Gir: The charm and the challenge
United News Of India
Ahmedabad: Even as the abode of Asiatic lions is still three years away from the next census, the carnivores' roar is getting louder. Many newer areas in its vicinity known as Greater Gir, which includes parts of Bhavnagar District – have witnessed increased presence.
As per the 2015 Census, Gir had 109 lions and 201 lionesses besides 213 cubs and sub-adults compared to a total 411 in 2010. In the words of the Chief Conservator of Forests (Jun gadh Wildlife Circle), the number was below 200 in the late sixties!
Though there are reports every year of lion deaths owing to varous reasons, it's heartening that the pecentage declined to 0.7 % from the earlier 4 to 5%. Wells have been a major reason for such fatalities but parapets were constructed around 19,000 such structures.
However, the enhancement in lion population has posed challenges the biggest being a spree of attacks on humans. The animals killed at least five persons and injured a large number in Amreli and Gir Somnath districts within a period of three months last year. In Amreli, the Forest Department had to trap more than a dozen beasts following three incidents in which they also consumed parts of victims' bodies.
Though the occurrences were puzzling, the official denied speculation that these resulted from dearth of natural food in the jungle.
Another problem is to protect lions from nature's fury and other dangers. In 2015, the maximum 120 deaths were reported and at least 10 perished owing to extremely heavy rain. Though numerous cubs die every year, which is not uncommon, some are also claimed by road and train mishaps.
Gir is also home to over 300 leopards, the sambar and the chowsingha. It boasts 40-plus species of reptiles and amphibians. 'Sinh Darshan' is conducted in open jeeps throughout the year barring the monsoon months.