One of the most awe inspiring predators ever, the Asiatic Lion was once spread over large parts of the Indian subcontinent. As with most big cats, loss of habitat, merciless hunting and loss of natural prey has led to a massive decline in the number of Asiatic Lions in India. Today the king of the jungle is found only in the forests of Gir in the state of Gujarat.
Due to the entire population of Asiatic Lions being confined to one geographic area, there is increasing threat to the entire species by diseases like Anthrax etc. There are concerns about in-breeding which reduces immunity in the species as a whole, and one disease out-break could potentially wipe out a large number of these beautiful creatures.
Outside of Africa, Gir is the only place in the world where Lions still roam free. There are around 300 surviving Lions in the forests of Gir. Besides in-breeding, there are other serious threats to the survival of the Asiatic Lions in India. Gir, due to it’s geographic location has several highways and train lines running through it. There have been incidents of trains running over these magnificent creatures in the past.
For protection of the species there are on-going talks about trans-locating some Lions to the forests of Madhya Pradesh, but the Gujarat government has their own set of issues against this (tourism, only state in India which has Lions).
While there is a huge hoopla about Tiger conservation (which is good, though I’m still not sure about is really happening on the ground while people join “stripey the cub” communities on FaceBook), there is almost nothing being said about conservation of the Asiatic Lion. If something isn’t done quick enough, Lions might just beat tigers into extinction.
All that the future generations will see is pictures of the King of the jungle, or “Kings” born in captivity.
A few days ago I took a few pictures of these two cubs (at the Delhi zoo) and had a feeling of immense joy to see them playing with each other, biting, rolling and licking each other. The one picture which really touched my heart was of the two Lion cubs walking towards me with one of them looking directly into the camera. It just inspired feelings of free spirit, brotherhood, companionship, camaraderie and a lifelong bond.
While I was in the dream zone completely fascinated by the cubs, I saw one of them running excitedly towards one end of the enclosure. The second one followed suit and that is when I realized, that the zoo-keepers had opened the enclosure gate which leads to the cages (I guess it was time for food). Both cubs run through the gate and disappeared into their cages. At this point, pretty much all the thoughts I had earlier came into sharp perspective when I thought about words like “tame and domesticated”.
This is just wrong. They should be in the wild where they belong!