Sunday, March 14, 2010

Lions of Gir, India's most endangered big cat: report

Meghdoot Sharon & Bahar Dutt - CNN-IBN

Published on Fri, Mar 12, 2010 at 09:56, Updated on Fri, Mar 12, 2010 at 19:15 in India section

Gandhinagar: A latest census report by the government of Gujarat has reported that in the last two years over 70 lions have died in Sasangir, the only forest in India which is home to the Asiatic Lion.

Less than 300 at last count, the lions of Gir are India's most endangered big cat. A Gujarat Government report admits that over 70 lions have died in the Gir National Park in the last two years.

"This figure is not alarming," said Forest & Environment Principal Secretary SK Nanda.

The problem facing the lion in Gir is space. With territory in short supply, lions prowl the edges of the forest, often falling into one of the 8000 uncovered wells surrounding Gir - that are virtual death traps for the lions. Poaching is another threat - lions are often killed for their claws. Living in a single park, a single epidemic could mean extinction for the lion.

"All lions are in one space, if anything were to happen to these animals it would be a catastrophe,” said Wildlife Conservation Society-India Program Ravi Chellam.

A new home for the lions has been prepared in Kuno in Madhya Pradesh, but Gujarat has refused to part with the lions… inspite of Jairam Ramesh's offer to exchange tigers for lions.

"I have written to the Gujarat Chief Minister saying that we will set up a tiger sanctuary in Gujarat. I’m hoping that will be incentive for him to part with a lion so to speak, the Madhya Pradesh CM is very keen, but it is Gujarat that has remained firm, " said Jairam Ramesh.

With Meghdoot Sharon in New Delhi this is Bahar Dutt


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