Last remaining Asiatic lions pictured by Uri Bolman at Gir Forest, India
There are only 411 Asiatic lions left in the world and all of them live in the Gir Forest (National Park) in state of Gujarat in India. Gir is the only forest where lions roam freely and hunts chital deer and livestock. It’s one of its kind cat species (Panthera leo persica) also known as Indian lion or Persian lion. These cats are a little smaller than African lions. They have longer tuffs of hair and are more orange in colour.
Sadly, poaching and shrinking of natural habitat has brought drastic decline in their population. The state government is also not serious regarding protection of and growth in population of these lions. Indian lion expert Dr Ravi Chellam had developed and recommended a plan for the relocation of the lions to another location as habitat in Gir Forest isn’t sufficient to support their population growth. He had suggested relocating some lions to the Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary in the neighboring state of Madhya Pradesh.
Environmental Ministry had pleaded that shifting lions from Gujarat is detrimental to their survival and it could be the only way to save them from possible extinction, but it was ignored. Gujarat government and politicians did not agree to the plan as it would have hurt their sentiments. The lions were associated with pride of Gujarat and not allowed to move to selected habitat.
Also, the state government couldn’t have sacrificed revenue generated from tourism. A lot of people visit Gir Forest to spot Asiatic lions. The fate of this species is uncertain as they are being mixed with economy and India’s corrupt politics.
Take a look at some of the photographs captured by award-winning wildlife photographer Uri Bolman. The pictures show Asiatic lions in their natural environment in the Gir Forest.
Images by Uri Bolman