The Gir National Park, the last and the only abode of the Asiatic lions, is becoming too dense and green for the 327 big cats inhabiting this forest in India. Hitherto considered an ideal habitat for the lions, which are known to thrive in open territories like Africa’s savannah, forest officers and scientists now fear that parts of Gir may be getting too dense for the lions.
PP Raval, deputy conservator of forests at Gir, has said that a recent remote sensing survey found that though the forest has become thick in places due to overprotection and growth of teak trees, there are still plenty of open spaces. However, Raval does not rule out the implementation of an eight-year-old proposal of thinning the forest in parts.
Experts say visibility plays an important role when lions are hunting. Singh says in the management plan of 1996, thinning of parts of the forest was suggested on an experimental basis and this was to be followed up with an impact study of thinning on cheetal and sambar — which form the main prey base for the lions. But the pilot plan never took off.
Scientists also warn that the increasing density is one of the reasons for the lions migrating out of the Gir forest area even as their population has gone up. With the passage of time their hunting pattern and consequently their food habits could also be severely affected.