A new study conducted by a renowned wildlife biologist says that the Asiatic lions are under threat from human interference in Gir. The report goes on to point out that eco-tourism in Gir Protected Area causes undue disturbance to the thriving population of the majestic big cats there. The downside of wildlife tourism is clearly seen in the videos rampant in social media of tourists in jeeps and bikes chasing lions with handheld devices and video cameras. According to the report, the villagers fear that this type of “brazen tourism” will be most likely to affect the “largely harmonious dynamics” between the lions and the villagers residing in the villages in the periphery of the park, making the big cats irritable and aggressive and most likely to clash with the villagers. The Kankai temple located in the centre of the Gir National Park is also a cause for concern. Experts fear that religious tourism will act as the catalyst in urbanising the area, thereby changing the landscape and altering the land-use. The 2017 permission to the temple which permits night-stays in the temple is a major cause for concern as it increases traffic, noise and disturbs the wildlife, endangering both the lions and humans. The proposal to delineate the eco-sensitive zone in and around Gir is being fought tooth and nail by activists via PILs. The loss of habitat, undue urbanization and eco-tourism might spell gradual doom on the healthy population of the Asiatic lions in their last bastion at Gir.
-As reported by The Hindu
Cover Pic: Tourism is changing the landscape around the protected area | Photo Credit: Vijay Soneji