Dr Nishith Dhariya, a wildlife scholar told the BBC that ‘normally it is difficult for lions to adapt to a coastal habitat, but they have no option because of the scarcity of land.’
The lions mostly live off of wild boar and blue bulls, but will occasionally wander into nearby villages to snack on livestock. The locals have learned to live around the lions, however, and there have been no human-lion incidences yet.
Conservationists have been begging the Gujarat government to move some of the lions to other states in the country, but the authorities have not complied. In 2013, they even resisted a ruling to move some of the big cats to their neighboring state, Madhya Pradesh.
The Guardian reported that reluctance to move the lions has prompted criticism that ‘it is being possessive about the lions to the point of disregarding their best interests.’
The government has now announced that it will move about 40 lions to the Barda Wildlife Sanctuary, within the Gujarat state. The sanctuary is currently being prepared to receive the lions through increasing herbivore populations and pruning thickly forested areas.
Conservationists remain discouraged, as Wildlife Conservation Trust’Its president, Anish Andheria told the Guardian that ‘this is yet another ‘misleading gimmick’ by Gujarat to avoid sharing the lions with other Indian states,’ and enjoying the status of being the only state with lions. Some lions have already moved into Barda, searching for more space.
Andheria went on to say that ‘formally announcing Barda as a new lion sanctuary may lead to more funds and better management of the area, but it will not relieve the pressure on Gir. In fact, if Barda is made more lion-friendly, the lions will breed even faster there and the population will grow even further.’
The only sustainable solution to the current issue would be to move some of the lions to other parts of the country.
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