Lions only reclaiming lost home: Experts
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik
AHMEDABAD: Nearly five generations later, the King of the Jungle is reclaiming ancestral land!
The Asiatic lion's moving out of Sasan Gir, known as its last abode in the world, to the stretch between Porbander and Mahuva in Bhavnagar. This, say experts, is a return to its original home.
While the younger generation of foresters and wildlife observers view this as the lion "straying out" of the protected Gir sanctuary, sexagenarian experts recall how these areas in the pre-Independence days were always dominated by Asiatic lions. In the last few years, several lions have been spotted in areas inhabited by humans outside Gir, either in search of prey or water, or because their population had increased. Gir was declared protected in 1965.
Based on this, the state forest department has prepared a project called 'Greater Gir' to include areas around the protected forest. The department has declared Girnar as a sanctuary, while Mityala in Amreli district has also been notified as sanctuary.
A forest official says that several other areas would also be declared as conservation reserves. In these areas, the department will also improve human habitat and protect the lions present there.
Former chief conservator of forest GA Patel says about the phenomenon, "It is nothing new for lions who are regaining their old territory which they had lost due to increase in human habitat in the area."
Patel says earlier lions were found in the entire Saurashtra region, right from Gondal in Rajkot to Porbander, as also upto Palitana and Mahuva in Bhavnagar. He says with population increasing, the area became smaller for lions and hence they started moving out.
Former principal conservator of forest Sanat Chavan says that a 1920 census had revealed that the population of lions was over 300 covering parts of Bhavnagar, Porbander, Junagadh and others in Saurashtra.
But with the human population increasing, the land under cultivation also increased and simultaneously the population also reduced to about 260. With population decreasing the lions were confined only to Sasan and around. But now with the population increasing over 350 the beasts are regaining lost territory, says Chavan.
Conservator of forest Bharat Pathak says, "There are several reasons why the lion population was confined only to Gir region. With the human habitat increasing, the land under cultivation also increased. This hindered the movement of lions in their natural corridor. Also in the pre-independence era, the Nawabs use to permit hunting and hence the lions remained confined to one area. The lions are now moving back to their own lost territory."