Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Lion Roars again

Gujrath has left the adverse past of the comunal riots far behind and has forged ahread. Even if the some dismal tones of the dirge do linger these are increasingly getting faint and fainter. It is emerging as a premier state in India Its per capita income was the highest of all states in the last year.However, its most remarkable recent achievment is the devoted attention it has bestowed on the preservation of its forest legacy—the lion.

India is the only country in Asia which has given refuge and rehabilitation to the lion—The Asiatic Lion. The Asiatic Lions once ranged from the Mediterranean to the north-east India but excessive hunting, water pollution and decline in natural prey reduced its habitat. Historically, Asiatic lions were classified into three kinds – Bengal, Arabian and Persian lions. Asiatic lion are smaller and lighter than their African counterparts, but are equally aggressive.. This Lion (Panthera leo persica) now survives only in India in the Gir Forest ofGujarat,

The Tiger has been now assigned the status of the national animal of India. But in the past people had proudly associated themselves with lion . A brave man was called “brave as lion’ . Many communitie4s e.g. Sikhs proudly bore called themselves Lions affixing ‘Sing’(Simha) after their invididual names.The Gir Forest which is the abode of the Asiatic lion fell within the erstwhile Junagadh State. The Nawab had maintained a large Lion House(Sinha Griha) in the capital . It was a great puller of foreign tourists to the State. After Partition Junagarh which was coveed by the terrotories of India on all sides was reaonably speaking required to merge with India. But the Nawab who was a Muslim took advantage of the freedom available to rules of the Indian States to merge with any of the two parts in which India was partititioned. He signed an Instrument of Accession to Pakistan and so within the terms of the orders Junagadh would have become a part of Pakistan surrounded on all sides by Indian Territory. This would have created an impossible situztion Pakistan in time demand an access route for itself through the Indian territory to Junagadh. However, the subjects of the state who were mostly Hindus conducted big demonstrrations against the Nawab. Seeing the vile mood of the prople the Nawab quite ran to Pakistan and dies there. For a long time Junagadh continued to be shown as part of Pakistan and Pakistan every now and then raising this issue in mutual discussions and international forums. That way Mr Bhutto who was then P.M. of Pakistan had also laid a claim toi the Portuguese Colonies in India which subsequently merged with India after the Portuguese were driven out. For some time these places were referred to as Portuguese Pakistan and shown as such in Pakistani maps but all these legal fictions quitely died their own deaths in time.

A very interesting episode of the time when Junagadh was captured by its subjects for India relates to the Sinha Griha. The subjects were prodominantly Jains who believed in non-violence.When the question of feeding the lions cropped upsome strongly religious persons suggested that they should consider steps to feed them on vegetarian dietrs. The outcome need hardly be told. The lions literally took the Sinha Griha on their heads roaring for food.

However, better sense prevailed in due course.and the Lion Houses and also the Gir Forests were well looked after.with the result that the number of lions increased, their sex ration got better, the beasts became healthy and prospered in Gujrath. Chief Minister Mr. Narendra Mody recently declared the latest census of the beasts there which strands at 411, an increase of half a century over the last count taken four years ago in 2005.

A still more encouraging sign is that the lion refuses to stay in the sanctuary. Contrary to the original thinking it has been observed that it has slowly but surely extened its claim to more territory.As many as 33 big cats were observed 250 kms away .in the semi forest areas of Palitana and Bhavnagar. More than 74 lions are now roaming outside the sancuary and near human habitation areas. These areas are fast becoming the new habitats of the big cat. Cioastal areas of Rajula and Jafrabad in Amreli have also recorded sizeable population of the big cats

The sexual ration of the lion population is also quite enoouraging There are 97 males for 162 females. A lion is propervially considered to be a non-believer in monogamy as the Sanskrit appellation ‘bahubharya kesari’ for a lkon suggests. The population has also a high proportion of the young cubs(77 ages less than a year)There are other 75 or more fakkubg ub syv-adykt categirty ( 1 –3 years)The maximum number of lions—297—were found in the Gir National Park and it’s adjoining areas.

Mention has already made of the increasingly favourable sex ration.the proportion this year has gone up to l.67 females for one male which is an improvement over the previous ratioo of l.2:l. . Mr. Mody made a pithy observation that we should draw a lesson from them to ensure a fair male to female ration among humans which seems to have become rather askewed of late.Gujrath has established a new abaode in 2007 at Girnar and the lions seem to like it as already 24 beasts have made it their home.

What is more satisfying to note that the local people have also become used and grown fond of the lions. Despite the fact that the roaming beasts kill their cattle the locals donot mind it .They now consider the lions as part of their own families.They defiantly rejected any proposal to give some of these lions to the neighbouring Madhy Pradesh for its forests. There has been an unfortunate poaching incident in the Gir in 2007.The locals blame themselves for this ascribing it to their own failure to take good care of their family members.

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May be it is too early to persuade the locals to let the Sinha Raja to roam and reclaim his Asiatic title reclaiming the Meditarenean area and the North East India. .

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