28 July, 2021

The Mane Don't Fit

Fifty-five lions have died in Gir in the last two years. Strangely, the crisis arises from a leonine glut.

Parish Joshi
The Mane Don't Fit
On paper, all is well in Gujarat's Gir national park and sanctuary. The lion population is stable at about 320. The forest cover is thick, thanks to afforestation efforts. There has even been talk of shifting some of the animals to more sparsely populated forests. Yet, despite this comes the bad news: 55 lions have died in the last two years. And more may follow.

According to Sanat Chauhan, former principal chief conservator of forests, "many more lions are likely to die given that the 1,400 sq km forest is bursting at its seams and human encroachment is only adding to the pressure". Forest department officials are candid in admitting that the Gir forest which once covered 2,500 kms of area has over the years shrunk by over 1,000 sq km. This is compounded, as usual, by pastoralist claims on the territory: Gir now houses 20 settlements of maldharis or shepherds.

For the record, conservator of forests Bharat Pathak claims 44 of the deaths were natural. "Some accidents do happen, but that does not mean we are negligent. We rescued some 114 animals last year. We have also...

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