Express News Service
Gandhinagar, January 31: In a tactical move which may water down the argument to shift the Gir lion to Madhya Pradesh, the State Government has decided to introduce big cats to the region of Barda Hills lying between Porbandar and Jamnagar.
Declared a sanctuary sometime ago, the 192.35 sq km of undulating terrain resembles Sasan, but is yet to get its share of lion population.
"We would be introducing five pairs of lion in the next few months in Barda," said State Forest Minister Mangubhai Patel addressing newspersons at his office on Wednesday.
The State Forest Department had proposed Barda as an alternative site for the expansion of home for the Asiatic lion. As a preparation for this, breeding centre for antelopes and hare was started sometime ago. The region already has a healthy population of blue bull and wild boar.
Though the population of lions from Gir has spread outside Sasan (Junagadh) to satellite areas of Mitiyala, Girnar, and Hipavadi, the cats in these regions have always been connected with the main population in Gir sanctuary.
With Barda at a distance of 130 km with no corridors to Gir, it would help develop and independent lion region in the State, said officials, adding that given the emotions involved, no one in the State is ready shift lions to MP.
"The shifting of lions to MP has failed twice in 1974 and 1981. The government is not ready for another chance," said a senior official.
The minister said apart from Barda, the area between Savarkundla and Mahuva spread over 125 sq km too was being strengthened as a lion habitat. As of now, Asiatic lion population is spread over 1450 sq km in the State, with the last census pegging the figure at 359.