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India's Lion population up 27%

Discussion in 'Wildlife & Nature Conservation' started by Macaw16, 12 May 2015.

  1. Macaw16

    Macaw16 Well-Known Member

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  2. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    The news that I really want to hear about Asiatic Lions is a release to another national park somewhere. There's only so many lions that Gir Forest can sustain and this number may already have passed with this population size.
     
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  3. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    Very true. This isn't really good news unless some translocations really do take place. The population has been at capacity or even overcrowded in the Gir Forest for many years now already, so this population increase is almost like bad news for them at present. Still no moves have taken place yet, despite being talked about for several decades now.
     
  4. Macaw16

    Macaw16 Well-Known Member

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    Surely the majority of them will be inbred, or eventually will be, if they only originate from about dozen, so starting a population elsewhere with some wild stock and some zoo stock might help, would this be the case?
     
  5. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    Starting a population elsewhere is what is needed. It's probably the best thing that can be done at the moment to help wild Asiatic Lions. I don't know how inbred the wild population is, I would think it would be to a certain extent with the twelve individuals but the European zoo population is very inbred so I don't think a mixture of zoo stock and wild stock is necessary or even desirable. What needs to be done is move some of the animals from Gir Forest to somewhere else. Easier said than done, I realise, but as long as I can remember the authorities have been faffing over this and it needs to be done.
     
  6. vogelcommando

    vogelcommando Well-Known Member

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  7. vogelcommando

    vogelcommando Well-Known Member

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  8. birdsandbats

    birdsandbats Well-Known Member

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  9. Mbwamwitu

    Mbwamwitu Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for bumping this with the recent news!

    TBH our lion situation in India is a mess. It's always come down to the reluctance of their current home state (Gujarat) to lose its monopoly over lion tourism. Earlier, this was presented as almost an ethno-nationalist thing. Some of us hoped that this rhetoric would change after Gujarat's "big man" chief minister became our nationalist Prime Minister, but the tourism revenue incentive is too strong. There's also the reasonable question of what translocation of lions to Kuno (the main park in contention) will do the tigers there, but that's something that should be dealt with on the basis of science alone. State politics is muddling the whole thing up, and Gujarat is on the ultra defensive trying to present the outbreak, overcrowding and human-animal conflict concerns in Gir as misplaced or manageable when they're hurtling out of control.

    Sometimes, I wish there was a feasible way to create a second lion population without relying on Gujarat's Gir stock. I'm not sure how much success there is in re-wilding captive-bred lions, and land/conflict is always an issue in India, but if we could find a suitable stretch of land that was willing to re-wild some zoo lions, that could break Gujarat's current monopoly and incentivize them to protect their existing population (which will always be India's strongest) by allowing some translocation and inter-state management.
     
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  10. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

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    One almost wonders whether the mass import of a viable population of African lions would be a possible solution.
     
  11. Pleistohorse

    Pleistohorse Well-Known Member

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    That would certainly result in a second Lion population in India. Such an idea would be feasible (and maybe appropriate) with Cheetahs....seeing as the remaining Asian cats of that species are just holding on in Iran and not secure in the long-term at all are they?

    I hope that India is able to successfully navigate the politics of establishing a second or even third population of Asiatic Lions within India. Bonus if the situation is ever such that the cats could be reestablished in the Caucasus Mountains or southern Iraq or an appropriate region of Iran (where the last lions are still less than a century gone).
     
  12. Mbwamwitu

    Mbwamwitu Well-Known Member

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    The African cheetah reintroduction idea has been shot down in our courts over and over again, and a lot of wildlife conservationists aren't in favor of it, because the pressures on our existing large carnivore species are already insane. Most of the feasible grassland landscapes for cheetah would be under tons of grazing pressure, and I'll admit to personally being concerned about any possible impact on our struggling Great Indian bustards and Indian wolves.

    There's also some people who think that the lion and cheetah aren't actually native to most of the subcontinent. Check out this book Exotic Aliens, written by some of our top wildlife historians who think the lion and cheetah populations were feral, established by runaways from ancient and early medieval hunting preserves: A Review Of Exotic Aliens – The Lion And Cheetah In India

    Most of us here don't buy it, but I think it helps convey some of the skepticism and concern from tiger/leopard conservationists over the effect of adding another big cat.

    Ideally, we'd start translocating those Gir lions, but I agree that the Gujarat monopoly has to be broken, which might take African imports. My dream scenario would be if we could use imported or re-wilded (or, ideally, translocated-from-Gir) lions and cheetahs to declare a few solid reserves in grassland areas where Great Indian bustard, wolf, striped hyena, etc. would also benefit from the protection. Big cats would generate tourism revenues where these other species haven't.

    Comes down, as most things in India, to a basic lack of a science-based approach that overrides the bureaucracy. We don't have something as sound as the ESA/FWS when it comes to making this kind of decision, as good as our wildlife legislation is on things like poaching/trafficking. That'll be the first need before cheetahs come in. But the African lion import is something worth checking up on - whether any groups here have considered bringing African lions to Kuno.
     
