GIVE LIONS THEIR SPACE TO STOP KILLINGS
The killing of 15 cows by four lions last week at a cowshed of Juna Vaghaniya village of Amreli district has once again brought to fore the growing concern over man-animal conflict in the vicinity of Gir sanctuary due to lack of space for the big cats. What has scared the villagers is also the fact that the big cats paid a visit the next day too. Locals claimed such attacks, while not frequent, take place once in a while. However, experts are not surprised.
According to them, the eco-sensitive zone, or protected lion area, is not expanding commensurate with rising lion population. According to 2015 lion census data, 210 out of total 523 lions live outside the protected area. The number of lions in Savarkundla and Liliya in Amreli district and surrounding areas increased from 60, as per the preceding census, to over 80 in 2015. Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Pr CCF) H S Singh said, "Such mass cattle killings by lions is not uncommon. Several cows could have died due to heart attack on facing lions. It is important to expand ecosensitive zone.
There is need to build a healthy corridor for lions and give them more space. Each area has the capacity to sustain only a limited number of lions. When the population of an area reaches a saturation point, animal- man conflicts take place." Recalling the incident when lions killed 15 cows in about 45 minutes, Juna Vaghaniya resident Chetan Ramavat said, "Four lions — one male, one female and two sub adults — came around 8.15 pm. As soon as we sensed their presence, we gathered and tried to shoo them away but they ended up killing 15 cows.
Twelve carcasses were taken away by the forest department. We disposed of remaining three carcasses outside the village. On Tuesday night the lions came and took away those carcasses." Amreli Deputy Conservator of Forest Sakira Begum termed it a sporadic incident. She said, "It was a one-off incident and does not prove lions visit the area often. If the visits become frequent, then it will become a subject of research and observation. However, we are making all efforts to protect humans and domestic animals." Talking about lion behavior, former senior forest official and wildlife expert Uday Vora said, "The gathering of villagers may have instigated lions to go on a cattle-killing spree. The incident needs to be studied. However, such incidents have been reported in the past.
The forest department is doing its bit to avoid such episodes." AP Singh, Chief Conservator of Forest, Junagadh Wildlife Circle, told Mirror: "We are making efforts to sensitise villagers in areas where lion sightings are on the rise. We are trying to sensitise villagers of these areas akin to those in Junagadh and Sasan who have been living in close proximity of lions for many generations."