Friday, April 17, 2009

As food chain breaks, lions move out of Gir.

15 Apr 2009, 2201 hrs IST

JUNAGADH: Fifteen years ago, if a lion accidentally reached within 10 km of the Gir forest fringes, it made headlines. Today, cases of lion
sighting show that over 40 per cent of Asiatic lions have not only reached border villages, but have travelled 50 km away from Gir in search of food.

The reason, as many experts believe, is because Maldharis are moving out of Gir forest with their cows and buffaloes easy preys of the lions. A retired forest department officer, who worked in Gir, said, "Gir is a place that is identified by Asiatic lions and Maldharis. They co-existed naturally in the forest. This chain of natural co-existence chain has been broken."

"In the past, in a 1,400-sq km area of Gir, there were 150 to 200 Nes (a Maldhari dwelling), with thousands of Maldharis living there. One lakh cattle of these Nes provided 4 lakh litres of milk daily," the official explained, adding, "Whereas today, only 54 of these dwellings exist, with a mere 25,000 cattle. In a 30-km stretch, between Dhari and Kodinar, only eight Charan families, 7 Koli Maldharis and some Ahir and Rabari families live, that comprise only 20 families.

The ex-official said, "It's a fact that all those places from where Maldharis have moved out, the lions, too, have left. The diminishing cattle has definitely had an impact on habitation pattern."

Kana Gadhvi, president of Maldhari Sangh, living in Biliyad Nes of Gir, said, " When lion kills our cattle, we don't like it, but we know we exist due to the lions. We protect each other." Karsan Gadhvi, another Maldhari living in deep forest at Sap Nes, said, "Without sufficient cattle, the Gir lion has become restless. Lion, Maldharis, cattle and the forest make a natural cycle, which is breaking."

Experts believe, like in countries of Tanzania and Kenya, where gypsies are resettling, the time has come to relocate the Maldharis to their old habitats.

Another interesting fact that comes out is that of the Ahir, Charan, Bharwad, Rabari, Makrani, Saiyad and some other caste Maldharis, mostly Rabari, Charan and Ahir have stayed back.
source : sandesh


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