Sunday, November 16, 2008

In Gir, too many lions, too little space.

Sasan Gir, November 16, 2008
First Published: 00:35 IST(16/11/2008)
Last Updated: 00:37 IST(16/11/2008)

Earlier this month, two lions were captured in Gondal, 100 km north of India’s only refuge for the Asiatic lion.

It’s only the latest indication that the lions of Gir National Park are becoming victims of a conservation success.

This decade, lions have preyed on domestic cattle, fallen into village wells, been electrocuted by fences, even seen on Gujarat’s beaches.

The last official census in 2005 revealed 359 lions where there were 180 three decades ago in Gir, set up in 1974 as the Indian lion’s home.

Only, no one told the lions.

“They don’t know where reserve forest limits end and villages begin,” noted I. K. Chauhan, deputy conservator of forests. “They go wherever they see thick vegetation.”

Gir, spread over a core area of 258.7 square km in Gujarat’s Junagadh district, can accommodate upto 300 lions. That’s not enough now.

The solution: Expand the core area — no humans allowed here — or move some lions.

Expanding the core will displace tribals, and that’s politically impossible. As for finding a new home, the Gujarat government refuses to share its lions.

Madhya Pradesh has been trying to lay its hand on a few of Gir’s surplus lions for more than a decade, hoping to move them to a forest near Gwalior, to its Kunopalpur forest reserve.

Gujarat didn’t actually refuse to move lions: It simply did not.

The MP government has since approached the Supreme Court, but Gujarat refuses.

“Why should we give up our lions?” a senior politician argued, requesting anonymity.

Wildlife experts cite another reason. “Lions and tigers can’t stay in the same forest,” said S.K. Nanda, state environment and forest secretary. “There are tigers at Kunopalpur. We won’t sacrifice our lions.”



Anonymous said...

Only the core area of 258.7 Km (National Park)is mentioned which creates a misunderstanding that 359lions live in only 258.7 sq. km. The fact is that the total area of Gir lion sanctuary and national park is 1412.1 sq. km. and about 1880 sq. km. if buffer zones are included.

The lion population that has stabilized in coastal area is there since two decades means they have adapted to the habitat.

Apart from Gir, there are three other sanctuaries where lions have made their homes are Pania, Mitiala and Girnar, which is not mentioned!

All these dispersals have occurred in a natural way over the years which is very good rather than bring them in entirely new environment with many active poaching gangs around.

Also, it is learnt that wild prey base is still not adequate in Kuno but the biggest threat is from poachers who have killed most tigers despite best possible protection efforts.

- Bhushan Pandya.

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