Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Asiatic Lions and their habitat
Mains level: Conservation of Asiatic Lions
- Three months after at least 20 lions in Gujarat succumbed to a virus, the Centre and the Gujarat government has announced a ₹97.85 crore Asiatic Lion Conservation Project.
Asiatic Lion Conservation Project
- The MoEFCC has launched the “Asiatic Lion Conservation Project” with an aim to protect and conserve the world’s last ranging free population of Asiatic Lion and its associated ecosystem.
- The project will be funded from the Centrally Sponsored Scheme- Development of Wildlife Habitat (CSS-DWH) with the contributing ratio being 60:40 of Central and State share.
- The conservation of Asiatic Lions has always been a priority of Government of India.
- The Ministry in the past has supported Asiatic Lion in Gujarat by including it in list of 21 critically endangered species under the species recovery component of CSS-DWH.
Provisions of the Project
- Key aspects of the conservation project include undertaking “habitat improvement” measures, making more sources of water available, creating a wildlife crime cell, and a task force for the Greater Gir region.
- Another key outcome of the project is to have a dedicated veterinary institute, “lion ambulances”, and back-up stocks of vaccines that may be required.
- It would also involve having in place a GPS-based tracking system, which would look at surveillance tracking, animal and vehicle tracking.
- There would also be an automated sensor grid that would have magnetic sensors, movement sensors and infra-red heat sensors.
- The Gujarat government has envisaged a ‘Greater Gir’ that includes, other than the existing Gir National Park, sanctuaries in Girnar, Pania and Mitiyala.
Translocation: An alternate Solution?
- The Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh was identified to be the most suitable for reintroducing the species, but there has been no progress on the proposal.
- The SC in April 2013 had ordered the translocation of some lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh within six months, but this hasn’t happened.
- There is a committee of experts from both States examining the suitability of Madhya Pradesh as a potential lion reserve.
- However, they have to comply with certain guidelines of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (on selecting suitable habitat, translocation).
Asiatic Lions conservation in India
- Asiatic lions that once ranged from Persia (Iran) to Palamau in Eastern India were almost driven to extinction by indiscriminate hunting and habitat loss.
- A single population of less than 50 lions persisted in the Gir forests of Gujarat by late 1890’s.
- IUCN Red List Status: Endangered
- With timely and stringent protection offered by the State Government and the Center Government, Asiatic lions have increased to the current population of over 500 numbers.
- The last census in the year 2015 showed the population of 523 Asiatic Lions in Gir Protected Area Network of 1648.79 sq. km. that includes Gir National Park, Gir Sanctuary, Pania Sanctuary, Mitiyala Sanctuary adjoining reserved forests, Protected Forests, and Unclassed Forests.