Gene pool of Asiatic Lions to come up in Gujarat
The Asiatic Lion faces threat from poaching and deadly diseases, affecting its population in the lone habitat of the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo: P. V. Sivakumar
Ahmedabad (PTI): Turning to science in a long-term conservation plan of endangered Asiatic Lions, an exclusive gene pool of the species will be set up with blood and DNA samples to maintain their genetic diversity.
The measure taken up by the Gujarat government is aimed at protecting the diverse gene pool of the last surviving Asiatic Lions — just 359 as per the last census in 2005 — which faces threat from poaching and deadly diseases, affecting its population in the lone habitat of the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary.
The forest department would set up four gene pools at four different places around the sanctuary, Forest Conservator Mayank Sharma told PTI. Blood and DNA samples, semen and live tissue specimens of large number of lions will be preserved at these units.
"We have identified four different places, where we will build full-fledged gene pools as a part of a long term conservation plan," Sharma said.
These units would come up at Rampara and Umath in Rajkot district, Shakkarbaug in Junagadh and Barda in Porbandar. The purpose of the project is to maintain genetic diversity of the lions, he said.
The wildlife department plans to keep six to eight breeding pairs of lions in each of these gene pool, Sharma said, adding that they would be kept in captivity in huge enclosures built at each of the four identified centres.
"Each gene pool will be built at a cost of Rs 1.50 crore," Sharma said.
"We will prepare genetic profiling of each lion present in the gene pool, conduct DNA fingerprinting on them, take their tissue and sperm samples and preserve them in cold storage."
The project also plans to build a laboratory at Sakkarbaug in Junagadh for storing live tissue materials.
"We plan to keep the gene pool for the next 50 years. New techniques would have been developed for conservation of wild animals by then," the forest conservator said.
The building of enclosure has been completed at Rampara near Vankaner town in Rajkot district and lions will be introduced there by 2009-2010. Construction of enclosure is underway at Barda Wildlife Sanctuary in Porbandar district.
"Enclosures will be bigger than those in Zoos. People will not be allowed there," Sharma added.
"We will not pick up lions from Gir and introduce them to gene pools. Lions straying out of the sanctuary and the injured ones after rehabilitation would be shifted to gene pools," he added.