Did you know, that an adult male lion’s roar can be heard up to 8 km away and that they can run for short distances at 50 mph and leap as far as 36 feet? Lions are the only cats that live in groups, known as Pride. These top predators in the food chain are vital for balanced ecology.
Since 2013, World Lion Day is celebrated globally on August 10 as a Day to commemorate the king of the jungle and raise awareness about the need for its conservation. The Lion, an integral part of India’s national emblem, symbolizes power, courage, confidence, and pride. They have been at the heart of human fascination from time immemorial, beyond national borders and across cultures. From guarding temples to adorning national flags, decorating coins to beautifying ancient Indian pillars, Lions have commanded symbolic importance throughout the ages.
Our country is home to the Asiatic Lion, which at present, is only found in Gir National Park and the surrounding areas of Gujarat. The Day raises awareness regarding lions’ protection and significance to the environment as these magnificent beasts face the threat of habitat loss, illegal wildlife trade, human-wildlife conflict, and climate change.
Why it’s celebrated?
World Lion Day was co-founded by Dereck and Beverly Joubert of the Big Cat Initiative and National Geographic in a partnership. Also known as the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative, the partnership aims to protect these wild cats in their natural habitat. Furthermore, the initiative also works on safety measures with communities that live near wild cats. World Lion Day operates to serve a greater purpose than to merely commemorate the existence of the ‘king of the jungle in our biodiversity.’
It is celebrated therefore to fulfill three major objectives:
– To raise awareness about the plight of the lion & other issues that the species faces in the wild
– To find ways to protect its natural habitat and for creating more such habitats like national parks
– To educate people who live near wild cats on the dangers and how to protect themselves. Humans and large species like cats can live in harmony together, but only if they understand how to do so.
The Mighty Asiatic Lions
Asiatic Lion is one of five pantherine cats inhabiting India. Others are the Bengal tiger, Indian leopard, Snow leopard, and Clouded leopard. Also popularly known as Indian Lion or Persian Lion, Asiatic lions and African lions are subspecies of the same species. Asiatic lions were once distributed up to the state of West Bengal in the east and Rewa in Madhya Pradesh, in central India.
In the last few years, a steady increase in India’s lion population has been witnessed. As per the 2020 census, the number of Asiatic lions has risen by 29% over 5 years to an estimated 674 from523 in the Gir forest region and other areas of coastal Saurashtra, Gujarat. Furthermore, geographically, the distribution area has also increased by 36%.
This increase in Asiatic lions population can be attributed to the untiring efforts of the Government. Protected under Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, the Ministry of Environment in 2018 launched Asiatic Lion Conservation Project aiming at protecting and conserving these Cat species and its associated ecosystem.
Most recently, the Forest Department as Gir have introduced AI technology called SIMBA to track and identify the Asiatic pride, which will not only help in their survey but also conservation.