World Lion Day 2021: Asiatic lions of India are a distant cousin of the much bigger African lions. (File)
While the population of wild lions saw a catastrophic decline across the world, except for Africa, the mighty beasts have found a natural home in India. Their population has increased steadily in India, especially in Gir forest – the only wild population of lions outside Africa. As we observe World Lion Day on August 10, there couldn't be a better way to raise awareness about the conservation and sustainable solutions to save the global wild lion population, which has now reduced to only about 20,000. Lions are seen as the ultimate icons of pride, heritage, and power. But their existence has been troubled lately.
Lions, listed as "vulnerable" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species, have lost a vast majority of their habitat -- and resultantly their population -- primarily because of conflict with humans, poaching, and trophy hunting.
Seeing this rapid decrease in their population, a group of non-profits and tourism companies created World Lion Day to celebrate the animal and redirect the world's attention towards them. Organisations such as Panthera and National Geographic Society's Big Cats Initiative support World Lion Day.
History and significance
The Asiatic lions of India are a distant cousin of the much bigger African lions. Historically, they have roamed from Gir forest in Gujarat to the Indo-Gangetic plains in Bihar. But their population decreased over the years. If we dig deeper into our own history and heritage, we will find a number of paintings, scriptures, and several literary works dedicated to the majestic predator. Lions have been part of Indian's royal emblem and cultural identity.
During Colonial rule, however, the British officers hunted lions and other animals on a large scale. This negatively impacted their population, distribution and habitat range. Being the "king of the jungle", lions help maintain ecological balance and biodiversity. They keep a check on the population of browsers and grazers and also keep the animal kingdom healthy by targeting the weakest members.
Lion population In India
After seeing a decline for some time, the Asiatic lion population has increased steadily in Gujarat's Gir forest and the larger Saurashtra protected region. Their population has gone up from 523 in 2015 to 674 in 2020.
Several leaders and conservationists, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, wished those who worked to achieve this turnaround.
The lion is majestic and courageous. India is proud to be home to the Asiatic Lion. On World Lion Day, I convey my greetings to all those passionate about lion conservation. It would make you happy that the last few years have seen a steady increase in India's lion population. pic.twitter.com/GaCEXnp7hG— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 10, 2021
"The lion is majestic and courageous. India is proud to be home to the Asiatic Lion. On World Lion Day, I convey my greetings to all those passionate about lion conservation. It would make you happy that the last few years have seen a steady increase in India's lion population," PM Modi tweeted on World Lion Day.