Gujarat's 'pride' was so far limited to Gir alone, but if the plans work as per design, the big cats' roar will now echo loud and clear in Porbandar's Barda Sanctuary too from this August.
As many as eight Asiatic lions of Gir will make the sanctuary their home by August, 2012 as the state forest department has decided to shift four pairs of lions in the newly-developed gene pool centre in Barda Forest around 160 km away from Gir.
The principal secretary, state environment and forest department, SK Nanda said, "We will be shifting lions from Gir to Barda Sanctuary very soon. It is part of our gene pool programme for making the breed genetically very strong and to develop genetic diversity amongst big cats."
Confirming the developments additional chief conservator of forest, HS Singh said, "We are already having gene pool programme in Rampara vidi near Wankaner of Rajkot district. We have been successful in lion conservation programme, as three cubs have been born at Rampara vidi. Now, we will be shifting four pairs of lions to Barda Sanctuary post-monsoon, by August."
Singh further said that the present hot weather is not conducive for shifting the cats to a new location. "Lions find it extremely difficult to adjust to new environment. Therefore, when weather conditions become more favorable for lions post-monsoon season, we will shift them," he said.
Member of National Board for Wildlife in India, Divyabhanusinh Chavada said he is very happy that the lions have been moved to Barda Wildlife Sanctuary. "This is very good, but what's next? The lions are happily multiplying. Today, they are 411, tomorrow they'll be 500. Where will they go next? Gujarat government needs to conserve their traditional corridor. The land needs to be immediately acquired and conserved," he said.
The forest department, which has distributed the lion families in different grids, will ensure that those shifted to Barda have different family genes. "It is set process of selecting the animals for gene-pool conservation programme. We will be shifting lions and lionesses having different family genes for the breeding. So the genetic diversity can be maintained. Further, we will be picking lions who barge into human habitat often for shifting to the new place,” said Singh.
To feed these lions, a prey base has also been developed in Barda Sanctuary. "There has been a breeding centre for Sambar deer (Rusa Unicolor) at Killeshwar temple in Barda Sanctuary. This place was the forest reserve of erstwhile king Jamsaheb of Jamnagar.”