The Last Refuge – Documentary on Asiatic Lions

The Last Refuge is a film on the natural history and the conservation issues related to the Asiatic Lion a critically endangered species which survives in the wild only in the Gir Forest and adjoining area in Gujarat. The last specimen in Pakistan died in 1842 and after the middle of the nineteenth century the entire species was wiped out except in India where only 12 lions were left in 1880. All lions in Gir are descendants of the once surviving 12 lions of the area. Inbreeding has caused a weakening of the gene pool.

The Gir Forest in Gujarat is as old as 3000 years and there are people living inside the forest whose heritage is almost 1000 years old. The forest has the highest density of top carnivores. The thick scrub forest and a shortage of prey do not allow the Asiatic Lion to hunt in prides. The Asian lion often stalks the prey individually. Both sexes participate simultaneously in eating as against the African custom of first allowing the lion to have his share. An adult lion may consume 10 to 20 kg of meat. During difficult times it can go without food for more than 10 days.

The presence of human population and livestock in and around the forest together with a reduction in genetic quality in the lions has pushed the species to the point of extinction. There are just a little over 400 of these magnificent animals left in the wild. The loss of habitat is forcing some to leave the forest.

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