Three years after a deadly virus struck India’s endangered Asiatic lions in their last remaining natural habitat, conservationists are hunting for new homes to help booming prides roam free. The majestic big cats, slightly smaller than their African cousins and with a fold of skin along their bellies, were once found widely across southwest Asia. Hunting and human encroachment saw the population plunge to just 20 by 1913, and the lions are now found only in a wildlife sanctuary in India’s western Gujarat state. Following years of concerted government efforts, the lion population in Gir National Park has swelled to nearly 700, according to an official census last year. But just three years ago, the conservation success looked to be in danger when several lions started to die in one part of the 1,400 square kilometre (545 square mile) forest. The canine distemper virus — a highly infectious disease — was detected among dozens of the royal beasts, killing at least 11 of them. In this picture taken on January 5, 2021 Asiatic lions are seen at the Gir National Park and Sanctuary at Sasan Gir, some 330 kilometers from Ahmedabad. Photo: AFP “We picked all the lions from the… Read full this story
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