Gujarat govt. to create task force to study Asiatic lion's growing habitat
The government of Gujarat state of India has announced its decision to form a high-level task force to study the expanding habitat of Asiatic lions. The announcement followed the latest census report that revealed a notable increase in the number of Asiatic lions outside the protected area of Gir National Park & Sanctuary.
The forest department will form the task force to analyse the census data in the wake of growing lion population outside Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, the sole home of the Asiatic lions, officials said.
The aim of the task force will be to prepare a report about growing habitat of lions outside the sanctuary and suggest measures to reduce man-animal conflicts, they said.
"We will chalk out a plan based on the census data, which suggests increase in habitat area of lions. I have asked the officials to form a task force comprising 4-5 senior officials to suggest corrective measures on how to reduce threat on lions and decrease man-animal conflicts," Additional Chief Secretary (ACS) in state forest and environment department P K Taneja said.
As per the 14th lion census, the results of which were revealed on May 10 this year, the lion population has gone up to 523, which was 411 in the 2010 census.
While the Gir sanctuary is spread across 1,412 sq kms, the census report of 2015 suggests that the habitat area of the lions has increased to around 22,000 sq kms, which is almost double than 2010.
Out of total 523 lions spotted during this census, 268 were registered in Junagadh district, 44 in adjoining Gir-Somnath district, 174 in Amreli and 37 in Bhavnagar.
When asked if the state government was considering to extend the sanctuary limits or form a new sanctuary where lion habitat is found, Taneja said the committee will also look into these aspects. He also pointed out the need for re-deployment of forest staff to keep a check on lion movement outside the sanctuary.
"The task force will also suggest us all necessary steps to be taken for re-deployment of forest staff in areas outside the sanctuary. Before taking any decision on forming a new sanctuary, we need to analyse several aspects about the availability of herbivores as well as quality of forests," Taneja said.
Officials also admitted that lion population has significantly increased outside the sanctuary, particularly in Amreli district, where the number of the big cats has gone up from 108 in 2010 to 174 in 2015.
"Amreli as well as Bhavnagar are showing significant presence of lions. To avoid chances of man-animal conflict, we are now establishing regular communication with locals and farmers. We are also providing training to social forestry staff to handle the situation," Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) C N Pandey said.
"We have also launched an Asiatic Lion Landscape Scheme last year to handle lion population outside the sanctuary. Our main aim is to improve the habitat of lions in those areas and take measures for better conflict management," Pandey added.