Updated: January 17, 2021 11:06:38 pm
Three male lions that have been camping near Rajkot city for almost a month and were rescued by forest department on January 3 are set to be released in their original territory in Gir (east) wildlife division in Amreli district, forest officers said on Sunday.
The lions were rescued from near Rajkot city by a team of experts from Sasan wildlife division on Wednesday and taken to Gir forest. “We are monitoring their health and will soon release them back into the wild. One of them is satellite-tagged and we know where these lions are from… to prevent any territorial conflict with other lions, we shall release them in their original territory,” Dushyant Vasavada, chief conservator of forests (CCF) of Junagadh wildlife circle, told The Indian Express on Sunday.
The three lions, which are entering their youth, were spotted near Kanesara village of Jasdan in the last week of November and later moved westwards to Sardhar and Bhayasar villages of Rajkot taluka. They have been camping near Aji dam on the outskirts of Rajkot and Bhayasar village for around a month before they were rescued and taken back to the Gir forest.
SK Srivastava, then CCF of Junagadh territorial forest circle, told The Indian Express in December that the three lions had started their expedition from near Dhari in Amreli district in Gir (east) wildlife circle before entering Rajkot district via Jasdan taluka.
“They were moving too close to human habitation… once they entered the GIDC (Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation) estate in Shapar-Veraval. Plus, this area has a matrix of roads. So, we had to think about the safety of these animals as well as potential of man-animal conflict. Considering all these aspects, we thought it best to rescue them and release them back into Gir forest,” Vasavada added.
This marks change in the strategy of the forest department in managing such lions. A pair of sub-adult male lions, which reached Chotila taluka of Surendranagar district in November 2019 from their territory in Babra taluka of Amreli district, spent almost five months in the grasslands in Chotila range of Surendranagar territorial forest division before walking back to Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary in Junagadh in April, 2020.
The capture and subsequent relocation of the lions comes days after farmers of villages of Rajkot taluka, led by Lakhabhai Sagathiya, BJP MLA from Rajkot (rural) constituency, made a representation to the forest department in Gandhinagar. But Sagathiya told The Indian Express that they had not sought the removal of the big cats from the area.
“Farmers wanted the forest department to deploy more staff in the area to track the movement of lions and prevent attacks on cattle,” the BJP MLA said.
Local forest officers in Rajkot say that at least 25 cases of the three lions preying on cattle were reported since the they entered Rajkot district.
Lions are territorial animals and as their population has been growing steadily for the past four decades, they are spilling out of Gir forest. As many as 329 lions of the estimated population of 674 individuals counted last year were living outside protected forest areas, according to the forest department.
Forest dept issues advisory after leopard sighted in Ahmedabad
A DAY after a leopard was sighted near the Vastral area in Ahmedabad, the social forestry department, Ahmedabad range, Sunday issued an advisory for villages located in the vicinity.
According to forest officials, the animal was sighted near Shakti Ma temple in Vastral Saturday night following which forest department teams had swung into action. The animal, however, could not be sighted, they said.
In the advisory, the social forestry department urged residents living in villages of Vastral to be careful while stepping out on foot at night. “We have urged local residents to avoid venturing out in the night, unless it’s urgent, and also not let cattle roam in the streets and near the jungle area. We have also mentioned helpline numbers of forest officials in case the animal is sighted. Four teams are still combing the area and have also set up a cage for the animal,” UB Shekhawat, forester, Ahmedabad range, said.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines