Monday, July 21, 2014

What's in a name: Gir names its lions in a unique way

What's in a name: Gir names its lions in a unique way
The Times of India

Gabbar Singh was thrown out of its territory in Dhari last week after he killed two lion cubs. Gabbar, the lion, apparently did not like the cubs' interference when he was spending some intimate moments with their mother!

Gabbar, as the big cat was popularly known in the area, had become nomadic after it was driven out of its territory by another lion. It was now moving around in search of new territory where he could settle down after the humiliating defeat. It was named Gabbar as he had got into fights with 3-4 lions in a different territory before it killed the two cubs. Local villagers from Savarkundla phoned forest authorities to ensure that Gabbar was removed from their area.

The nomadic lion is not the only one to be identified by a unique name. Almost every pride is identified by a name. The forest officials, including the beat guards and trackers, have a tradition of giving interesting names to lions in Gir Sanctuary — Asia's only abode of lions. There is one Osama Bin Laden which is known for its fearsome demeanor and, of course, a Karan-Arjun — siblings who roam the forest together, always.

Earlier this year, a ceremony was held to name five cubs born to Laxmi, a lioness. "Many feel that the lions should not be named but the beat guards and trackers who are associated closely with the movement of the big cats, feel that naming them helps develop a certain intimacy with the lions and makes them feel that the animals are part of their own family," said Anshuman Sharma, deputy conservator of forest (DCF), Dhari range.

He said that the lions are also named according to their behavior. In Dhari range, there is an old lion which is named Bhagat (priest) because it has never hurt anyone nor even tried to capture territory. He is satisfied in his area and hence the trackers have named him Bhagat.

Similar feelings were echoed by DCF (Gir west), Kasuladev Ramesh, who said that an old lion which lives in the tourism zone is known as Mullah. He is so named because of his priest-like behavior. It hunts for food but it has never attacked any other lion or cubs.

Very frequently, a lion gets is name because of a particular physical condition. For example, 'Bandi' — she had lost her tail — was a famous lioness in the tourism zone. She was always identified by the beat guards as Bandi. Another one in Dhari was known as Langado because it limped.

Karan-Arjun: Two brothers in Mahuva are identified by the villagers of the area as Karan-Arjun. The reason is that the two are always seen together and even hunt together. The two males follow each other closely. Also, in looks they resemble each other and, hence, the villagers have named them Karan-Arjun. A forest officer said that whenever they return to a village, the villagers say, "Mere Karan Arjun aa gaye", (our Karan Arjun have come).

Atankwadi or Osama bin Laden: The two names are popular for those lions who harm big cats not only of their own pride but even from nearby areas. In Mityala, a lion was known as Atankwadi as he would frequently visit others' territories and attack the cubs and the big cats of other prides. These 'terrorists' among lions even attack young adult males of their own group. No wonder, the beat guards have given them such names.

Collared: This lioness has a radio collar put around her neck by scientists for research purpose. People in Liliya village call her 'Collared'. The love for Collared is so strong that people had once launched an agitation to get her back when she was caught in Gondal town after she had wandered there while out on a long walk. The forest department decided to cage the lioness and keep her in Sakarbaugh Zoo. But the people of Liliya launched an agitation and wrote letters to the forest department, forcing the authorities to release the lioness and send her to Liliya.

Roopsundari and Gulab: These names have been given to two female cubs who are beautiful to look at. While Gulab is an attraction for tourists in Sasan, Roopsundari can be seen moving around in villages in Dhari and Savarkundla.

Tofani Kanudo: One often finds this phrase — it is used for naughty people — written on the back of vehicles in Amreli and Jungadh. In the coastal areas in Rajula, beat guards have named a cub as Tofani Kanudo because the cub is very naughty and goes missing often, forcing forest authorities to launch search missions for him.

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