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Asiatic lions face danger in 'overcrowded' Gir, some of them need relocation



MAIL TODAY
May 12, 2015
Darshan Desai

The increase in the Asiatic lion population in Gujarat forests is surely a reason to rejoice for the state government and to pay reverence to the people of Saurashtra region for nurturing the wild cat while taking all inconveniences in their stride. But it is in the very impressive number - 523 lions, up from 411 in 2010 - that hides a tough challenge of conservation.

The 2015 census, which was the biggest ever covering as many as 22,000 square km, has found a rise of only 4.4 per cent or 14 lions in the sanctuary and protected forest areas while there has been a mind-boggling increase of 130 per cent or 96 lions in areas of human habitation with increasing commercial activities.

"It is to the credit of the local population that the lions have survived, flourished and grown, but the fact that the growth is happening outside the protected area in what are essentially human-dominated landscapes cannot remain a happy situation forever," points out renowned wildlife expert Ravi Chellam, who has worked extensively on Gir lions.

He maintains that the Supreme Court judgment regarding translocation of lions is still valid and needs to be implemented.

The reason for as many as 14 lions getting killed during last one year alone in accidents, including 10 in rail mishaps, lies in the dispersal of the king of the jungle in search of prey base and water. Forest officials said that this is because the carrying capacity of the protected areas is only 260 lions.


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