Lions are known to be predatory animals, but recent studies have revealed the younger ones slowly marching on the path to becoming scavengers. The study was done by Wildlife Institute of India (WII), conducted in Gir Forest, which showed concerns over their alarming claims of the royal family of predators turning into scavengers for obvious reasons.
The foundings by Wildlife Institute of India (WII) recorded a decline in natural hunting skills among young lions. The reason disclosed by WII pointed towards the dumped carcasses being fed to lion cubs, especially in tourism zones.
The study titled ‘Spatially Explicit Density and Its Determinants For Asiatic lion In Gir Forest’, which is the western part of the Gir protected sanctuary having a density of 8.5 lions within a range of 100 sq km area. Out of the 368 sightings, 67 lions were spotted by researchers Y V Jhala, Kaushik Banerjee, Ujjwal Kumar, and Keshav Gogoi for their study.
This research found young lions, instead of surviving on natural prey base and putting their hunting skills in action, seemed to be mostly dependent on animal carcasses. A number of lions were surprisingly found to be in tourism zones rather than roaming around chital and sambar, which are natural prey base. While, alarmingly enough, many young lions were even found to have compromised their hunting skills.
The study also forced light upon instances like the Maldhari’s dumping cattle outside their homes, in order to prevent lion attacks and increase tourism. Forest officials are also known to use animal carcasses to lure lions into tourism zones. The study further states, due to lions getting assured of their food from tourism zones, their hunting skills are often not put to use.
The Gir forest is the only known area where lions naturally survive on Ungulates, rather than the human subsidies used elsewhere. However, with easy prey and food at hand, these lions are turning into scavengers from their original state of predators.
With lions cubs being fed with animal carcasses, younger lions were found to be in jeopardy, lacking in natural predatory skills required for hunting which is eventually turning them into scavengers.
This is a very concerning situation, as the study warns, lions having a lack of hunting skills may come in conflict with humans. This is because, with reduced hunting skills lions will only look for easy prey or livestock, which can come as a danger to humans.