Families of Gir's oldest lions battle to save their territory
The Times Of India
Junagadh: Gir forest is witnessing an ugly battle to gain supremacy over a territory that was ruled for long by two famous lion brothers - Ram and Shyam. Ram, the most photographed lion, died in November 2016 while his brother Shyam, who guarded the territory in Dedakdi range later, died a few months later.
Now, their family consisting of two lionesses and seven cubs are struggling to retain the territory in Kerambha-Raidi area. For the last three to four months, the two lionesses are constantly warding off attacks by a rival group of lions from Babra-Vidi range and those from Dhari and Girnar east, who are desperately trying to take over this area by attacking their cubs.
One of the daily encounters was captured by a tourist a few days ago in his mobile. A male lion is seen running away with one of the cubs. The lioness chases the lion to save the cub but in vain. The tourist shot this video after hearing unusual lion roars.
Forest officials said this behaviour is natural among lions and term it the battle for dominance on a particular territory wherein they force the lionesses to surrender by killing the cubs. A lion and its pride usually dominates over roughly 4 sq km area.
A local forest officer told TOI, "The tourist heard the roars that sounded like a fight between lion and lioness and his group went in the direction of the sound. The lion had snatched two cubs earlier but one survived and he came to kill that cub. After the death of Ram and Shyam, the lions from other territories often come here and harass the lionesses and cubs."
Bhushan Pandya, a wildlife expert, said, "Just like humans, lions too guard their territory and protect their family. When a lion gets injured or dies, the powerful lions of adjoining territory quickly try to capture his pride by first attacking the the cubs as they are a soft target. Until the cubs are alive, lioness don't surrender. However, once they all die, she starts a new family with the other powerful lion."
Ram, who died at the age of 15, and Shyam were the only lions to hold their territory for seven years, which is considered a fairly long time. Usually, a lion loses dominance over its territory within three years.
Chief conservator of forest, wildlife circle, A P Singh said, "It is true that a rival group of lions are trying to capture this territory."
Forest officials are keeping an eye on this area but they don't want to intervene in their natural activity.