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Great Indian Bustard and Asiatic Lions

Context:

As Cyclone Biporjoy approaches the port of Jakhau in Kutch, Gujarat, there are concerns about the impact on the Great Indian Bustards (GIB) in Naliya region and the Asiatic Lions in the Gir forest.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Species in News, Conservation of Biodiversity)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Great Indian Bustard
  2. About the Habitat of Great Indian Bustard
  3. Asiatic Lions
  4. Gir National Park

About the Great Indian Bustard

  • The Great Indian Bustard is one of the heaviest flying birds in the world often found associated in the same habitat as blackbuck.
  • GIBs are the largest among the four bustard species found in India, the other three being MacQueen’s bustard, lesser florican and the Bengal florican.
  • The GIB is Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, and comes under the Appendix I of CITES, and Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • Threats to the GIB include widespread hunting for sport and food, and activities such as mining, stone quarrying, excess use of pesticides, grassland conversion and power projects along with the expansion of roads and infrastructures such as wind-turbines and power cables.
About the Habitat of Great Indian Bustard
  • The Great Indian Bustard’s habitat includes Arid and semi-arid grasslands with scattered short scrub, bushes and low intensity cultivation in flat or gently undulating terrain. It avoids irrigated areas.
  • GIBs’ historic range included much of the Indian sub-continent but it has now shrunken to just 10 per cent of it.
  • Among the heaviest birds with flight, GIBs prefer grasslands as their habitats. Being terrestrial birds, they spend most of their time on the ground with occasional flights to go from one part of their habitat to the other.
  • GIBs are considered the flagship bird species of grassland and hence barometers of the health of grassland ecosystems.
  • They feed on insects, lizards, grass seeds etc.

Asiatic Lions

  • The Asiatic Lion, also known as the Persian Lion or Indian Lion, belongs to the Panthera Leo Leo subspecies and is found exclusively in India.
  • It used to inhabit regions in West Asia and the Middle East but became extinct in those areas.
  • Asiatic lions are slightly smaller in size compared to African lions.
Distribution:
  • Historically, the Asiatic lion was found in regions extending from West Bengal in the east to Rewa in Madhya Pradesh, central India.
  • Currently, the only natural habitat for the Asiatic lion is the Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary.
Protection Status:
  • The Asiatic lion is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, indicating a high risk of extinction.
  • It is listed under Appendix I of CITES, which provides the highest level of protection against international trade.
  • In India, the Asiatic lion is protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, which grants it strict legal protection.

Gir National Park

  • Location and Area: Gir National Park is situated in the Junagadh district of Gujarat, covering a vast area of approximately 1,412 square kilometers.
  • Asiatic Lions: The park is renowned for being the only natural habitat of the Asiatic Lion. The population of these majestic creatures had reached a critically low point, with less than 20 lions remaining in the early 20th century. However, concerted conservation efforts and strict protection measures have helped the population recover to over 500 individuals today.
  • Flora and Fauna: Gir National Park is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna. The park’s vegetation primarily consists of dry deciduous forests, scrubland, grasslands, and rocky hills. Apart from the Asiatic Lion, the park harbors various other mammal species, including leopards, hyenas, wild boars, chital (spotted deer), sambar deer, four-horned antelope, and Indian pangolins.
  • Avian Diversity: The park boasts a rich avian population, with over 300 species of birds recorded. Some notable bird species found in Gir National Park include the critically endangered white-backed vulture, Indian vulture, Indian eagle-owl, painted stork, crested serpent-eagle, and various species of owls, parakeets, and peafowls.

-Source: The Hindu


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