Around a year after two male Asiatic lions ventured out of their territory in Amreli district and reached Chotila in Surendranagar after traversing through Jasdan and Vinchhiya talukas of Rajkot district, three Asiatic lions have now made their way to Jasdan from Amreli and have been camping there for around a week, forest department officials said.
A lioness and two sub-adults, which, officers say, look like males, have been staying in hilly shrublands around 20 km west of Jasdan town for the past one week. “They were on the move for more than two weeks. However, they have been camping in that area near Jasdan for the past six to seven days,” SK Srivastava, Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) of Junagadh territorial forest circle told The Indian Express on Friday.
This is the second year in a row that Asiatic lions, an endangered species, have arrived as far away as Jasdan, which is at least around 60 km away from the established territories of these big cats in Amreli district and have stayed put. In November last year, two lions had come to Jasdan from Babra in Amreli, had camped for a few days in villages near Hingolgadh Nature Education Sanctuary in Vinchhiya taluka before moving further north to Chotila. The pair had spent five months in the grassland and revenue area spread across Chotila and Sayla taluka of Surendranagar and Gondal taluka of Rajkot district before returning to Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary in April.
While the two lions had spent most of their times in the northern part of the grassland bordering Chotila town, the lioness and the two sub-adults instead have been camping on the southern periphery of the range.
Srivastava said the three animals had started their expedition from Dhari in Gir (east) wildlife division in Amreli district. “The lioness is carrying a satellite tag and, therefore, we have been able to track her movement. The animals have been using the grassland and revenue land,” the CCF said.
The forest officer said Jasdan-Chotila seems to be the newest territory in Saurashtra that lions are exploring. “Last year, one pair had gone to Chotila and these three lions are also moving outside the forest area. So, this is becoming a recurrent phenomenon, which basically indicates that lions are exploring newer areas. They may roam there for some time and if they may not find it suitable, they may come back. If they find some area that is suitable to them, they may stay there,” Srivastava said. The forest department staff, he said, was keeping a track of their movements.
He added that the carnivores have preyed on around 20 domestic animals in Jasdan and the forest department was duly compensating livestock owners as per rules. “But there is nothing for people to worry as such because this is a very natural phenomenon. Lions do move in revenue areas but unless pushed to walls, lions do not attack humans. If people leave them alone, they may stay there for some time and then come back. As soon as we come to know about the loss of livestock, we are compensating their owners,” the CCF added.For second year in a row, lions camp in Jasdan
The grassland has a significant population of nilgai (blue bulls) which the lions are preying on.
Bhushan Pandya, a wildlife conservationist who is a member of the state board for wildlife, said lions returning to the same area, and this time a female, was a new phenomenon. “Generally, we believe male lions explore newer territories in an attempt to establish or expand their territory. But this is a female with sub-adult cubs. This reminds me of the famous lioness Rajmata which had ventured near Gondal. It is believed that lions, especially males, return to the base population after spending time in satellite populations in a corridor. But we will have to wait for some time and observe if this area is becoming a new corridor for lions,” Pandya said.
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