Express News Service
Posted: Wednesday, May 27, 2009 at 2354 hrs IST
Rajkot: Within four years of the last census in 2005, further dispersion of Asiatic lions on a large- scale in areas of Bhavnagar district has been observed. From 14 in the last census, which was a record in itself, the number of lions in the green areas of the coastal belt is now 25.
The forest department has already considered declaring nearly 200 square kilometres in the district with green cover area as conserved forest for the lions. The district is located at least 100 km away from Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, the home of the Asiatic lion.
"In the last census, 14 big cats had been found in and around Bhavnagar. Our recent estimate puts the number at 25," said K Randhava, Deputy Conservator of Forest, Bhavnagar (Junagadh Circle). The total number of lions in and around the sanctuary in the census was put at 359. Like Bhavnagar, dispersion has been observed towards Sutrapada (Junagadh district) and Barada (Porbandar district) in recent years. With the lion population on the rise, their further dispersion in search of more space and food has not been ruled out.
In grasslands and open areas of Palitana, Mahuva, Talaja, Gariyadhar, Ghogha and Vallabhipur, lions are being spotted frequently. "This is a stretch that runs adjacent to Gir East," Randhava added.
The forest department believes that open grasslands and forest areas, where the nilgai is also found in large numbers, provide a suitable environment for lion habitat. Locals, especially farmers, are more than happy to adjust with the new visitors, as the presence of lions has controlled the nilgai population that poses a threat to the standing crops.
Unlike Barda, which is a bird sanctuary, this new home of Asiatic lions is partly forest and partly revenue area, making it difficult for the forest department to protect wildlife as well as save humans from animals.
According to higher officials, once it is declared as a conserved forest area, human movement can be restricted up to a limit for lion conservation.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org