Asiatic lions test COVID positive

Around eight Asiatic lions have tested positive for COVID-19 at Hyderabad Nehru Zoological Park. This is the first time that transmission of virus to animal has been detected in India.

Asiatic Lions

  • Asiatic Lions are one of the five Pantherine cats that are native to India. The other four are Indian Snow Leopard, Bengal Tiger, Clouded Leopard and Indian Leopard.
  • The range of a male Asiatic lions varies between 144 kilometres and 230 kilometres.
  • Gir National Park is the only known habitat for the Asiatic lions in the world.
  • The major threat of Asiatic lions is its vulnerability to natural disaster and unpredictable events such as plague. However, the population of these lions have been constantly increasing from 2010.

Census of Asiatic Lions

  • In June 2020, the Gujarat Forest Department announced that the population of Asiatic lions in the Gir forest region increased to 674 from 523 in 2015. In 2015, several lions died due to an outbreak of Canine Distemper Virus (CDV). Several other lions died in 2018 due to babesiosis. Babesiosis outbreak was reported in 2020 as well.
  • The first census of the Asiatic lions was conducted by the Nawab of Junagadh in 1936.
  • The regular Asiatic Lion census is conducted once in five years. The last census was conducted in 2015. The next census was due in 2020, but was postponed due to COVID-19.

Protection Status of Asiatic lions

  • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1971: Schedule I
  • CITES: Appendix I
  • IUCN: Endangered

Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project

It was undertaken to protect the surviving population. The project was proposed to reintroduce the Asiatic lions in Palpur-Kuno Wildlife sanctuary. However, it has currently been put on hold.

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