Friday, March 12, 2010

Sasan Gir National Park – 72 Asiatic Lions Die in Last 2 years

Gujarat Prime Minister Narendra Modi says Asiatic lions are the pride of Gujarat and he won't part with them. But the animals seem to be endangered in their sole habitat. The Gujarat State Government has admitted that 72 Asiatic lions died in the Gir Sanctuary in the past two years.

Of them, one was killed by poachers and the rest, the government claimed, were from natural causes.
Replying to a question in the assembly, the state government said on Tuesday that there were only 291 lions left in the Gir sanctuary as on December 31, 2009.

Among them were 100 lionesses and 123 cubs in a park spread over 1,400 sq km of Sasan Gir forest area.
Conservationists have long complained that Gir Jungle was overcrowded and some lions need to be shifted to a sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. But Modi has repeatedly said he wasn't going to share the state's biggest tourist attraction.

More than 13,500 open wells in Gir pose a threat to lions, many of which have been killed after falling into them. Many lion deaths in Gir Wildlife Sanctuary have occurred from fights between the animals. "There are several deaths because of territorial fights over lionesses," says conservationist Sanat Chavan.

However, some officials say though lions are dying in large numbers, the total population is higher than what the government gave the assembly. Principal Chief Conservator of forests Pradeep Khanna told TOI that the data was only about lions in the protected area.

"Lions are also found in Girnar hills, in the coastal area as well as in Bhavnagar District and other parts outside the sanctuary. The last census showed there were 359 lions. The next census will be held by April this year," he said.

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