These pictures were taken at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo. I hate zoos. They are rapidly becoming last ditch repositories for animals on the endangered species list. Of course, there are those who don’t believe we are in the middle of the sixth great extinction event, or even care, so what’s new.

While the Indian bureaucracy is flailing about, the Bengal tiger population drops to a new low. Adding gas to the fire was the poisoning of three of the last 300 remaining Asiatic lions in the Gir forest.

These lions are crammed in a preserve that is 22 miles on a side. There are more kids in a typical Seattle high school than there are Bengal tigers in the wild, and more kids in an elementary school than Asiatic lions in the wild. The sad truth is that the Asiatic lion is on the cusp of joining the California condor as a hand-raised relic of the past. Which, when given a little more time, will prove a short hiatus on the way to oblivion.

Some believe that people must be allowed to coexist with endangered wildlife, while others think they should be kept separate. The farmers that still live inside the Gir lion sanctuary would skip out of the preserve with big smiles on their faces if given a big enough incentive (money). Allowing them to remain is an untenable situation if for no other reason than their population will grow, eventually crowding the lions out. Ironic as this may sound, the lions are already in a state of overpopulation (too many lions for the resources available in a given boundary).

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There is an undeniable inverse correlation between human population density and biodiversity (within a given defined boundary). You do not need to do a doctoral thesis to understand why this is so. Cougars that wander into Seattle are removed for obvious reasons.

But here is the problem: Any time people vacate a space, there is pressure by others to fill the void. A decade after emptying the Gir forest of herders, it would be full again unless people were forcibly kept out. The only thing that now keeps more herders from grazing their cattle inside the Gir forest are the other herders already there (who would hit them on the head with big sticks). What the Indian government needs to do is harness self-interest and big sticks to protect lions. Contract with herders outside the park to raise endangered wild buffalo to send into the park for the lions to hunt. Poachers would then have to deal with ticked-off herders for eliminating their customers — the Asiatic lions.

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