Gir lions (Panthera leo leo Persica) are the final survivors of the Asiatic lion, which once roamed much of the world. Today they are restricted to Gujarat, India and may be exhibiting a new behavior. Beachgoing Gir lions may be a result of conservation success.
These lions once roamed much of Asia. Today the 600 or so survivors are restricted to the Gir forest and surrounding regions. Some months ago we reported on the newly noted beachgoing Gir lions. At the time it was thought that it may be the result of successful efforts to increase their numbers. Some counts place the number of lions around 700.
According to the Guardian the increase in the number of beachgoing Gir lions is significant. The paper said the number has risen from about 20 to just over 100 at last count. That rise was noted in a 10 year period.
African lions in Namibia also spend time at beaches, where they hunt seals. Gir lions do not hunt marine life, but prey on wild boar, roaming cattle and nilgai, a type of antelope.
The dispersal to the beach is likely due at least in part to conservation success. The lions have “outgrown” the protected area of the Gir Forest and are relocating. The new space means the prides have larger home ranges. The lions are closely monitored and their population density is studied.
There are problems, of course. The movement of the lions increases risk of conflict with humans. Fortunately Gujarat is proud of them and they are revered. It was a Gujarati Nawab who saved them from extinction many years ago.
India is taking a leaf from conservationists around the world. Future development plans will include efforts at protecting the lions. India will work to provide habitat linkage. One example of that is the Liberty Canyon overpass in California. That bridge is under construction and will provide a walkway over the 101 Freeway to protect California mountain lions and other wildlife.
Similar projects are underway in other parts of the world. Protecting animals such as jaguars from human conflict.
India is also considering translocating some lions within India. One plan is to relocate some lions into another part of Gujarat. Another, more controversial idea, is to move some into a neighboring state.