Monday, September 15, 2014

Lion visits common in six out of 10 Gir villages

Lion visits common in six out of 10 Gir villages
The Times of India

Lion visits are a regular feature in six out of 10 villages in the Gir region spread out in three districts of Saurashtra - Junagadh, Amreli and Bhavnagar.

An internal survey by the Gir East and Gir West divisions of the forest department reveals that 84% villages in Junagadh, 70% in Amreli and 31% in Bhavangar have reported sightings of lions. The data is an important indicator of the wide area that the lions cover when they venture out of Gir Sanctuary.

Earlier, it was estimated that the big cats strayed in 20,000 sq km area. Forest officials said the survey was part of the long-term lion conservation project of the department.

Before bifurcation of some talukas, the three districts had a total of 2,382 villages. Out of these, lion presence was noticed in 1,367 villages (that is 57.38% of the total).

Officials said that analysis of sightings, local inputs, and information about the killing of cattle and hoved animals (ungulates) like chittal, sambhar and even neelgai that are found in the wild had led the department to identify these villages as those that were visited by the lions.

The survey report further says that these are villages where lions have been spotted either every alternate day or once in three days. The data on animals killed by the big cats reveals that there are about 1,500 villages in Saurashtra where lions go to kill domestic as well as herbivorous animals. But in 133 of these villages, the raids were not frequent.

They said that, earlier, lions had entered Bhavnagar district only in the late 2000s. Later, however, in less than a decade, the lion territory in Bhavnagar expanded in around 31% of the villages. Around 258 villages in the district have reported lion sightings.

Experts say the increased number of lions is a result of the conversation efforts put in by the state government. The big cats are now forced to venture out because the Gir National Park and Gir Sanctuary together are unable to house the growing population. Their number has grown consistently -284 in 1990; 304 in1995; 327 in 2000; 359 in 2005; and 411 in 2010. The next lion census is due in May 2015.

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