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  13. Mbwamwitu

    Mbwamwitu Well-Known Member

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    EDIT to above: I re-skimmed the Q&A portion of the article I linked, and perhaps mischaracterized the intent of the authors of the thesis that lions and cheetahs are non-indigenous to India. I thought they were using this argument to de-prioritize the two species in India, but rather it looks like they're supportive of African imports in both cases as there is substantial evidence (in their eyes) that the Indian populations were of African genetic stock (as ferals). They'd actually be in favor of lion imports, and had my same reservation on the cheetah: not until our management systems are ready to deal with such a habitat-sensitive species.
     
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  14. vogelcommando

    vogelcommando Well-Known Member

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  15. vogelcommando

    vogelcommando Well-Known Member

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  16. Mbwamwitu

    Mbwamwitu Well-Known Member

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    Could this population be a good one to use for an experimental release program in another state, to create a second wild lion population in India? Assuming the political reasons (which are actually why a second lion population has not been established) were not in play, are there biological or epidemiological reasons as to why this group would not be a worthy experimental population in a new area, perhaps initially in a semi-contained area?
     
  17. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member

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    Alternative would be to send some cats to Western zoos. Western zoos would be a very good place to get rid of problem big cats (injured ones, cattle or human killers etc). There are apparently dozens of wild-caught problem big cats in local zoos in Africa and Asia.

    Unfortunately, there seems to be a poisonous culture of "ownership" and "exclusivity" between Indian states. Gujarat did not want to export "their" lions to reintroduction in other states, nor Assam wanted to share "their" rhinos etc.
     
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  18. Mbwamwitu

    Mbwamwitu Well-Known Member

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    100%. It's also an economic thing - losing monopoly over the lions means losing a lot of tourism revenue for Gujarat. But I feel like your solution (zoos) would solve that, since the toxic ownership politics only arise with regards to wild populations.
     
  19. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member

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    I think I written this before. This exclusivity is toxic, that is harms not only animals but also economy.

    Exporting some animals does not diminish the wealth of the region, because the animals will breed and fill the loss. Exporting animals eases the cost of maintaining captive animals, promotes the region, promotes the reserves (few people abroad even heard about Gujarat and lions outside Africa), helps attract funds from outside, helps attract conservation and science partners etc. My homeland, Poland, had the last existing European bison or Wisent. Poland exported surplus and got much more value than would come from exclusivity of the Wisent. And tourism grows, and there is no visible loss that Wisents exist also abroad.
     
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  20. Mbwamwitu

    Mbwamwitu Well-Known Member

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    Oh, I agree with you 100%. I think it's incredibly toxic and detrimental to everyone - the lions of Gir themselves, the ecosystem which is dealing with a lion surplus, the cattle herders outside the park who are facing livestock predation, and of course the species and world as a whole.

    But the economic argument still stands. I'm not saying that I agree with it (I absolutely don't), I'm just saying this influences the thinking of policy-makers in Gujarat. It doesn't matter how many folks abroad have heard of the Gir lions; they're not interested in foreign tourists. It's 100% about the domestic Indian market. We're a huge country of 1.3 billion people, so even though most of the population is too poor to go on safari, even the 1% in India is 10 million people. Most of our wildlife tourism industry (tigers, rhinos, lions, you name it) is driven by DOMESTIC demand, and a glance at either the entry statistics or anecdotal eyewitness accounts from the parks will confirm that. International tourists will always prefer Africa for a lion safari, but Indians from all states and regions of India travel to Gujarat to see the only wild ones in our country.

    Check out this graph of domestic vs. foreign tourists to Gir: https://forests.gujarat.gov.in/gir-nat-park.htm. Almost 400,000 Indian tourists in 2011-2012. In 2016, over 150,000 had visited within the first six months; in 2018, there were 75,000 in ONE WEEK on Diwali holidays (our equivalent of Thanksgiving break in the US).

    Gujarat recognizes this - the lions are all over their tourism promotional materials. I had to travel to Ahmedabad (the capital of Gujarat) recently, and the airport has a huge, life-size model of a forest in Gir with lion statues. And I am sure that the economic calculation factors into their apparently just jingoistic reluctance to part with wild lions. Consider also the fact that Madhya Pradesh - the state that is poised to receive the lions and build the second wild population - currently has the "lion's share" of wildlife tourism revenue and potential, as it has 5-7 of the best tiger reserves in the country. Gujarat fears that lions on the existing "tiger circuit" will grow to eclipse theirs as a tourist trap, even though it's unlikely that the new park will have lion populations that are nearly as successful and visible as Gir's.

    Again, I'm 100% in agreement with you, as my earlier posts here also indicate. I wish they would relocate the lions and use the new tourism revenue to protect India's fragile and neglected scrub and grassland ecosystems (with their striped hyenas, sloth bears, great Indian bustards, various critically endangered vultures, etc.) under the flagship banner of Lion Conservation. I also wish that Gujarat would divert their attention towards developing some of the other potential wildlife tourism attractions - for example, Velavadar in Gujarat has the world's largest herds of blackbuck, very visible wolves and striped hyenas, and one of the largest harrier roosts. Rann of Kutch has onagers and flamingoes. Gir will continue to be the best bet for lions, and there are several strong locations for leopard tourism as is now booming in the neighboring state of Rajasthan.

    But I'm just saying - there is an economic layer to the toxicity as well. And I don't think Gujarat currently considers the international back-patting/appreciation/support for making the right move scientifically as better than the local revenue generated by their monopolization of lions. If we want their minds to change, we have to influence that calculus.
     
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