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First time in India 8 Asiatic lions test Covid positive at Hyderabad zoo – Battling Covid in animals

First time in India 8 Asiatic lions test Covid positive at Hyderabad zoo – Battling Covid in animals

Relevance:

  • GS 3 || Environment || Governance: India || Wildlife Protection Act

Why in the news?

8 Asiatic lions test Covid positive at Hyderabad zoo, likely to have been infected by humans

Present context:

  • In a first in the country, eight Asiatic lions in Hyderabad’s Nehru Zoological Park (NZP) have tested positive for the coronavirus. According to Shubhadra Devi, curator, NZP, a few weeks back, zoo authorities noticed symptoms such as nasal discharge from the lions housed in the Lion Safari enclosures.
  • The animals’ oropharyngeal swab samples were collected and sent to the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) for testing and genome sequencing. RT-PCR tests confirmed the animals had contracted Covid-19. It is believed the disease was transmitted through humans

All about conservation of Asiatic lion:

About Asiatic Lion:

  • The Asiatic Lion (also known as the Persian Lion or Indian Lion) is a member of the Panthera Leo Leo subspecies that is restricted to India. Its previous habitats consisted of West Asia and the Middle East before it became extinct in these regions.
  • It comes under Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972: Schedule 1
  • CITES Appendix I
  • IUCN Red List: Endangered
  • Asiatic lions were once distributed to the state of West Bengal in east and Rewa in Madhya Pradesh, in central India.
  • Today their range is restricted to the Gir National Park in Gujarat.
  • The Asiatic Lion is one of the five pantherine cats native to India. The others being: the Bengal Tiger, the Indian Leopard, Snow Leopard and the Clouded Leopard.

About Asiatic Lion Conservation project:

  • A dedicated “Asiatic Lion Conservation Project” has been launched by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  • MoEFCC has approved the project for three financial years from 2018 to 2021.
  • The Asiatic Lion endemic to the Gir landscape of Gujarat is one of the 21 critically endangered species identified by the Ministry for taking up recovery programmes.
  • The project envisages scientific management with the involvement of communities in coordination with multi-sectoral agencies for disease control and veterinary care for overall conservation of Asiatic lions.

Implementation of the project:

  • The Wildlife Institute of India, along with the Gujarat Forest Department, had created a Project Lion proposal.
  • Asiatic Lions have been confined to Gir National Park and its surrounding environments in Gujarat’s Saurashtra.
  • The Gujarat Forest Department in June 2020 had suggested their population to be increased by 29%- 523 in 2015 to 674 in 2020.

Funding for the project :

  • Notably, in Present government’s first term, the Asiatic Lion Conservation Project was launched with a budgetary contribution of Rs. 97.85 crores from the Central government.
  • The Ministry had earlier approved the project for three financial years- FY 2018-2019, FY 2019-2020, FY 2020-2021.
  • Prime Minister of India not only entails the enhanced duration and finances but will also address all the issues required to conserve a species.

Asiatic Lion Conservation Efforts

  • Historical evidence of conservation effort: Conservation efforts for Asiatic Lion were made for the first time in the year 1910. The Nawab of Junagadh imposed a ban on the hunting of lions within the boundaries of his province.
  • Reduce overcrowding at natural habitats: The ban was continued even when India gained independence in 1944. In the 1960s and 1970s, Gir forest, the home of the last surviving Indian lions, was converted into a National Park and Sanctuary. Presently, Kuno Project is being undertaken with a view to reduce the overcrowding at Gir. Conservationists tried to develop Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, situated in Madhya Pradesh, into a natural habitat for the Asiatic lions.
  • The excess population of Gir was relocated here. However, still much is left to be done to prevent the Asiatic lions from getting extinct.
  • Population near sanctuary: One of the major threats that the Indian lions are facing is the hostility they suffer at the hands of humans living near the sanctuary.
  • Local residents: It has become necessary to involve people in the conservation efforts being planned for the Indian lions. A step that needs to be taken in this regard is to include the local residents within the field staff of the Gir Protected Area.
    • Members of the local community that have demonstrated wildlife skills are designated as vanya prani mitra (friends of wildlife) and paid a nominal remuneration for assisting with wildlife management activities of the park managers (including information on poaching, fire management, and wildlife conflict resolution)
  • Protect endangered species: It will not only sensitize people about the majestic species, but also educate them about the need to protect the species from extinction. At the same time, efforts should be undertaken to relocate as many humans out of the protected area of Gir as possible.
  • Man -animal conflict: The park boundaries consolidated to prevent the human-lion clash. Much attention needs to be paid on the protection of the Asiatic lions from poachers. It is becoming one of the greatest threats to the life of the lions.
  • Protection of natural habitat: The natural habitat of Gir National Park also needs to be protected. The afforestation programs that were earlier carried out in the grasslands and savannah areas of Gir need to be avoided as far as possible. Efforts should be made to open up forest canopies and to increase the range of the Gir Protected Area.
  • In order to garner public support for lion conservation, an “eco-development” scheme was initiated in Gir along with six other PAs in India under the India Eco-development Project funded by World Bank’s Global Environment Facility

Conclusion:

Conservation of Asiatic lions is thus a conundrum with an admixture of contradictions and improvisations. Only through the continued nurture of Asiatic lions and other wildlife would their nature be fully safeguarded in a country like India that teems with people and biodiversity.

Mains oriented question:

Without focus on habitat conservation, success of project like “Asiatic Lion Conservation Project” may lead to human animal conflict. Discuss. (200 words)