74 big cats outside Gir sanctuary

Posted by: Hitesh Kamaliya on

 The 2010 census has found 74 lions in the revenue areas of Amreli, Bhavnagar and Junagadh.

Forest department officials said that the figure could have gone up to about 85-90 as those in the revenue area around Sasan were included in the count for Gir National Park. They said the state government is in process of developing new sanctuaries, including the Barda Dungar in Porbandar.

Apart from the Gir National Park, the government has declared Paniya, Mitiyala and Girnar as sanctuaries in 1984, 2004 and 2007 respectively. The area of these three sanctuaries put together is around 235 sq km. Another 190 sq km is the area of Barda, which is ready and lions would soon be moved in there.

Officials said the department was waiting for the lions to move to Barda on their own. This has delayed completion of the Barda Dungar project.

Senior forest officials admitted that the human interference was causing problems for the wildlife. With 90-odd lions moving outside the Gir Sanctuary, the attacks on the human and animal were also on the increase.

Revtubha Raijada, former member of the Wild Life Board, said, "Gir's carrying capacity is just 270-odd lions and as of now it has well above 400 lions. The lions are moving out because they need food and also there may be a fight for the territory."

He said that for lions, getting prey in the sanctuary was becoming increasingly difficult and it is easier to get a catch outside. "Once the animal gets used to easy killing, it will not move back to the sanctuary. Even if the lions are caught and forced back to the sanctuary, they will sneak out and come closer to the human habitat," he said.

A senior forest official agreed with him that the animals were moving out of the sanctuary for food and territory. An adult lions requires an area of 30-40 sq km and, hence, there is always a fight for territory which results in the weaker lion coming out of the sanctuary and coming in direct conflict with the human beings, he said