India's Lions May Be An Endangered Species But Why Are They Drowning To Death In Gujarat
The Asiatic Lion is one of the world's most endangered species- you'd would expect it to be safest at Gir, a sanctuary in Gujarat. But 2013 saw a jump in the lion deaths (rising to 65 from 45 in 2012), a rate that continued with 64 deaths in 2014.
While forest officials have attributed it to the increase in lion population, a considerable number of lions die due to man-made causes. The Gir forest, and surrounding protected areas have 7,000 uncovered wells, where it is likely that lions flock to quench their thirst. Just recently, a lion drowned in a well - a village well. On an average, 15 lions die from drowning every year, the Daily Mail reported.
There are many other causes behind unnatural lion deaths here.
In March 2014, four lions were crushed under a goods train in the region.
"Since their population has increased considerably, lions now step out into non-forest areas and become victims of accidents," forest official A.K. Sharma told The Hindu last year.
Interestingly, the beast's population shrank to literally 12 lions in the 20th century, before Nawab Mahabat Khanji (of the princely state of Junagadh state), banned hunting, preserving the cat. The State administration has, however, not taken steps to re-route the train track passing through the Gir forest."
Independent media outlet Blue Moon Media had recently reported that lions are electrocuted by "electrified fencing done by the rich farmers in the region. ".
Gir has largely been unable to deal with the expanding footprint of the lion, which has increased with its population. Gir forest official Sandeep Kumar informed the BBC that living in "prides", "A male needs an area of 50 sq km and a female needs 26 sq km of space"
Interestingly, the Gujarat government, under the rule of then Chief Minister, fought arduous court battles to keep the Asiatic Lion population in Gir, despite a very real risk of keeping lion in a relatively small region – contagious infections. The BBC reported that illegal sand and limestone mining have dried local rivers, forcing lions to move closer to the water, "as far as 300km from the forest area," Gir forest official Sandeep Kumar said.