Ahmedabad Newsline By: Sibte Husain Bukhari
Junagadh, April 30: AFTER poachers claimed the lives of eight lions in the past one-and-a-half months, the forest department, caught on the backfoot, has doubled up efforts to ensure safety of lions within Gir Sanctuary and outside. As part of its efforts to conduct an unofficial census, foresters are trying to locate each and every lion or its group in respective territories.
Forest officers, posted in Gir and other lion populated areas, are unwilling to make any estimation of lion population so far. A senior forest official said, “If a lion, in individual or in group is not sighted in last 48 hours, intensified drive is launched to track it which continues till the animal’s exact location is found.”
“Ground forest staff is keeping a close eye on each big cat. Beat guards and foresters identify lions by their colour, age and accompanying cubs and assign them names accordingly. For males, names like Bhabho (aged), Bhuro (gray), Jambuvo(bluish), Tiliyo (spotted) and Chhapalo (crazy) are given. Females have been identified by the number of accompanying cubs,” a forest official said.
The official pointed out that Gir forest and Girnar area are considered areas with zero human interferences. But the vidi land and coastal belts, where lions have made their new home, are of prime security concern as the surrounding areas have dense human population. Make-shift wireless stations have been erected in vidi land and staff posted for round-the-clock duty.
Within last six months over 15 lions, including cubs, have reportedly died due to natural and unnatural reasons. According to wildlife experts, every year 40 to 70 lions are added to their population while mortality rate is about 25 to 30. “Lion population increases at the rate of 12 percent annually while mortality rate is 10 percent. So the population increase stands at two percent which is the natural cycle, they said.
According to 2005 census, lion population was estimated at 359 plus. Lions have made their dens in four segments— Gir National Park and sanctuary and surrounding areas, Girnar mountain forest, coastal belt in Junagadh district, and grass (vidi) land area in Bhavnagar district.
Out of 359 lions, 290 plus have been found in Gir forest, 20 in Girnar forest, 10 were sighted in coastal belt while about 40 were located in various vidi lands.