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N. Sivasothi,
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Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore. Since 1998 with origins from OneList.

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Thu 16 Feb 2006

Charith Pelpola and the Gir Lions of Gujarat

Category : internet

I first met Nature director and film-maker Charith Pelpola when he started on Secret Worlds Singapore. He did that very well and very quickly and later made many of the better nature documentaries and magazine shows we saw in Singapore including Five Worlds, Ranger Stations and Biologic. Now he has also started blogging in 2006 at "lost in the jungle".

He taps into his extensive travels, photographs and conversations with rangers, scientists, wardens, villagers and rangers to present compelling stories in his "Field Journal" series about wildlife and the issues that confront them. This is a blog I readily RSS-ed!

Yesterday, he posted an entry, "Field Journals: Asiatic Lions":

"One of the world's most endangered big cats - the beautiful Asiatic Lion - was once widespread from the Mediterranean to India. Today they number just around 300.

With such a small number of animals - representing the world's entire population - there are so many problems that have arisen for conservationists trying to rescue the species - not least of which is the tiny gene pool. Inbreeding has taken place at such a rate, that 80% of cubs die within the first year because of deformity and poor health."

"I experienced this firsthand when I filmed out in the Gir Forest in Gujarat, West India a couple of years ago, for a documentary about the Lions and their relationship with the local tribal communities.

Even though the Gir Forest itself is huge, covering an area of 1,400 square kiometres, its just a core zone of 260 square kilometres in which the lions are found. I found that out to my cost - when, after 3 days of tracking the length and breadth of this area, which is thick with dry forest and grassland - we still hadn't sighted a single lion."

... "It was literally on the last afternoon of the last day of filming that they suddenly appeared - a mother, her sister, and three 1-year old cubs - one male and two females. They had emerged from the tall grass to begin the night's hunt, and we found the cubs in a playful mood, rough-housing each other and their mother. "

"We were told by the trackers that the cubs' father was the dominant male of this area, but a younger male had challenged him recently and tried to separate the adult females from him. The oldtimer had been killed - directly as a result of the cramped territories that the males have to constantly fight over in the park. If the new male were to come across the cubs, he would kill them, so as to stimulate their mother to come into breeding condition again."

"For their own safety, the cubs are monitored round-the-clock by a patrol of forest rangers, who try to keep the new male away. Healthy cubs are so rare these days, that they just can't afford to let 'nature take its course' anymore. They also told me that this particular mother had given birth to premature cubs before, so these three youngsters were very special."

Link - "Lost in the Jungle.".

Posted at 2:09AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email | Raffles Museum news