Subhajit Makhal: We all know that lions in India are confined in the Gir National Park in the state of Gujarat. But a new study shows that lions also once roamed in the state of Haryana in the early 1800’s. In fact lions co-existed with two relatives leopards and tigers in Haryana. Records shows that since 1809 mass huntings of lions took place in Haryana by the British officers, soldiers hunters and many Indian princes in the name of “sport”.Haryana came under British control as a result of treaty signed between East India Company and Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Sikh empire in 1809.
The British through treaty got regions of Haryana, regions of Malwa and some regions of southern Punjab. Haryana aa of today is a primarily agrarian landscape but early in the 18th century Haryana was region of arid savannahs and dense scrub jungles. An interesting story goes that the British at first did not believe that lions could have ever existed in India. They thought India was the land of tigers and lions were confined only in Africa. However in the year 1808 the brother of British Army officer William Fraser, Mr. Aleck Fraser recorded existence of two lions cubs kept in British residency.
The British government first confirmed the official presence of lions in India through a military dispatch named ‘Lions in India’. Following regions were believed to be habitat of lions Hissar, Bhiwani, Jind, Karnal, Ludhiana and Rohtak. December 1812 to early 1813 sightings of 29 lions have been documented (22 killed and 7 escaped) according to a personal diary of Maria Nugent wife of Sir George Nugent the commander-in-chief of India (1811-1813) . But question that arise in our minds is how come lions were hunted so easily and not tigers??? The question is valid as tigers were also severly hunted besides lions but still exist in various forests and national parks throughout India but lions only in Gujrat. The answer is very simple Tigers love dense tropical forests and by nature they prefer much privacy but lions love open grasslands and their dominant nature brought downfall. Plans had been made to re-introduce lions in the Kuno national park in Madhya Pradesh but tigers also frequent the area from nearby Rathambore national park. Whether two kings of jungles be able to live side by side is a debatable question!!!!!