To save our lions, make them strays
The Times Of India
Ahmedabad: Gir lions, if taught to shake hands with the reward of perks such as a pat and glucose biscuits, may benefit from people's protective proximity. Stray dogs in Gujarat cities routinely bare their wolf ancestry, preying on more knees of guys in a night than the number of neelgais that lions manage to nibble in a year.
Yet dogs are proliferating in cities while lions face several perils in Gir, their only habitat in the world. What works for dogs is their "stray" status. The "endangered" label on lions evokes linguistic confusion. Does 'endangered' mean 'enormously dangerous', people can justifiably wonder.
Stray dogs adopted by housing societies and offices strive to ingratiate themselves to humans. They whine with gratitude when offered leftover rotis. They sleep all day, thereby wildly puffing up the sense of humans' own industriousness. And most importantly, dogs pose tamely for Facebook.
But lions' cognitive apparatus is not sophisticated enough to work out where the leftover roti ends and the roti-giver's body begins. Moreover, lions sleep and then hunt; sleep and copulate; and sleep and trek long distances. All this makes even the hardest working human achiever feel as inadequate as a phone with a slow internet connection. Finally, lions are not allowed to pose for selfies. That is why dogs and cats get the lion's share of likes on social media.
The government is doing all it can to help Gujarat's pride. But there is no harm in testing a few unconventional solutions. So instead of translocating lions to Madhya Pradesh, translocation to Gujarat's cities is suggested.
Lions will have to tolerate cooing and cuddles from humans. They will have to adjust their diet to home-cooked, mostly diabetes-fighting, food. They will have to restrain their regal revulsion in the face of such Facebook captions as "Today, Brownie was a naughty lion. He waylaid the office-canteen bhaiyya and drank all our chai. He has become tea-total in Gujarat. So cute!"
In return, lions will be tended to lovingly. Veterinarians will be on call 24/7; one supposes that docs will have to only boost kitty medicine doses sixtyfold. And lions will be made to mate by neighbourhood conservationists in line with Google-prescribed cycles.
What about lions' jungle instincts? Deer can be released on the streets in the night under the "Safari In Concrete Jungle" programme. Tourists from around the world will be thrilled to watch the tea-total Brownie trying to go wild amid dogs, bikes, and autorickshaws.