Enable Big Cats to Thrive, End Extinction Fears
The New Indian Express
The latest census of India's population of the endangered Asiatic Lion shows that their numbers are up 27 per cent from those thrown up by the previous census conducted five years back. In 2000, the Asiatic Lion was declared the most endangered large cat species in the world by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The latest census shows that India has managed to bring back the Asiatic lion from the brink of extinction through a single protected reserve. While the rise in their population is welcome, it also poses fresh challenges for managing their habitat and conflict with humans. The slow and promising growth in their numbers is satisfactory, but 50 lions still die annually due to a variety of threats. Experts suggest the big cats need to be relocated to another habitat to ensure their safety because a single sanctuary is detrimental to their safety.
However, despite the Supreme Court ruling in 2013 that some of them should be shifted to another sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, the Gujarat government has repeatedly tried to appeal the decision and refused to transfer the lions. The rise in their population in Gir sanctuary should not be treated as an excuse to cling to its fauna, which they regard as the "pride of the state". In the larger interest of preserving Asiatic lions, the Gujarat government must start cooperating and put everything else aside to save the lion via the translocation programme of the magnificent animal.
Considering that there have been reports of the tiger population increasing by 30 per cent, the rise in the number of lions suggests conservation programmes have finally begun to show results notwithstanding the hazards of their shrinking habitats due to the rise in human population and also of poaching. It goes without saying that these wonderful creatures are high revenue earners for the government because they attract tourists from far and near. The resultant infrastructure for visitors also boosts job potential. India is one of the rare nations where both the lion and the tiger can be found. It must make the most of the "achievement" by expanding the wildlife sanctuaries and creating new ones since the two species have to be kept separate. Having succeeded in saving them from extinction, India has to enable them to flourish.