New Programmes Launched under Asiatic Lion Conservation Project

The Gir National Park in Gujarat will be provided dedicated ambulances and veterinary hospitals for injured and sick lions as part of the Asiatic Lion Conservation Project. This decision comes after 39 lions tested positive for the viral disease called canine distemper, out of which 24 died last year.

What is the Asiatic Lion Conservation Project?

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had launched the ‘Asiatic Lion Conservation Project’ in December 2018 to conserve the Asiatic Lions, the last ranging free population of which, is situated only in the Gir region of Gujarat. The highlights of the project are –

  • The Centre will spend Rs. 98 crore for the project in three years. The Gujarat government will contribute another Rs. 250 crores. The Centre has released Rs. 17 crore for the first year.
  • This project will now have a dedicated veterinary institute, “lion ambulances”, and back-up stocks of vaccines.
  • More water-sources will be arranged.
  • A wildlife crime cell and a task force will be set up in the Greater Gir region
  • GPS-based tracking system will be used on the lions.
  • Control of cats and dogs in lion habitat.
  • Wildlife forensic systems.
  • Offer attractive relocation packages to Maldhari (a pastoral community) and other communities
  • A committee of has been set up with experts from Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat to examine the suitability of MP as a potential lion reserve.

The Gujarat Government had also envisaged creating the Greater Gir Region that includes sanctuaries in Girnar, Pania and Mitiyala.

Recent Developments about the Asiatic Lion

  • The Asiatic Lions are found mostly in the Gir Sanctuary, Gir National Park, Girnar Sanctuary, Pania Sanctuary, Mitiyala Sanctuary.
  • The number of Asiatic lions have steadily increased in these past few years from 327 in 2001 to 523 in 2015 (as per the Gujarat Forest Department Census 2015)
  • The Supreme Court had ordered translocating few lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh in April 2013 and that too within 6 months. A Supreme Court appointed technical expert committee was formed that identified Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh as the most suitable region for reintroducing the species. But that hasn’t happened as of yet.
About the Asiatic Lions
  • Lions are one of the five pantherine cats (Bengal Tiger, Indian Leopard, Snow Leopard, Clouded Leopard, Asiatic Lions) inhabiting India
  • They are listed in the ‘Endangered’ category under the IUCN Red List
  • Its population is restricted only to the Gujarat state in India
Comment

The Asiatic Lion is a majestic beast and conserving the species will not only save the biodiversity but will also boost tourism for the entire nation and specially the Gujarat state. Considering all these, this is a good step taken by the Government. Plus, the number of Asiatic Lions have registered a steady growth as has been seen in the Census. However, the order given for the translocation of the lions have still not been carried out and also many lions have died because of the viral disease last year. There have also been cases of man-animal conflicts and increasing contact with feral dogs and other domestic animals that have carried the virus. So, a lot has been done surely, yet a lot is still to be done.

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