Weeds Threaten Gujarat’S Lion and Their Prey (Download PDF)

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Two shrubs lantana camara and cassia tora spreading in the Gir forest are threatening Asiatic lions but large number of herbivorous animals like deer on which these lions feed. Experts and forest department officials said that the spread of lantana camara (locally known as indradhanu) is so rapid that removing them is difficult.

Image of lantana camara and cassia tora

Image of Lantana Camara and Cassia Tora

Image of lantana camara and cassia tora

  • Problem has been observed for nearly two decades but failure to nip them in the bud is now threatening Gir ecosystem.

How the Growth of Lantana Camara and Cassia Tora is Causing Problems?

  • The thorny lantana and cassia tora (locally known as kaalmukho) stop the growing of grass and other shrubs that the herbivorous feed on.

  • Large strip of land in the national park and sanctuary have very little grass.

  • The deer, Nil Gai, black bucks and other herbivorous animals do not eat plants of either of these shrubs.

  • Potential danger is that of lions moving out in revenue areas in search of prey, thus increasing chances of human-animal conflict.

  • In several ranges, large open areas, which are liked by Lions, are also depleting due to thick vegetation of lantana.

  • The uninhibited spread threatens trees like caria, oak and karanj, essential for wild animals. Lions often take shelter under caria trees, especially in summer.

  • The spread of lantana camara is so rapid that removing them is difficult.

What is Lantana Camara?

  • Lantana camara, also known as big sage is a species of flowering plant within the verbena family.

  • Lantana camara is planted to embellish gardens- has spread from its native Central and South America to around 50 different countries, where it has become an invasive species.

  • Spread from the Americas into the rest of the world when it was brought back to Europe by Dutch explorers and cultivated widely, soon spreading into Asia and Oceania, where it established itself as a notorious weed.

  • Lantana camara will often outcompete other more desirable species, leading to a reduction in biodiversity.

  • It can also cause problems if it invades agricultural areas as a result of its toxicity to livestock as well as its ability to form dense thickets which if left unchecked can greatly reduce the productivity of farm land.

  • Lantana is the favourite food of bulbuls and the faeces of these birds only help spread the weed.

What is Cassia Tora?

  • Cassia tora is another plant of the legume family that renders the land non-fertile by not allowing grass to grow.

  • Cassia tora is a dicot legume in the subfamily caesalpinioideae.

  • It grows wild in most of the tropics and is considered a weed in many places.

  • Its native range is probably South Asia.

  • Its most common English name is Sickle Senna.

  • In India, it occurs as a wasteland rainy season weed and its usual flowering time is after the monsoon rains, during the period of October to February.

  • Cassia tora grows in dry soil from sea level up to 1800 meters.

  • The seed can remain viable for up to twenty years.

  • Up to 1000 plants can emerge per square meter following rain. Once the seed has matured, it is gathered and dried in the sun.

- Published/Last Modified on: May 6, 2018

Environment/Ecology

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