Asiatic lions Current Affairs - 2019

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Scientists sequence Asiatic lion’s Genome for the first time

The scientists from Council of Scientific & Industrial Research’s (CSIR)-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, for the first time sequenced the entire genome of Asiatic lion.

Key Highlights of Study

  • The population of Asiatic lion, an endangered species is very low. At present only 523 animals are found in the Gir forests in Gujarat.
  • Need for Conservation: The study of genomes unraveled evolutionary history of Asiatic lion. It noted that evaluation of genetic diversity (i.e. the total number of genetic characteristics of a species which serves as a way for populations to adapt to changing environments) placed Asiatic lion in lowest bracket of genomic diversity index which highlights the gravity of its conservation status.
  • Multi-Pronged Approach: As per scientist for conservation of Asiatic lions it is crucial to adopt a multi-pronged approach. Therefore, genome study which will identifying characteristics which are specific to Asiatic lions will enable better population and disease management of endangered big cat.
  • Importance: The genome sequencing of Asiatic lions would enable scientists to better understand their evolution. With better understanding they can develop specific markers to study Asiatic lion’s population genetics (it means the differences at gene level within a population) and can further get newer insights into their population status and subsequent management.
  • Significance: Until now only partial genomic information of African lion is available. Therefore a comparative genomics between both African lion and Asiatic lions can only be undertaken once complete genome of African lion is sequenced. Therefore, once complete genome of African Cheetah, Royal Bengal tiger, and Jaguar will be available, the comparative studies of all these big cats would be possible.
  • This signifies that final objective of scientists is to understand species at DNA level and study that if there are any specific problems with regard to adaptability of Asiatic Lion to environment or behaviour vis-à-vis other big cats.

About Asiatic Lion

  • They are also known as Indian Lion, and Scientific Name is Panthera Leo Persica.
  • IUCN Red List Status: Endangered
  • They are also Listed in Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, in Appendix I of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
  • At present the only home of Asiatic lion is Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat.
  • Threats: Asiatic lion presently exists as a single sub-population. They are vulnerable to extinction from unpredictable events, like epidemic or large forest fire and in recent years poaching incidents were also indicated.

Gujarat Government starts vaccination of Gir lions against deadly canine distemper virus

Gujarat Forest Department has started vaccination of lions in Gir sanctuary to protect them from a deadly canine distemper virus (CDV) and protozoa infections. The virus is blamed for the death of as many as 23 lions in Gujarat’s Gir sanctuary in less than month. The segregated lions are being vaccinated under intensive veterinary care and as per standard protocol and with consultations of national & International lion experts.

Asiatic lions

Asiatic lions are cousins of the African lion. They are believed to have split away 100,000 years ago. They are slightly smaller and have distinctive fold of skin along their bellies. Gir sanctuary is the only wild population of Asiatic lions in the world. According to the last census conducted in 2015, the number of lions in Gir sanctuary stood at 523. It is listed in Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, has been categories as Endangered on IUCN Red List and is listed Appendix I of CITES.

Canine distemper virus (CDV)

CDV is highly contagious disease that attacks gastrointestinal, respiratory, central nervous systems, immune system and other vital organs in animals. In most of the cases, the infection is fatal. It is mainly found in wild dogs, jackals and wolves. The disease can be contracted by lions if they eat any animal infected by it. CDV is considered dangerous virus and is blamed for wiping out 30% population of African lions in East African forests.