It’s a shame to see the majestic lion being teased by humans and behaving like a domesticated pet but a viral video of a man tempting the king of Gir with a chicken, dangling and pulling it away and the big cat finally lunging to carry off a trophy without so much as a gnarl, isn’t exactly what wildlife watchers want. Coming as it does on the heels of the recent deaths of Gir lions caused by the Canine Distemper Virus (CDV), it pains to see the wild creatures being increasingly tamed by human circumstance.
With shrinking habitats almost skirting human settlements, the density increasing with improved birth numbers, the lion is often found straying outside the forest area, appearing in farms and country homes, hoping to steal livestock and seems a captive of the changed eco-system.
Tourism has further exposed the lion to humans and the normally private and royal alpha male has learnt to make peace with prying eyes as well. And with a sanctuary that’s saturated and more lions taxing the carrying capacity of its ecosystem, there have been discernible changes in leonine behaviour. You often saw a pride together, the females clustering together under the watch of male coalitions. Yet these days there are many instances of strays venturing out on their own, often in search of food. Incidents of territorial fights are also being reported, each pride claiming their own space.
Gir is the last abode of Asiatic lions and while challenges for the Gujarat forest department are many, may be we need an emergency national action plan to restore one of our most magnificent creatures its honour and dignity by translocating them to newer habitats in a graded manner. Another epidemic and their captive status in a confined territory may yet cost us.