Visuals of dead bodies of the king of the jungle drowned and washed away in the recent Gujarat floods shocked many. The dead bodies of as many as ten lions have been recovered so far, although no one can so with certainty how many lions died in the flood that caused havoc in the districts of Amreli, Junagadh and Bhavnagar in Gujarat. Wildlife conservationists have been arguing for long that it is advisable to spread the Asiatic lion in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, so that an epidemic or natural calamity will not cause as much damage to them. Now voices of concern are propping up from within Gujarat as well.
Samir Shah, President of Rajkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry said "earlier too lions have died unnatural deaths in Gujarat. They have begun to venture out of the sanctuary into villages and towns. In order to save them from dying, they should be shifted elsewhere".
Over the years, a number of lions have moved out from the Gir sanctuary limits to revenue and wasteland areas on the periphery of the sanctuary. With an abundant supply of bluebulls and deer for food, the lions have made this their permanent home. The thick bush cover also serves as an ideal habitat for the majestic lion. Locals in Dhari town of Amreli claim they see lions regularly in the riverbed and even walking on the main road at times.
Nooruddin Chavda, a resident of Dhari said "there are two groups of lions that stay here.. where we are standing. These include lions, lionesses and cubs."
Another resident Niket Sanghani also joins him. He said "all of us have seen lions here… Especially in the evenings, they even roam on the roads."
Its these lions who got washed away in the flash floods recently. But ask the locals whether the lions should be shifted and their answer is an emphatic "No".
Defending their opposition to any attempt to shift lions, Nooruddin Chavda said "No this is wrong. Nature can cause havoc anywhere.. Shifting is not an option."
Niket Sanghani also feels the same. He said "Flood can come anywhere.. That is not a premise for shifting lions from here."
The Gujarat forest department, and for that matter, the state government, says that a healthy rise in lion population is evidence enough that there is absolutely no need to shifting any lions to the Kuno Palpur wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh.
Anshuman Sharma, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Gir East Range said "Just because 10 lions have died, it is wrong to make a demand for relocation. This was a calamity that can happen anywhere.. Even in places that they want to shift the lions. We are taking good care of the lions. The lion to cub ratio also shows that they are in a good place."