Saturday, February 21, 2009

King of the jungle facing threat

King of the jungle facing threat
Times of India By ESTHER DAVID

Now tell us one good reason, why we should send our Lions to MP, UP or even Timbuktu? After what did they do to our tigers in Sariska, we have no reason to take this risk. At first lions were given the title of king, but when they dwindled, they were replaced by the tiger. After the Sariska scandal, when we thought our lions would regain the title, they were being methodically killed. Maldharis, old buddies of lions, were suspected of the massacre, when lions started doing a Jalianwallah. Nobody knew what was happening; fingers were pointed at skin traders from Ahmedabad and nobody could trace Sherabhais or Sherubhais. Eventually someone stumbled on a group of acrobats posing as labourers in Gir forests.

They were actually, tight rope walkers with bloodshot eyes and big moustaches as their women pretending to be pregnant carried blood stained bags of lion loot in folds of their saris. So, no claws, skins or aphrodisiac bones were found from Ahmedabad, because this was not the handiwork of a local Shera, but a Sher Singh from MP. He had planned the massacre of lions to the last detail with drugs, traps, spears et al.

The poor lions were baits in a larger international racket even as higher ups were deciding whether to keep lions in Gujarat or shift them to MP. The picture is no longer bleak, as recently with a nod from both SC and CZA, it was decided to set up a lion park at Amreli.

A pair of lions was also gifted to Ahmedabad zoo, so may the tribe increase. We are no authorities on wild life, but we believe that the lion population could multiply in zoos. If you have ever wondered about the meaning of CZA, it is the Central Zoo Authority of the government of India, connected with the ministry of environment and forests, which controls zoo ethics of the country. CZA was set up in 1992 and works for improvement of zoos and closes down badly maintained zoos. The Indian method is followed by other countries and recently they have brought out a calendar about leaders of zoo movement in India, which includes a photograph of my father as Ahmedabad zoo is still rated the best.

At last, it is heartening to know that the Amreli National Park will preserve the Asiatic lion, so that the lions do not become an extinct race. We are no wild life experts, but maybe, lions should be rounded up, fitted with monitor belts and shifted to protected areas, so that they can be seen only through forest department tours, not organised by novices or else the last of the Asiatic lions will disappear and will be seen only as an illustration in our children's textbooks!

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