Good news about the Asiatic Lions is galore these days. The latest is an announcement by the Union ministry of environment and forest that the Asiatic Lion is among the 16 species that have been identified for recovery from the ‘Endangered species list’ of the Red Book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
These species have been identified under the Centre’s Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats scheme. This scheme was modified in 2008-09 to include a new component ‘Recovery of Endangered Species’.
The Lok Sabha was informed on Monday by MoEF Jayanthi Natarajan that 16 species have been identified for recovery which is snow leopard, bustard (including floricans), dolphin, hangul, nilgiri tahr, marine turtles, dugong, edible nest swiftlet, Asian wild buffalo, nicobar megapode, manipur brow-antlered deer, vultures, malabar civet, Indian rhinoceros, Asiatic lion, swamp deer and Jerdon’s courser.
A recent study concluded by GEER Foundation about the status of dugong in India has brought to light a population of about 131 in India and about 15 off the Gujarat coast. It is interesting to note that the IUCN has stated in its Red Data Book that dugongs are ‘vulnerable to extinction’. Forest officers in Gujarat while welcoming the news of lion, exclaimed that removing the bustard and dugong from the ‘endangered’ list is difficult to explain.
Senior forest officer of Gujarat, HS Singh said the effective conservation of Asiatic lions in Gujarat and its subsequent increase in population over the years has ensured that the species does not remain ‘endangered’ anymore.
“Lions have been endangered for the last forty years. It is only recently that the population has steadied and now it is rising,” he said. The last census in May 2010 revealed a 14.5% increase in the lion population in Gir Forests and its peripheral areas. This is touted to be perhaps the only place where the big cat’s numbers are thriving. The great Indian bustard are found in Kutch and the last count had put the birds’ population at around 45.