Tracking the lion
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik
The straying out of Asiatic lions from the protected Gir forest has amazed wildlife enthusiasts and worried Gujarat forest officials. The beast which was earlier confined to the area in and around Sasan and Dhari in Junagadh, is now being spotted in Bhavnagar and other parts of Amreli district.
The forest department, in a bid to secure the area where the lions have moved out, has asked Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) to study the dispersal rate of the lions in the state. It plans to protect the area and the corridor from where the lions are moving out of the sanctuary.
Officials said that there were reports of lions making several areas outside Gir as their permanent home away from Gir sanctuary. In a recent meeting with WTI and Wildlife Institute of India (WII), it was decided that the WTI would carry out a detailed study on the movement of the lions outside the sanctuary.
Fores officials have found 14 lions in Ranigala village of Bhavnagar district. This was probably the biggest pride spotted in recent times. Earlier, there were scattered reports of lions moving in the district. However, spotting groups above 10 are now becoming a routine in Bhavnagar and Amreli districts.
Interestingly, lions are not only moving away from Sasan but seem to be regaining their lost territory. Lions in the past were found upto Gondal in Rajkot and in Bhavnagar and Porbandar. Officials said that as on date, one can see lions along the coastal belt from Porbandar to Bhavnagar.
Officials further said the WTI would give a perfect route plan from where these lions have been moving out and the areas where their concentration has been noticed. With lion census slated next year, this would also help the department in the exercise.
Foresters said that the carrying capacity of Gir was around 275-280 lions and hence, over 100 lions have moved out of the sanctuary in want of food. He said the places where these lions are spotted had lion presence in the mid 1900s.
A senior forest official said, "Gir's carrying capacity is just 250 lions and as of today, there are over 370 lions in the sanctuary. The lions are moving out because of want of food and terrotorial fights."
He said that getting prey in the sanctuary was difficult than getting a catch outside. Once the animal gets used to easy killing, it will not move back to the sanctuary. Even if they are caught and released into forest, they will stray out again and come close to human habitat, he pointed out.
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