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A Cheetah By The Tail

 Cheetah  rescue operations after they stray  away from the  safe confines  of  congested  Kuno national park  have been reported   regularly in India  since  September 2022 when  the  maiden  batch of African cat landed in India  amidst much fanfare. But the latest visuals of yet another such action- this time in  a crowded Rajasthan village in Karauli district-put a question mark again  on the safety of the animal.   This cheetah had to be handled physically in order to prevent it from falling into a ravine as it cornered at the crest of the ravine after darting amid a gathering of an huge crowd nearby. Pawan's Life Was At Risk  Rajasthan forest  department officials alerted Kuno  National Park authorities  about the cheetah leading them to a rescue operation. Pawan, the male cheetah had wandered into Rajasthan through Chambal river bank and was spotted by the local villagers who in turn informed the  local authorities. “Male cheetah Pavan was rescued from Karauli district in Raj

Gujarat Lions Are Weak, Lack Vigor

Gujarat Lions

Asiatic lions in Gujarat are weak and may be getting weaker with time. Inbreeding is causing several genetic disorders. Their vigor and vitality are declining.  An interesting and elaborate research on the population of Asiatic lions has also shown “missing and malformed limbs” among lion cubs in Saurashtra Landscape in Gujarat, the only home to lions in India. “The lion has become a socio-political instrument in Gujarat, which despite a Supreme Court directive has not parted with founders to establish another population. Threats from epidemics loom large and currently a canine distemper virus outbreak is prevalent”, the study has warned.

 Inbreeding Effects On Vigor 

Gujarat Lions

On World Lion Day, as we discuss one of the most controversial subjects of India's wildlife governance, Gujarat continues to be in denial mode as far as the lion translocation project is concerned . The demographic conditions of the Asiatic Lion Landscape (ALL) in Gujarat are pathetic  and an alarm raised by  wildlife scientists   has made no difference in the opinion of the state which has decided  not to share its “pride” with any other  part of the country. 

Also readLion ,Cheetah  And The Politics Of Conservation

The report “ Asiatic Lion: Ecology, Economics, and Politics of Conservation” published in 2019 has dwelt in detail the  effects of inbreeding among the big cats. The  report is an outcome of an excellent research work of eminent scientists from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII). Headed by  Yadvendradev V. Jhala,  dean  WII, the other researchers include Kausik Banerjee, Stotra Chakrabarti , Parabita Basu,Kartikeya Singh, Chittaranjan Dave, and Keshab Gogoi. Amidst Cheetah introduction in Kuno Palpur National park (KPNP) in Madhya Pradesh, Lions have been in news again these days as Kuno was originally  prepared for lion  translocation. But two decades of preparation, a  long legal battle and a favourable Supreme Court order for lion translocation  were not enough for the big cat to reach their new home.  The report prepared by Jhala and his colleagues had opined , “Establishing a second free-ranging lion population away from Gir should be the most important conservation priority for the species. Kuno is an ideal option in a state that has a proven track record for tiger conservation”.  The report said,“ Todd (1965) attributed dentition abnormalities in Asiatic lions to inbreeding. " Decreased heterozygosity likely diminishes reproductive vigor and long-term survival of a population", the report warned. Loss of heterozygosity is a type of genetic abnormality. The scientists did not stop here.  

 Human , Diseases Cause  High Percentage Of Deaths  

Gujarat Lions

Discussing the mortality among the lions, the report said that  the human caused mortality was very high. It said, ``Based on records of 22 lion mortalities recorded between 2007 and 2019, we estimated that 30% of the deaths were caused by diseases”.  It further said “ Adult lions died primarily due to natural causes (60%), however, human caused mortality was also substantial (32%). Deaths due to falling in open irrigation wells, electrocution by live wires deployed illegally to prevent crop damage from nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus) and wild pigs (Sus scrofa) were a cause of concern in the agro-pastoral landscape. These are being addressed by wildlife authorities by subsidizing the construction of parapets around open wells and pulsating solar-powered wildlife fences to agricultural fields. ” Remember the statement given by the Gujarat government in March this year.  

Also read: Cheetah Races For Kuno, Defeats Lion

The state government had informed the Assembly that 313 Asiatic lions had died in the preceding two years. Of these, 154 were reported in 2019 and 159 in 2020. Taken together with the 124 deaths reported in 2021, a total of 437 lion deaths have been officially reported from the state — home to the world’s only population of wild lions outside Africa. The government stated there were 674 lions living in the wild, in and around the Gir Sanctuary in the state, as of December 31, 2021. This includes 206 males, 309 females and 29 cubs. Of these, 345 lions were inside Gir Sanctuary, while 329 lions, or almost half of the total population, were outside the sanctuary.

"Too Much Intervention May Have Serious Implications"

Gujarat Lions

The report also revealed that, “ there have been recorded instances where free-ranging lion cubs were detected with missing and malformed limbs, or were born blind .These are potential indicators of inbreeding , and in nature such handicapped  individuals rarely survive to propagate these traits, thereby purging out deleterious alleles (one of two or more versions of DNA sequence) from the population over time”.  Jhala, a veteran scientist who is involved actively in Cheetah translocation in Kuno national park, has also warned of the “serious implications on future survival of lions”.  

Also readLion Spillover From Gir National Park  Gets Closer To Ahmedabad

His report said, “ Intensive health care of wild lions as practiced in recent times by wildlife managers between 2001 and 2010, as many as  501 lions were captured and treated by Gujarat Forest Department  to ensure survival of many such unfit individuals. “ Such tampering with natural selection processes can have serious implications on the future survival of wild lions”, the report warns.  Movement of lions was recorded in a 22,000-square-kilometre area of Saurashtra. Lions have now established their permanent territories in Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts in the Saurashtra region. They often visit adjoining districts such as Rajkot and Porbandar. Presence of lions was also recorded in Ahmedabad district- all this in one part of the state. We have already seen the ill- efects of  inbreeding among the tigers in certains parts of India where  tiger  coat is changing colours

Representational Pictures: tourmyindia.com and Gir national park 

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A Cheetah By The Tail

 Cheetah  rescue operations after they stray  away from the  safe confines  of  congested  Kuno national park  have been reported   regularly in India  since  September 2022 when  the  maiden  batch of African cat landed in India  amidst much fanfare. But the latest visuals of yet another such action- this time in  a crowded Rajasthan village in Karauli district-put a question mark again  on the safety of the animal.   This cheetah had to be handled physically in order to prevent it from falling into a ravine as it cornered at the crest of the ravine after darting amid a gathering of an huge crowd nearby. Pawan's Life Was At Risk  Rajasthan forest  department officials alerted Kuno  National Park authorities  about the cheetah leading them to a rescue operation. Pawan, the male cheetah had wandered into Rajasthan through Chambal river bank and was spotted by the local villagers who in turn informed the  local authorities. “Male cheetah Pavan was rescued from Karauli district in Raj