Chinese threat to Gir lions
Himanshu Kaushik, TNN 18 October 2009, 04:02am IST
AHMEDABAD: The International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has, on its red list, the Asiatic lion as an endangered species. The main threat to the Gir lion, it says, is from poachers who sell its bone as tiger bone which is used in Chinese remedies.
CID (crime) investigation of poaching of the eight lions in Saurashtra in 2007 revealed that lions were killed for selling bones and now an environment-related website has said that lions were next target as the number of tigers was falling.
Another website says because tigers are highly prized in Chinese ‘remedies’, they have become one of the scarcest creatures on the planet. And the insatiable appetite of China’s ‘nouveau riche’ is now threatening lions, whose bones cannot be distinguished from tiger bones. Quoting Belinda Wright, head of the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), the website says the huge demand for tiger bones and body parts is from China, and that India is ‘like a supermarket’. Unfortunately, lions are joining tigers as an essential ingredient on China’s endangered species shopping list, the website says.
Officials said that forest department must take this threat seriously as it was in April 2007 that for the first time poaching of lions was reported for commercial purpose on a large scale.
IUCN website also goes on to say that governments should provide financial resources to prevent hunting and help conservation through local communities.
About Asiatic lions, IUCN says that Gir lion population reduced to somewhere below 20 in the early years of 20th century. In 2005, the population was estimated at 359, including cubs. The WPSI reported 34 lion deaths in 2007, due to poaching, electrocution, falling into open wells, and death by motor vehicle and unknown causes.
Officials said even WPSI had warned that a new phase in wildlife poaching to meet Chinese demands could wipe out world’s only Asiatic lion population.
After 2007 poaching incident, the WPSI said, "This serious new development points to the fact that since tigers are so scarce in the wild, poachers are now targeting the last remaining population of Asiatic lions. Gir lions are an easy target, since they are comparatively used to people and live in open scrub forest."