The man-eater lion of Gir

Slowly and steadily, in the name of development, we are encroaching upon the lawful space of wild animals and birds. Recently, it was distressing to read about a Gir lion attacking a young boy in a village near Amreli. Immediately, one of these lions was proclaimed to be a man-eater. That very day, a concerned authority of North Gujarat made a frightening statement that since such incidents were increasing, people living in these areas should be allowed to keep firearms to kill the lions; if necessary. Any wild life enthusiast would dread this idea, as it is bad enough to have poachers and now, should we have armed villagers?  Immediately, what came to my mind, was my zoologist father Reuben David’s statement, “When a man kills an animal it is called bravery but when an animal kills a man it is called man-eater.”

This is exactly what is happening, soon after this incident, the entire Pride of Lions in Gir was caged, as the authorities were not sure, as to which of the ten lions was a man-eater. We agree that human life is precious, but the earth and certain habitats belong to other species, which inhabit the earth and they also need preservation. Maybe, they were caged as a form of punishment. In one image, there were seen in a trap-cage with dead cattle as food. To this, any wild life expert will tell you, that this act of confining these lions to cages, will only bring their ferocious instinct to the fore. So, with a sense of helplessness, we read another statement, where the lions are branded as blood thirsty. This is in a contrast to a programme, which appeared on a popular television show; few months back, which showed how well the Gir lions are looked after; and besides the usual forest staff, a group of women rangers were also employed there; so the show was titled “The Lion Queens of Gujarat.”  

Now, the question is; how do you identify a man-eater lion from the rest, so, it’s best to end this mystery with this quote from Jim Corbett, which is about tigers, but could be used for Big Cats in general and also our Lions,” Tigers, except when wounded or when man-eaters, are on the whole very good tempered…occasionally a tiger will object to too close an approach to its cubs or to a kill that it is guarding. The objection invariably takes the form of growling and if this does not prove effective, it is followed by short rushes accompanied by terrifying roars, if these warnings are disregarded, the blame for any injury inflicted entirely rests with the intruder.”  Other known reasons are that Big Cats become man-eaters when they cannot hunt due to an injury, old age, broken teeth, damaged claws, disturbance of habitat with construction work in the name of development and provocation. So, the question is, which one is it, that immediately a statement is issued that – fourteen lions are SUSPECTED of killing humans.  

Is this going to be the fate of the last of the endangered Asiatic Lions of Gir and how long are we going to encroach upon their territory in the name of  development projects, which are coming up in this area and push them into the list of extinct animals. Because, even if they are shifted to Madhya Pradesh; will they be able to withstand the tiger population. So, here, all we can do is quote Rudyard Kipling, “Words are, of course the most powerful drug used by mankind…”

In this context, I would like to raise a question – a news report on 29th November 2016 says that another person was attacked by a lion again, but the person survived, The question is, if the SUPPOSED MAN EATER LIONS are caged, which one is this lion? Is there a lack of natural food for lions that, they are attacking human beings? If wild life enthusiasts are reading this Blog, we request, please do whatever you can do…

(Esther David is founder member of the group – Friends of Reuben David)

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