Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Gir lions

Gir lions
The Hindu

The fact of there now being more lions in Gir ("Lions' roar grows louder in Gir", May 11) only increases the urgency of the need for a new sanctuary. The Asiatic lions are now crammed into a 560-square-mile or 1,450-square-kilometre area. Gir has as many lions as it can hold, in fact too many. As a wildlife researcher who once visited India for research, I can recall how officials were worried, off the record, about outbreaks of disease or natural disasters having an impact on the lions. The pressure on officials was more about "showing numbers" than to worry about such things. Gir's lions are especially vulnerable to disease because they descend from as few as a dozen individuals and which points to the vulnerabilities of inbreeding.

Western geneticists are on record as saying that most Gir lions, in terms of DNA printing, are likeidentical twins." Because of this small gene pool, there is also a record of reproductive difficulties and deformities. Perhaps the Indian authorities need to take a leaf out of the book of European zoos which collaborated under a strict breeding programme and boosted their Asiatic lion count to a healthy (in the true, genetic sense) level. May be the Gir lion pool can be "refreshed" with these animals.

Raghu Mukherji, London


No comments:

Previous Posts