Concerned about overcrowding of threatened Asiatic lions in the Gir forest, Indian officials have recently completed a study of the population density of the lions and their prey.
The report estimates that the Gir forest contains about 15 lions per 100 square kilometers. Prey animals are estimated to number about 1,000 in the same area.. This report helps clarify the need for possible relocation of lions to other national parks. The prey base estimate includes both large and small mammals.
Overcrowding and human conflict are major sources of threat to the species. Another is disease.
Illness has taken its toll on the beleaguered lions. In 2018 disease struck killing 21 in a 20 day span The Gir Forest is the only wild habitat of the threatened lions, whose numbers hover around 500.
.The culprit was babesisis, possibly in conjunction with canine distemper virus, according to Indian officials. Babesiosis is a tick is borne illness that damages red blood cells. It occurs in the United States as well as India and is considered both preventable and treatable. Recently , we reported on a major breakthrough in the battle against ticks. Ticks were considered resistant to genetic engineering tactics because of their thick shells. But recent research has found a way around their defenses that may allow their genes to be used against them.
Canine distemper virus attacks the nervous, gastrointestinal and respiratory systems of puppies and dogs. It is also found in wild canids like foxes and coyotes. It also attacks lions tigers and leopards. It is also found in at least one aquatic mammal: seals.
The lions live in a constricted habitat. Yesterday we reported on the demands that lions be relocated to other national parks as the area they live in is too small for their numbers