Saturday, February 19, 2011

Lion-hearted pride adopts 15-mth-old cub

Lion-hearted pride adopts 15-mth-old cub
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik

A pride of lions feeds on a hunted buffalo in Gir forest. At the dinner table are five cubs. One of these cubs is adopted, a rare feature in a lion pride. And this happened in Gir forest, the only home of the Asiatic lion in the world.

An officer of the social forestry department found a 15-month-old cub
abandoned by its mother on the outskirts of Bagasara town in Amreli district three months ago.

Taking the cub from the wild to a zoo would be against the interest of conservation, and leaving it in the wild might mean it would become a meal. So foresters hit upon a plan and took the cub to a different territory 50 km away and left it with a completely new lion pride. Three months later, it is a happy family of five cubs with their parents — a lion and 2 lionesses.

The cub, now 18 months old, has a new home in this pride in Hadala range of east Gir. Usually a pride does not accept a cub from another pride. So after releasing the sub-adult cub in the pride in Hadala, the field staff continuously watched the beasts and how they behaved with the new member. "Two females in the group came near the cub. We feared an attack, but these females drove the cub into the group," said M Raja, deputy conservator of forest, Gir east.

Additional conservator of forest (social forestry) H S Singh says this is the first time he saw such acceptance in his 30-year stint with Gujarat forests.

Ravi Chellam, director of Wildlife Conservation Society, finds it hard to accept that lions which are social animals would abandon a cub easily. "Chances of adoption of a 3-4-monthold female cub are more than a subadult female cub which would not be easily accepted," says Chellam.

Yadvendradev Jhala, head of the animal ecology and conservation department, Wildlife Institute of India, says, "Normally, females in the group do not accept a female easily. This is an established phenomenon. Women usually promote females from their own family and this adoption of another female is a rare phenomenon."

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