A pride of 10 lions entered a gaushala and preyed on 10 cows in Arab Timbadi village of Jetpur taluka of Rajkot district early on Tuesday. A team of forest department that was tracking the pride, however, reached the spot and saved 25 other cattle heads in the gaushala.
This is the third instance of lions being spotted in Rajkot district in a month. Seven lions were found camping in Thanagalol village of Jetpur taluka, 10 km north of Arab Timbadi last month, and three lions killed 14 cattle earlier this month in Jasdan taluka.
Arab Timbadi is some 10 km from the border of the Gir Wild Life Sanctuary (GWLS). Spread across Junagadh, Bhesan and Visavadar talukas of Junagadh district, GWLS is home to a few dozen Asiatic lions. However, over the past few years, lions have been dispersing out of the protected forest areas to densely populated revenue areas.
“The pride of 11 lions managed to enter the gaushala at around 3 am Tuesday and went on the rampage, killing 10 cows. However, a team of forest department reached the spot soon and saved 25 other cows,” Nishant Kugasiya, taluka development officer (TDO) of Jetpur, told The Indian Express after visiting the village.
Forest officers said that they were aware of the presence of the lions in the vicinity of Arab Timbadi, the border village of Jetpur. “We had located this pride in Pipalva, around four kilometres from Arab Timbadi, earlier in the night. Then, we followed the calls of dogs to Arab Timbadi. But by the time we reached there, the lions had already preyed on 10 cows. Given the large number of cattle, we had to intervene and save the other cows. Then, the carnivores left from the open gates of the gaushala,” a forest officer said.
The officer said that the gaushala, run by Purushottam Lalji Gauseva Samaj Trust, had a six-foot high compound wall. “But the wall has two openings for gates where gates are not installed. The lions entered through those openings and exited through the same after making the kills,” said the officer.
Officers of Rajkot social forestry division said that lion movement is being recorded in Jetpur taluka’s Arab Timbadi, Thanagalol and half-a-dozen other villages on the border of Bhesan taluka of Junagadh district near the Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary (GWLS) for the past one month.
“A pride of seven lions had camped in Thanagalol village around Diwali for 20 days. One of the lions of the pride was satellite-tagged by a team of Sasan wildlife division afteward. But that pride has since returned to the Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary. For the past few days, we are recording movement of this new pride of 10 lions,” Ravi Prasad, incharge deputy conservator of forests (DCF) of Rajkot social forestry division, told The Indian Express.
Jetpur range is part of Rajkot social forestry division. A forest officer of Jetpur told this paper, “This pride was spotted in Jetpur range for the first time… It came from Pipalva near the Jetpur-Junagadh Highway and after making the kills in Arab Timbadi, headed back south in the direction of GWLS. The pride has not been located since.”
“This village had recorded lion movement around five years ago also. We are holding meetings with villagers to sensitise them about the behaviour of lions. We are also writing letters to power distribution company — PGVCL — to supply power to farmers during daytime to irrigate crops. Our teams are tracking the lions round-the-clock and are always on standby to respond to any distress call. We are persuading villagers that shifting these lions is not advisable as if this pride is sent back to forest, another will take its place,” the DCF added.
Food, Civil Supply and Consumer Affairs Minister Jayesh Radadiya had reportedly written to the forest department to shift the pride from Thanagalol village. Thanagalol and Arab Timbadi are around 10 km apart. Arab Timbadi is barely 10 km away from the border of GWLS.
“The large number of deaths of cows could be due to panic on either sides. The lions could have felt that the large herd of cows was attacking them and could have become more aggressive,” the DCF said, adding, “Lions coming to Arab Timbadi is not a matter of surprise as three lions are camping near Rajkot city after coming all the way from Dhari”.
Incidentally, two sub-adult male lions had set out from Babra and walked more than 100 km north to Chotila taluka in Surendranagar district in November last year and camped there for about five months before walking around 140 km over seven days to reach GWLS.
Arab Timbadi residents said that lions have been roaming in their village for the past five years. “They come here, camp for a few days, prey on a few cattle before moving away. This has been happening for five years,” Manish Vaghasiya, sarpanch of Arab Timbadi, said.
Being territorial animals, lions are moving out of Gir and other protected areas spread across Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts, according to forest officials. A pride of three lions has been camping near Rajkot city for the past two weeks.
“The lions near Rajkot have preyed on 14 cattle heads while the prides in Jetpur have preyed on eight cattle heads besides today’s incident,” Prasad said, adding the forest department is compensating the owners of the livestock.
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