Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Road to lion conservation

Road to lion conservation
Times of India By Himanshu Vyas

IUCN Shifts Asiatic Lions From Critical Category To Endangered Species

The roar of Asiatic lions in Gujarat just got louder. The conservation efforts of the state are now reflected not just in the growing numbers of the big cats but also in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

IUCN has now shifted the big cats from critically endangered species category to endangered species.

This change has been triggered by the state's undying conservation efforts and the growing populace of lions in Gujarat.

Asiatic lions of Gujarat were listed as critically endangered species in 2000. The IUCN list released recently has listed the 'lion king' in the endangered species category. IUCN officials have justified this change thus: "Asiatic lion exists as a single isolated population in India's Gujarat state. The number of mature lions has been increasing, all occurring within one subpopulation (but in four separate areas, three of which are outside of the Gir forest protected area). Since the population now extends beyond the boundary of the lion sanctuary, and the numbers are stable, the subspecies is listed as Endangered based simply on the population size."

Asenior Gujarat forest officer said that the IUCN report has quoted 2005 figures, which shows that the lion populace of Gujarat has 175 mature animals. But the 2011 census has revealed that the lion populace here consists of 97 males and 162 females. The forest officer added, "Going by the global criteria, if the population of adults is about 50 per cent of the total population it is considered to be healthy. In 2011, of the 411 lions, the adult population was 259."

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is globally recognized as the most comprehensive and objective approach in evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species.

Y V Jhala, head of the department of Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology, told TOI: "This report reflects the success of lion conservation in Gujarat. It is a feather in the cap for the state. Gujarat should now set a target to get the big cat listed in a further safer category — threatened species."

GUJARAT'S GROWING PRIDE: In 2005, there were 175 mature lions in Gujarat. The number has increased to 259 in 2011

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