Friday, September 11, 2009

Pride of 14 lions spotted in Bhavnagar

Pride of 14 lions spotted in Bhavnagar
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik

Lions were earlier confined to the area in and around Sasan and Dhari, but of late large prides have been spotted in Bhavnagar district, especially in Mahuva, Palitana and Talaja. And such sightings are growing with alarming regularity.

Officials said a group of 14 lions was recently spotted in Ranigala village of the district. This is probably the biggest group sighted till now. Earlier, there were scattered reports of lions moving in Bhavnagar. However, spotting of prides with 10 lions are now becoming a routine feature.

Officials said the lions have not only moved away from Sasan but have regained their lost territory. Lions in the past were found up to Gondal in Rajkot, in Bhavnagar and Porbandar. Officials said that today one can see lions along the coastal belt from Porbandar to Bhavnagar.

Officials said the carrying capacity of Gir was around 275-280 lions and hence, over 100 lions were moving out of the sanctuary for want of food. Places where these are spotted had lion presence in the mid-1900, they pointed out.

Revtubha Raijada, former member of the state wildlife board, said, "Gir's carrying capacity is just 250 lions and over 370 lions are there right now. The census which is due will reveal their exact numbers. The lions are moving out because of want of food and also due to fight for territory." He said getting prey in the sanctuary was difficult than getting a catch outside. Once the animal gets used to easy hunt, it will not move back to the sanctuary and come closure to human habitat.

Former principal conservator of forest GA Patel said lion dispersal is in satellite sanctuary. Every pride requires around 30 sq km area and hence the weak pride moves out of the area and settles in such sanctuaries. In Girnar and Mitalaya, there were earlier only five lions but now one can find their population growing.

"It is a fact that lions in the past were found right from Gondal to Porbandar and up to Palitana and Bhavnagar. The lions are regaining their lost territory and it is the human which has interfered in the lion territory," he said.

Conservator of forest S Tyagi said, "It is true that groups of 10 to 13 lions are being spotted in Bhavnagar district. We are closely keeping an eye on the movement of these animals who are moving along their natural corridor. These lions are mostly found in Mahuva, Talaja and Palitana," he said. Bhavnagar district has a natural corridor for these lions.

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