'68 lions have moved out of Gir protected area'
Times of India
GANDHINAGAR: The state government admitted in the Assembly on Wednesday that only 291 of the 359 lions in Gir were in the protected sanctuary area.
Replying to a question by Karjan MLA Chandu Dabhi, the government said as per the last census conducted in 2005, there were 68 adult lions, 100 female lions and 123 cubs within the protected Gir Sanctuary.
Officials said this meant 68 lions had moved out of the sanctuary. Forest officials also said Gir's carrying capacity is just 250 lions and as of now, there could be nearly 370 lions. "The census which is due will reveal the exact number but at present, I feel that there are over 370 lions. The lions are moving out because of the want of food and also because of the fight for the territory," said a forest official. He added that getting prey in the sanctuary was more difficult. Once the animal got used to an easy kill, it will not move back to the sanctuary and even if they are caught, they will get out and come closer to human habitat.
Officials said an adult lion requires an area of 30-40 sq km and hence there is always a fight for territory which results in the weaker lion coming out of the sanctuary and coming in direct conflict with humans.
The forest department has also said there has been no incident of poaching in the last two years. To check poaching, the forest and police department are working in co-ordination under a monitoring committee headed by inspector general of police, Junagadh range. The committee has met eight times so far.
The government has also decided to keep a check on the vehicles entering the jungle and other visitors. The department said a close watch is being kept on the activities and movement of labourers coming from other states. Vigil is also being maintained on suspicious movements in Gir railway station and bus station. About 200 motorcycles have been given to the staff and Friends of Wild Animal scheme has been floated.
The department said in order to avoid accidents, as many as 9,350 wells have been covered with parapet walls till May 2009. Also, the staff has been given wireless sets and patrolling intensified in the areas.
To check death of lions due to electrocution, the forest department in collaboration with the electricity company has launched a drive to check illegal power connection.