Reviews - What do customers think about Story of Asia's Lions, The (New Ed).?
A Captivating Book Oct 5, 2007
This book meticulously narrates the story of the survival of the indigenous lions of India, generally known as Asiatic lions after reaching the brink of extinction in the 19th century, and their current struggle for existence in their natural habitat in the Gir forest spanning 1,400 square Kilometers in the State of Gujarat, India, the only sanctuary of lions outside of Africa. The book is illustrated with many beautiful panoramic photographs of the lions in their habitat and many historical photographs in black and white as well as colorful artistic drawings taken from various collections. The author has done extensive research on the course of the struggle of the Asiatic lions to survive despite centuries of hunting by many Indian kings and British officers who considered shooting and killing from the security of tree tops and elephant tops in the presence of armed guards the ultimate trophy and prestige for a hunter. As intimidating, imposing, powerful, majestic, and ferocious as the lion is, the story of its near extinction in the face of relentless hunting merely for fun and sport using rifles and sophisticated equipment, makes one feel sorry for the lion, especially when it poses no threat to man outside of its home, the jungle. Also described are the valiant efforts of many Indian rulers, British envoys and naturalists who championed the cause of protecting the lions from the onslaught of the Royal hunters. Liberally citing official records of state and federal governments, a comprehensive story that includes the numbers and photographs of lions hunted is presented in an easily readable manner. The book is oversized, hardbound, 260 pages long, of which approximately one-third is filled with photographs, drawings, tables and maps. The front cover is dominated by a close-up color photograph of the head of a majestic young Asiatic lion staring directly at the reader.
The book begins with a general description of the Gir forest, the lion's present status, and the relationship between the lions and the native people who inhabit the periphery of the Gir forest. The early chapters explore a historical account of the status of lions inancient civilizations and in recent times with particular reference to the lions in Asia, Europe and North Africa with photographs of ancient carvings, sculptures, and paintings. The hunting exploits of the Indian emperors who ruled India and that of the British are chronicled in detail with abundant photographs of paintings and hunts in chapters 6 and 7. The efforts of local rulers of Gujarat to protect the lions are described, again using photographs of hunts and individual rulers in chapters 8 and 9. The later chapters narrate the story of the attempts by local officials to protect the lions by the newly independent India, including the failed attempts to translocate a small population for nurturing a second home for lions in India to ensure their survival in case of natural disasters that could jeopardize the primary lion population of the Gir forest. The book concludes with lists of extensive references, Indian words relating to the lion, a detailed table that documents the size and other particulars of the Gir forest lions from hunting records, maps, and an index. The laudable efforts of the federal government of India and the State of Gujarat to protect the lion from influential and wealthy hunters to assure its survival are also described.
Some interesting facts documented by measurements from diaries of hunters and official records, and discussed in detail in the book, are worth mentioning. Although the lions once roamed most of Asia and Europe, and all of Africa, they are now extinct in these areas but for the well-known populations of lions in several countries in central and southern Africa, and a small and less well-known population of lions in India. The Asiatic lions are slightly different from African lions. The Asiatic lions have a pronounced abdominal fold, the manes are slightly less abundant on top of the head, making their ears more visible, and they have a more pronounced tuft of hair at the end of the tail and at the elbows. However, the weight, height, length and overall size of Asiatic lions are more or less the same as African lions. The lion adorns the official national emblem of India (due to the fact that the lion is unique to India outside Africa where many countries can claim lion populations). In the late 19th century the Asiatic lions became nearly extinct with only 31 lions left in the wild, but due to strict conservation efforts the lion population rebounded to 330 according to the latest census taken in 2001, raising hopes of escaping extinction.
This book is so well written and illustrated that it should be on the shelf of every serious library in the world and on the coffee table of every nature lover, and therefore worthy of prominent display which can not only enhance the décor of the home but also stimulate enlightening conversation related to the protection of critically endangered species. Even without 5% of the net sales proceeds benefiting the Gir Welfare Fund to support the lion protection program, the book's price of US $42 (Rs.1850) is money well spent.