Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Crossover kings: 60 lions venture out of Gir, may pick conflict with humans


Crossover kings: 60 lions venture out of Gir, may pick conflict with humans

Indian Express By DP Bhattacharya


Ahmedabad, September 29 WII report shows that Asiatic lions are looking for new habitat along grasslands

With more than 60 lions roaming outside the Gir Sanctuary area, fears have been expressed on potential man-animal conflicts in the region.


A study by the state Forest Department and the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun has found that Asiatic lions from Gir are now looking for a new habitat along the grasslands of Palitana, Mahuva and Sabartundla adjoining the sanctuary.


It has also been observed that lions moving out of the sanctuary area cover approximately 800 sq km as opposed to the ones within the park, who restrict their movement within 100 sq. km. This came to light after tracking the movement of five lions, who have been radio collared by WII.


"With 60 out of 350 lions out of the protected area, the potential for the man-animal conflict is very high. This is astounding and very unusual. This indicates that the existing lion population will need about 10,000 sq. km use," said Dr Y V Jhala from WII, Dehradun.


Forest Department officials have, however, said that despite such movement of lions outside the protected area, cases of man-lion conflict have not really gone very high. Generally conflicts are reported between humans and leopards around the Gir Forest area, they said.


Bharat Pathak, Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) Junagadh, said: "Looking at the kind of dispersal of the lions, we cannot really say that incidents of lion-human conflicts have really gone up in the region. In the last four years, we had registered only one human death due to a lion attack and that too in 2005-06."


He said they are still studying the lions and intend to radio collar some more of the big cats. But one thing that has come to light is that the lions are now increasingly looking for new habitat, he added.


"Once we get the required amount of data, we'll be in a far better position to understand the social dynamics of the lions and their movement patterns, but for now, one thing is certain. The lions in Gir are looking for new homes," he said.


Jhala said the lions mostly live on dead animals surrounding the numerous Panjrapoles in the area and on the live-stocks of the farmers. "The lions occasionally kill wild boars and nilgais, which are a menace to the farmers," he said.


Pathak said most incidents of man-lion conflict arise due... to wrong handling of the big cats. "Only recently, an old man was injured by a lioness near Lalpur village near the sanctuary area, when the villagers disturbed the big cat who was feeding on a kill. While the department promptly pays compensation for such kills, there is no need to disturb them. The irritated lion retreated to the forest and on the way came across the man and attacked him," he said.

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