Asiatic lions in the Gir forest region

Context

  • Recently, the Gujarat Forest Department has announced an increase in the population of Asiatic lions in the Gir forest region.
  • The count was estimated from a population observation exercise called Poonam Avlokan in place of the 15th Lion Census.
  • More than two dozen lions died last year in an outbreak of canine distemper virus (CDV) and Babesiosis.

Poonam Avlokan

  • a monthly in-house exercise carried out every full moon.
  • developed by the Forest Department in 2014 as part of preparations for the 2015 Lion Census.
  • carried out for 24 hours assessing the number of lions and their locations in their respective jurisdictions.
  • conducted only by forest staff.

Lion Census

  • The first Lion Census was conducted by the Nawab of Junagadh in 1936.
  • Since 1965, the Forest Department has been regularly conducting the Lion Census every five years.
  • The regular Lion Census is conducted once every five years. The last Census was conducted in 2015.
  • usually runs for more than two days, including a preliminary census and a final census.
  • done using the block counting method

Gir National Park

  • located in the state of Gujarat.
  • only natural habitat of Asiatic lions.
  • often linked with “Maldharis” who are religious pastoral communities living in Gir.
  • Their settlements are called “nesses“.

Protection for Asiatic Lions

  • IUCN Red List: Endangered
  • CITES: Appendix I
  • Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972: Schedule I
  • The “Asiatic Lion Conservation Project” has been launched by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC).

Babesia

  • a tiny parasite that infects red blood cells.
  • Infection with Babesia is called babesiosis.
  • usually transmitted by a tick bite, Babesiosis occurs in both Animals and Humans.
  • Babesiosis outbreak was reported in Gir forest in 2020, and around two dozen lions were reported to be killed.

Canine Distemper Virus (CDV)

  • Contagious and serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of puppies and dogs.
  • caused by a single-stranded RNA virus of the family Paramyxoviridae (the same family of the viruses that causes measles, mumps, and bronchiolitis in humans).
  • affects a wide variety of animal families, including domestic and wild species