A New Sanctuary Will Be Opened to House Growing Number of Lions in Indian State

The Asiatic lion, aka the Persian lion, is a population of Panthera leo leo which is currently only found in the wilds of India. Its range has been restricted to Gir National Park and the surrounding areas in the Indian state of Gujarat since the turn of the 20th century.

Conservation efforts there have been so successful of late that a new sanctuary is being readied to house the growing number of cats that call Gir home. Gir National Park is the only place outside of Africa where lions can be viewed in their natural habitat.

Asiatic lions
Photo: Pixabay/jcmenon

Asiatic Lions

While still considered to be endangered, the number of lions has increased (approximately 400 in Gir and 300 in other areas of the state) there over the years, leaving the park to deal with overcrowding for quite some time. Lions are territorial, and the lack of space has seen them stray into villages and coastal areas where their presence is unwelcome.

Conservationists have reportedly been pleading with the Gujarat government to move some of the animals to other parts of India to provide those in Gir with more room. One of the concerns is that keeping so many animals of one species in the same limited area opens them up to the spread of infectious diseases.

Asiatic lion
Photo: Pixabay/jcmenon

Conservation Efforts

So far, the state government is accused of ignoring the pleas to share the wealth, prompting critics to accuse those in charge of being possessive about the lions to the extent that they are ignoring the animals’ best interests.

Authorities are said to have resisted a 2013 supreme court ruling ordering them to relocate some of the creatures to a sanctuary in the nearby state of Madhya Pradesh. The ruling noted that the move was essential to prevent disease from potentially wiping out the entire population. It’s a “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket” thought process that makes sense.

Asiatic lions
Photo: Pixabay/sarangib

Wildlife Sanctuaries

But now Gujarat seems to be caving to pressure with the announcement that some lions will be moved out of Gir to another spot within the state known as the Barda Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary, which is being prepared for its newest residents, will take approximately 40 lions.

Officials there explained to the local media that the herbivore population in the area was being increased and some of the more densely forested areas, which are apparently not a crowd-pleaser for lions in general, would be cut back in order to thin the vegetation.

Asiatic lion
Photo: Pixabay/ambquinn

Endangered Species

Anish Andheria, the president of the Wildlife Conservation Trust, stated that India’s increasing lion population was good news but that the only meaningful solution was for them to be moved to other parts of the country.

“But Gujarat doesn’t want to do that,” an exasperated Andheria claimed. “It does not want to share the lion with other states. It wants to keep the lion for itself to enjoy the status of the only state in India that has lions. That’s why it keeps coming up with these frills and cosmetic changes that are no solution at all.”

The Asiatic lion is one of five pantherine cats native to India, along with the Bengal tiger, Indian leopard, snow leopard, and clouded leopard.

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