Monday, April 28, 2008

Camels, donkeys too on lion's diet now


Camels, donkeys too on lion’s diet now

Times Of India By Himanshu Kaushik

Sasan: A study by Dr Ravi Chellam, a world-renowed expert on Asiatic lions, had revealed that chital, sambhar, nilgai, cattle and buffalo were important preys for this beast. However, with the shrinking habitat in the Gir sanctuary, lions are moving out of the forest and virtually pouncing on any animal that comes its way.

In fact, lions have been preying on camels too, something that was unheard of in this only abode of Asiatic lions. In 2007-2008, the state government had to compensate owners of five camels with Rs 5,000 per animal killed. The figures were revealed by Gir east (Dhari division).

There is a definite shift in preying and eating habits of lions, according to a senior forest officer, who says that in the past lions had even killed a donkey and the government had to announce a compensation of Rs 2,100, equivalent to a calf. “Attacks on camel is very rare and that too when it is asleep. But it definitely comes as a surprise that the lions’ tastes have changed,” said the officer.

Dhanaji Patel, a villager in Dhari and having a field near Dalkhaniya, said it is surprising as the lions are trying everything. “Earlier small goats and sheep were not among those attacked by lions. But these days the lions are preying on everything,” said Patel.

Studies have revealed that buffalo was also among the favourite food, but cow seemed to be easy prey for the lions. “Lions have moved out the forest and hence they have developed a taste for buffaloes and cows, leaving chital and sambhar as their favourite food,” Patel added.

Villagers of Babra-Virdi area, which is known for lion shows, say the lions here have got so used to the bait that they do not go hunting for chital or sambhar.

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