Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Lions of Gir Forest

In and around the Gir Forest of India there lives a very small population of lions known as Asiatic Lions, or the Gir Lions. Unfortunately, these lions are critically endangered and estimated to have a population of only approximately 300-400 lions.

A 2010 census of the Gir Lions by the Gujarat government reported 410 lions in and around the Gir Forest, but this census has been questioned and it's believe that the actual population is only a percentage of what the census reported. The critically endangered status of the Gir Lions is due to excessive hunting, water pollution and decline in natural prey which reduced their habitat. Now that their endangered status has become well known and measures are being taken to protect the few lions that remain, they now face a new threat: abandoned pits and wells.

An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 open wells dug by farmers for irrigation purposes but since abandoned now serve as traps and drowning hazards to the lions.

Twenty-nine lions are reported to have perished in the abandoned pits and wells in the past two years, but the actual number is probably much higher. These critically endangered lions - near extinction - are dying totally preventable deaths!

Donations to help build barriers around these abandoned pits and wells not only help the lion population but also provide economic viability for the local area. If you would like to donate, please visit the website below. A donation of only $150 can fund the building of a barricade around one well or pit. Your donations will undoubtedly help save the lives of these critically endangered animals.

These open wells are death traps to these lions and need to be filled in or barricaded urgently. I feel that filling in these wells is a better solution than building barricades around them. By filling them in, a permanent solution is realized which may also prove to be more cost effective since the supplies needed would be less and there would be no need to monitor the structural soundness of the barricades in years to come.

Filling in the wells would also require manpower which is an attractive element of the solution since local employment is desperately needed. The barricades (made from wood) could collapse over time or be disturbed or destroyed, thus creating an additional problem as repairs would then be needed. And during this time the original problem would exist once again as a threat to the lions.

A male lion awaiting rescue from a well
Photo courtesy The Lions of Gir Foundation

According to The Lions of Gir Foundation:
 "Historically, these lions ranged as far west as Europe, and into territories now known as Iran, Pakistan, India, Russia, and Yemen. They are the lions of biblical fame."

These lions have a long historical significance and deserve our unwavering support. Although the situation is dire, it can be turned around with public awareness and continuing support.

The time to act is now.

A mother and cub
Photo courtesy The Lions of Gir Foundation

A lioness on alert
Photo courtesy The Lions of Gir Foundation

An adolescent lion appearing to smile
Photo courtesy The Lions of Gir Foundation

Thank you for caring about the Lions of Gir.

Animals Matter.

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