55 teams to keep watch on Gir lions
With Amreli and Gir Somnath in Saurashtra in the grip of heavy rain for the past one week, apprehensions for the safety of Asiatic Lion has grown. After a dozen lions were reported dead due to floods in 2015, the government has been extra cautious.
Though no unfortunate incidents have been reported so far, forest officials are not taking any chances. The government has set up 55 teams to monitor the movement of animals, especially lions.
Senior forest officials confirmed that there has been no report of any animal missing or harmed because of flooding and heavy rain for about a week. Hiran River that passes through the Gir forest is flowing full these days. With Hiran-2 dam overflowing, two gates were opened on Monday.
Talking about the steps the government has taken, Chief Conservator of Forest D T Vasavada said, "We have created 55 teams with about four members each. The teams will be monitoring animal movement in sensitive areas and inform concerned officials if observe any problems the animals face. Learning from past experience of Amreli floods, we have created some raised platforms for lions to climb up during heavy flow of water."
Heavy rainfall, flooding in low-lying areas in coastal regions of Amreli, Junagadh and Gir-Somnath districts has put lion safety at risk. Talking on condition of anonymity, a staffer of the team said, "There have been instances of a lion pride being seen in an area surrounded by water till evening and the next evening it has disappeared. After intensive search we found them hiding in a safe corridor. So high raised platforms are working well for the safety of lions."
"Flooding at times becomes risky for lions especially when it extends to new territories. However, the sanctuary is safe so far but lions may get affected by monsoon diseases during flood-like situation. We have not seen sun for at least 8 days now," said Jitendra Bhatt, guide and activist based in Sasan.
About a dozen lions were reported dead after a flood in Amreli in 2015. Liliya and surrounding areas in Amreli district on the banks of Shetrunji river have the highest density of lion population.