Friday, March 16, 2012

India’s lions still being killed, face uncertain future

India's lions still being killed, face uncertain future
bikyamasr By Joseph Mayton

A lion inside the Gir Sanctuary in Western India.

India's last remaining lion sanctuary is facing more losses as at least 25 Asiatic Lions at the Gir Sanctuary in Western India were lost last year, the Gujarat assembly was told by local wildlife experts.

Over the past three years, as many as 86 lions were reported dead in the sanctuary, one of the last remaining refuges for the endangered Asiatic lion species.

Established in 1965, with a total area of 1412 kilometers and 1153 kilometers for the Sanctuary, the park is located 65 kilometers to the south-east of Junagadh and 60 kilometers to south west of Amreli.

As per the 2010 census, there were around 297 lions in Gir Sanctuary (59 males, 121 females, lions in teens 35, 61 cubs and 21 whose age could not be ascertained).

There were 411 lions (a rise of 52 over 2005) in all, in the entire Gir forest region which extends beyond the Sanctuary, upto Amreli and Bhavanagar districts of the state, as per 2010 census.

In a written reply to query of Congress MLA from Karjan, Chandudabi, forest minister Mangu Patel informed that 85 lions died natural deaths in last three years.

25 lions had died through December 2011, and 30 lions each died in the years 2009-10 and 2010-11.

Asiatic lions are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's endangered species list.

An Indian representative of CITES – the international body that oversees the trade in endangered species – told on condition of anonymity, that "India must begin to do a better job with maintaining the conditions for these animals because there is no excuse to have this high of a number killed or die annually."

The Indian government has said it is boosting its funding for national wildlife refuges and hopes to increase the number of individuals helping to protect its native animals in the country.

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