New gene pools for GenNext lions
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik
GANDHINAGAR: The GenNext of Asiatic lions at Sasan Gir sanctuary is going to be stronger and healthier. Conservation of the endangered species is set to take a giant leap forward with creation of three gene pools.
The decision has been taken by Gujarat forest department. According to conservator of forests, Bharat Pathak, the gene pools are a long-term measure and will be at Rampara Virdi, around 40 km from Rajkot, Sakkarbaug Zoo and Hingolgadh in Jasdan taluka in Rajkot district. "These pools will help conserve genetic diversity. This is captive conservation of lions," he explained.
Officials said inbreeding has always been a concern. This could lead to deterioration in genes and rise in diseases harming the animals. "The gene pools will help us monitor and create healthy specimens," said a senior official involved in the project.
With the entire population of Asiatic lions confined to just one area, it is highly vulnerable to any kind of biological, climatic or man-made catastrophe. A major disaster within Gir could wipe out the entire species at a stroke. So would a disease outbreak.
Officials said Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, is exploring a possible second home at Kuno-Palpur Sanctuary of Madhya Pradesh. Measures are also being taken to correct a little known biological imbalance in the species.
"There are two types of conservation — one within the environment and the other where the animal is taken out of the environment and genetic diversity conserved. Each gene pool will have 10 to 20 animals," said another senior official.
The step is being taken to counter the Centre's move to shift the animals to Kuno, which Gujarat government is against. Around 50 of the wild cats will be shifted to these pools. The pools would also be used as breeding grounds for 10 to 12 pairs.