Genetically Unfit Lion cubs due to Interference with Natural Selection

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Senior scientist YV Jhala of Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun who has closely researched lions and their cubs in the Gir National Park of Gujarat for over two decades claims that excessive use of antibiotics and more than required health care interventions for lions is interfering with their natural selection process. This further results in the survival of ‘genetically unfit’ lions and their cubs. These unfit lions further produce offspring with defects such as limbless cubs or blind cubs . This chain continues and the generations in the area are born with defects.

Scientist said that with the help of radio tagging and improved surveillance technology they are able to constantly monitor health conditions of lions ,which has resulted in increased medical interventions. This was supposed to help animals in the wild but has now badly affected the entire species of lions in the region. During a webinar in Dehradun recently where a number of scientists talked about the conservation of lions, Jhala said, “For most wild animals, ‘Survival of the fittest’ is important as it makes sure that only the animals with best qualities survive. Hence best genetic material is passed on.” He further added, “But this is not happening. Treating every animal which is sick or injured badly affects the natural selection process.”

The scientist says that human intervention through antibiotics, vaccines, treatment, etc. is allowing those animals to pass on their genetic material who are genetically unfit. They wouldn’t even have survived in natural conditions. “We cannot treat these wild animals like we treat them in a zoo. There are reasons that we have to let them be out in the jungles in their natural habitat without any sort of interference”, said Jhala. According to researchers, in the past few years, there have been a number of instances where lion cubs are born with deformities such as skeletal deformities, missing limbs, etc. Talking about these records, Jhala said that they are not allowing wild animals to die naturally with the help of intensive healthcare but this is not right and is against the rules of nature. This can have a disastrous effect on the long-term existence of the lion population.

While Jhala discussed the problem, Dr. Umesh Chandra Sharma who is a former president of Veterinary Council of India talked about the solution. He said, “We need a separate veterinary care for our wild animals. Right now, doctors from the animal husbandry department who are experts in livestock tend to the wild animals also. Apart from that, any sort of medicines should be given to animals on a case by case basis as it directly affects their genes.”

Source: TOI

Written by: Utkarsha Tyagi

About the Author: Passionate about environment issues, Utkarsha Tyagi has worked as a columnist with the leading publications such as Hindustan Times.

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