Thursday, March 10, 2016

Gujarat reports 310 lion deaths in five years

Gujarat reports 310 lion deaths in five years
The Times of India Home
AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat government has told the state assembly that some 310 Asiatic lions, including 136 cubs, died in five years starting April 1, 2010. On an average, this comes to five Asiatic lion deaths per month.

In 2013-14 and 2014-15, there were 85 and 80 deaths respectively.

According to the state government, in the last two years, of the 165 deaths, around 79 were cubs. A population count done in 2015 pegged the number of lions in Gir and its periphery at 523.
Forest department officials said that in the last five years, cub deaths made up 43% of all mortalities. They added that the survival rate of Asiatic lion cubs in Gujarat is around 56%, and this is higher than in their African counterparts. "Earlier, two cubs were born to lionesses on average, this has increased to between three and four cubs, and hence cub deaths are greater," said a senior forest officer.

"Unless the population shows a decline, individual deaths are not a cause for worry. I have no reason to disbelieve that the population grew from 411 to 523 in five years. Despite the deaths of 310 lions, there is an increase of around 113 animals, which is a sign of healthy conservation. I don't think the figure is alarming," said Divyabhanusinh Chavda, member of the Cat Specialist Group, Species Survival Commission, IUCN and former member of the National Board for Wildlife.
Lion expert Ravi Chellam said, "It is normal for 50% of cubs to die in the first 12 months of their birth. Hence it is important to know how many cubs were born in this period to ascertain if there was some reason to worry."

"The average litter size in lions is 2.4 cubs per female and there are around 200 females. If 50 deliver cubs, around 120 cubs are born. Of these, if 40-45 cubs die every year, it is not a cause of worry. Also a deaths rate of 20% among big cats is normal. I don't see any cause of concern as long as the numbers are increasing," said H S Singh, member of the National Board for Wildlife and a lion expert.

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