Saturday, October 24, 2009

Have Gir's big cats found a new den?

Have Gir's big cats found a new den?
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik

The king has found another jungle. At least 17 lions have moved out of Gir forest to the grassland in Mahuva taluka of Bhavnagar district to make their new home. And, the wild cats can now be easily spotted roaming around in the unprotected areas.

This taluka has a natural corridor with Gir which is home to the Asiatic lion.

Forest officials say that the area was best suited for lions because it was a savannah grass land and had a prey base of Neelgai, Cheetal and wild pigs.

Lion droppings tested over the period showed samples of the coats of Neelgai and Cheetal, indicating the beast's preferences.

Officials say that in the past few months there have been compensation claims made for killing of 12 to 15 cattles only, which was far less than the ones made from civilian area around Gir.

Residents of this area are quite happy to have the king in their midst. Says Rajendra Patel, "Lions are a pride in the area and people do keep a check on their movement in the area." He adds that beat guards are regularly informed about the movement of the animal and the roars heard in nearby areas.

Citing an example of Savarkundla in Amreli, he said a lion was recently rescued from the well but people insisted that the wild cat should be left back in their area after treatment.

A senior officer from the Bhavnagar said that there were four guards, three foresters, nine beat guards and 11 van sahayaks along with one range forest officer to man the 80-km stretch, which is about 5,000 hectares. The officers said that once people are aware of the presence of lions they have been pressurising them to take them to the area to show the lions.

BN Srivastava, in-charge principal conservator of forest (wildlife) says, "There is no proposal at present to declare the area as a sanctuary or a conservation zone."

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