Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Gir lions spread far and wide in search of new territory


Gir lions spread far and wide in search of new territory

Indian Express By Hiral Dave

Rajkot, December 17 After the Forest department spotted two Asiatic lions at the coastal town of Pingleshwar near Mahuva in Bhavnagar district, the question looming large is whether this species of the big cats require more space.

Since 1985, lions have started looking outside the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, the last abode for the Asiatic Lions. In the last two decades, the jungle king has expanded its kingdom on the coastal belt from Sutrapada in Junagadh to Khmbha in Amreli districts. As a result of this dispersion, away from forest, the present population of lions in the coastal belt stands at more than 100.

But, now, they have been showing signs of dispersion to farther areas, as well. "Two male lions have been spotted at Pingleshwar near Mahuva. In the last two weeks they have fed on livestock," said an official with the Bhavnagar District Division Forest Office. The official said the lions might have followed the coastal belt of Rampara, Bheradi, Victor, Patwa, Dodiya and Khared to reach Pingleshwar.

"Pingleshwar is located 35 kilometres from Rajula, which was so far the remotest dispersion site. But, what we are seeing here, are signs of further dispersion," said Amit Jethva, president of Gir nature Youth Club.

Officials are, however, adopting a policy of wait and watch before coming to any conclusion. "The department needs to keep a close watch on their movements. We need to see whether they come back to Amreli district in a few days or stay in Mahuva, find prey, breed and settle down," said Conservator of Forest, Bharat Pathak.

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