Sunday, May 17, 2009

India: New water holes made for growing lion population

New water holes made for big cats
13 May 2009, 2147 hrs IST, Himanshu Kaushik, TNN
AHMEDABAD: With lions wandering into newer territories, 113 water holes have been made in Amreli, Bhavnagar and Junagadh districts to quench their thirst.
A large number of big cats have moved out of Gir Sanctuary and made these areas their permanent home. As a result, the state government has got ponds constructed there.
Officials said artificial water holes have been constructed regularly for the past few years. Lion population in 2005 census was 359. Of these, it is estimated that at least 100 lions have wandered outside the sanctuary. This figure is expected to be higher in the census due next year, they added.
Officials said construction of such large number of water holes is an indication that the big cats have found a home away from Gir Sanctuary. Lions have made areas like Dhari, Khambha, Palitana and banks of river Shetrunji their permanent home.
Conservator of forests (Gir) MM Sharma says "The water holes are being constructed since 2007. There are 546 such artificial water holes in Gir."
Around 70-odd lions have regained lost territory in areas facing water shortage. Spots for water holes were fixed based on reports from officials and villagers. Only five new water holes have been made in Gir Sanctuary because of failure of existing ones.
A senior officer, who wishes to remain anonymous, said a debate is on on the need to protect lions from unnatural deaths.
Experts feel the most important long-term conservation measure is establishing at least one more free-ranging population of lions which can grow to be sufficiently large and also be isolated from the Gir population.
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