, if the increasing pressure of human population are to be managed, the administration needs to device a more quick system of grievance redressal. So, dealing with man-animal conflict needs priority. It is the trust of community that is the root strength of Gir management.
Q. How well is the lion placed in Gir?
A.Its history shows that the lion has never lived in an environment with temperature crossing 45 degrees. By that standard, Gir, with its summer heat close to that range, constitutes a stressed environment now. With global warming, temperatures might go further up, making the lion's survival in the region debatable.
Q. Would you suggest shifting of Gir lion to some other location?
A.Scientifically, keeping a small population at a single place is full of risks. It is desirable to have bigger population spread over larger areas. But in India, there is no other place that matches the Gir habitat. Kuno-Palpur in Madhya Pradesh actually has summer temperatures hovering around 49 degrees making it absolutely impossible for the lion to survive.