Thursday, July 12, 2012

Conservation Reserve Chosen for Asiatic Lions Outside Gir Forest

Asiatic lion

The Asiatic lion population in India's Gujarat state has been growing exponentially over the past years, and several of these big cats have been reported to have dispersed beyond the borders of Gir Forest National Park. The ongoing expansion in the lions' range has recently led the forest department to consider establishing a conservation reserve between Amreli and Bhavnagar districts. The 109-square kilometer-area is said to be established in the Jesar-Hipavadli zone, which is located about seventy kilometers away from Gir Forest. According to officials, the state government will set up breeding and water facilities for the lions in the proposed reserve just as they did for the ones in Gir Forest. However, this area will not be a national park where the movement of people is restricted without legitimate permission. Instead, the movement of people will not be restricted but any other forms of human activity will be banned in the area. Also, people will not be encouraged to relocate as in the case of those living within Gir Forest. Since May 2010, the lion population in India was estimated to have reached 411 individuals. The lion census also disclosed that like Savarkundla, adjacent areas of Amreli and Bhavnagar have a fixed population of 53 lions. Officials added that in addition to being a home to lions, the reserve also functions as a corridor for the animals to travel along the banks of the Shatrunjay River banks and gain access to newer territories near Amreli and Bhavnagar. They also stated that the status of the conservation zone would make way for the area to be named a wildlife sanctuary.

I'm very happy and proud to see what the forest department of Gujarat is doing, in order to help the Asiatic lions as they make their way out of Gir Forest National Park. By proposing an area to be declared a conservation reserve for these majestic beasts, the officials have been keeping track of the lions and seeing in which areas outside Gir Forest they are present at. I was also somehow surprised to see that as part of the plan in creating this reserve, officials do not want to place any restrictions for people to move through the area. One senior wildlife officer said that the reserve would allow people to coexist with the lions. I sure hope that as part of the initiative, forest department officials will find ways to help keep both the lions and people safe from each other. Nevertheless, I feel that this plan to establish a sanctuary for lions outside Gir Forest is a major accomplishment for the state of Gujarat. In addition to that, I believe that the forest department should also look where else in Gujarat could lions be headed outside Gir Forest besides Amreli and Bhavnagar. That way, officials can help set up similar areas of conservation for lions in order to help them flourish. Furthermore, I also think that similar initiatives should be conducted in other parts of India where populations of endangered species are dispersing beyond the borders of any national parks.

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