Once they have found him, a man-eating lion living in the north-west of India in the Gir National Park will be spared and placed in a zoo instead of being shot. I like that. It is the kind of attitude which pleases me. In the past this would not have happened. A “white hunter” or big game hunter would have tracked down the man-eater and he’d have been shot with great pop and ceremony. They were the bad old days.
What is particularly concerning about this man-eating lion is that he ate one of his victims, killed in March, which is extremely rare. It would imply that the lions in this famous National Park do not have enough prey and therefore have decided to prey on farmers working in the park instead but this appears not to be the case. It is said that once a big cat has developed a taste for human flesh they kill humans again.
The authorities are yet to find the guilty man-eating lion (I don’t see the lion as “guilty” by the way, the press coined that phrase). They have rounded up a whole pride of lions in the hunt for the man-eater who has killed three people and attacked six, in a string of attacks on villages.
The pride contained 18 Asiatic Lions. They hope to identify the culprit by examining pawprints and droppings and the animals’ behaviour (man-eating lions usually become aggressive at the site of a human). I presume that the lion’s droppings will contain bits of the humans that he has eaten and digested.
Once they’re identified the lion the innocent ones will be released into the 545 mi.² sanctuary while the man-eater will be kept in a zoo.
Villagers living in and around the sanctuary are alarmed by the sudden rise in attacks in 2016. In the past 23 years there have been 18 fatal attacks but in 2016 alone there have been six attacks in six months. The high numbers have been put down to one lion who has, as mentioned, developed a taste for human flesh.
Most of the victims were farmworkers. Recent information received informs us that they think they have isolated the man-eating lion but the forestry chief is still awaiting the results of tests from nine more animals.
It is said that there is plentiful prey at the sanctuary and the lions are thriving. A recent consensus concluded that there were 523 lions in the region. However, it is believed that they have outgrown the sanctuary because the former chief wildlife warden of Gujarat said that Gir could only hold around 270 lions safely. Perhaps the lack of space has forced young male lions outside the park where they are more likely to meet humans and therefore kill them as prey having become habituated to their presence.
Accordingly, the Supreme Court has ordered the state of Gujarat to relocate some of the lions to remove the threat of overcrowding in the sanctuary and also to avert the danger that a natural disaster or disease could bring to all the Lions.
The sanctuary is famous and they have done a good job in protecting the lion. These are the only Lions in India and they are, as mentioned, Asiatic lions. They are the only wild Asiatic lions in the world. The Prime Minister of India is proud of the sanctuary but the general mood, particularly among locals I suspect, is changing in light of the recent attacks which are worrying.
More than a hundred farmers in a local village have signed a petition calling on the local authority to remove or cull at least three prides representing around 30 Lions.