Thursday, June 17, 2010

Forest department plans breeding centres to widen Gir lions’ prey base

Forest department plans breeding centres to widen Gir lions' prey base
Indian Express

The Forest Department has hinted at the possibility of Asiatic lions expanding their territory across Saurastra in a few years. But there is no long-term conservation plan per se to deal with the burgeoning population, besides setting up a few breeding centres.

Officials say there are two urgent requirements for Asiatic lions to avoid man-animal conflict in newer territories — food and water.

But other than M S University, no other body has documented the flora of Gir, which affects the migration pattern of herbivores, which form the prey base of these big cats.

To avoid human conflicts with the big cats, the Forest Department is now planning to start a breeding centre for herbivores in the Umath area of Rajkot district to ensure a healthy prey base for the lions.

Officials say the rising lion population may cause a problem for the leopards too, which in its turn might increasingly target livestock in the surrounding villages.

Every year, the Forest Department pays huge amount as compensation to tribals whose livestocks are killed by leopards. Even Maldharis in Brihud Gir face similar problems, officials say.

Chief Conservator of Forest S K Chaturvedi refused to comment on the conservation plan, but said: "We are trying to prepare ourselves for the imminent problems. Two breeding centres for spotted deer were started in Barda and Rampara area last year."

He added that the Forest Department recently conducted SCAT analysis for the big cats of Brihud Gir to study their diet patterns and to carry out methods of breeding their prey accordingly.

The phenomenon of dispersal is evident north of Palitana and West of the Gir National Park and Sanctuary. The population of sub-adult male lions too are rising; the lions are more ferocious in the newer areas as they have to fight for their territories. But the Forest Department is still using its old management plan. It will take yet another year for the newer management plan to be in place.

Chaturvedi said, "We have started plantations to provide shelter to the lions in the newer areas of dispersal, along with water bodies."

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