Next steps at Gir

The magnificent Asiatic lion is under threat. Twenty-three lions have died in as many days in the eastern part of Gujarat’s Gir sanctuary. While mass mortalities in wildlife are always a cause for concern, this case is even more worrisome as the big cat population in Gujarat is the last of the Asiatic lions in the wild. In 2013, the Supreme Court had issued an order that lions from Gujarat be relocated to the Kuno sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh as a check against the threat of epidemic. But even wild animals are subject to State politics. Gujarat has been unwilling to part with its lions, calling them “its pride” in an affidavit. Following the series of deaths, preliminary reports said that the cats have been killed by disease, most likely to be infectious. Some others have died due to poisoning and infighting. On October 3, the Supreme Court, noting that the death of so many lions was a serious matter, asked the Central government to look into it. New-age conservation In its 2013 order, the Supreme Court had said: “Asiatic lion, it has been noticed, has been restricted to only one single habitat, i.e. the Gir National Forest and its surrounding areas and an outbreak of possible epidemic or natural calamity might wipe off the entire species. A smaller population with limited genetic strength are more vulnerable to diseases and other catastrophes in comparison to large and widespread population.” The court also noted how 30% of the lion population in Tanzania’s Serengeti was killed due to an outbreak of canine distemper, a viral disease that affects animals. Gujarat’s response to this was that lions are now spread over the Greater Gir region and this reduces the threat. It has also had an intense, managerial response to the disease — when ill, lions are routinely picked up, medically treated, and then released. Wildlife conservation concerns itself with maintaining ecological processes and reducing threats to endangered species. It does not entail treating wild animals for disease (in the way domestic animals are) as this can go against the processes of natural selection. Treating wild animals appears to be a caring thing to do. But it is not conducive to the ‘natural’ process of life and death, and ultimately compromises immunity. Another celebrity example of this kind of management was Machli, the tigress from Ranthambhore in Rajasthan. Known as the world’s most photographed tigress, she lived for 20 years before her death in 2016. This is because she was treated medically, and often fed artificially.

Source : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/next-steps-at-gir/article25127887.ece

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