Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Book: The Gir lion

Book: The Gir lion
Down To Earth

Book>> The Gir Lion
By H S Singh Pugmark Books, Ahmedabad 2007

Gir Wildlife Sanctuary has been in the news for the large number of lions dying in it. The proposed move to transfer some of the big cats from Gir to Kuno in Madhya Pradesh has also attracted media attention. The attention is not surprising. Gir is home to the last surviving population of about 300 free-ranging Asiatic lions. Conservationists are worried about the vulnerability of these critically endangered lions.

The book under review is thus timely. H S Singh brings a forester perspective to the issue of lion conservation. It's a perspective born of long experience in Gir. Singh has designed management plans for the Gir Protected Area and has been chief conservator of forests in Gujarat.

Singh's book covers a range of topics including the historical distribution of the animal, its biology, and human-lion conflict. There is also a section comparing the lion with other big cats. Elegant photographs and illustrations add to the book's appeal. There are reference lists at the end of each chapter, with a good bibliography that would aid any serious student.

Then there is also a section that anyone with a keen interest in lion conservation would look forward to--finding an alternative home for the Gir Lion. Singh informs us that there have been attempts to relocate the lions before, and the experiments failed every time. Breeding lions in semi-captivity--a prelude to relocating them--led to a change in their feeding habits. Since they were fed on live buffaloes, they had little interest in killing sambar, chital and blue bull, and instead attacked domestic livestock. The lions went hungry for days though wild prey was in striking distance.

The author also takes the issue with those wanting to send the Gir lions to Kuno. "The very high temperature in Kuno might turn disastrous for the lions in the new area, as nowhere in the world have lions lived happily, where temperatures exceeded 43c," he says.

One wishes the author had elaborated on this. Or is there another publication in store?

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