By Himanshu Kaushik
AHMEDABAD: It is a known fact that Lions of Gir Sanctuary are moving out in search of new territories because of lack of space, but it is now documented as the Lions move out of the sanctuary, they rule a larger area as they get more space.
The territory of the Lion and lioness multiplies as they move out of the sanctuary and get closer to the humans. According to a study 'Ecology of lions with emphasis on the agro-pastoral landscape of Greater Gir Ecosystem' by Wildlife Institute of India experts, within the Gir sanctuary, territorial males had 2.5 times larger range (average 103 sq. km) than females (average 40 sq. km), but the eastern landscape, that is outside the sanctuary area, the minimum home range size of territorial males increased to 333 sq km, while the same for the female was 193 sq. km.
The space occupied the Lions outside the sanctuary was three times than the space occupied by the Lions within the Sanctuary, while in case of female it was it was almost five times. The territory which was around 40 sq. km increases to 193 sq km as the lioness moves out.
The study of the WII experts Y.V. Jhala, Kausik Banerjee, Parabita Basu and Subrata Gayen states that the average core area of lions was estimated to be 166 sq. km. Also the study said that the a lion outside the sanctuary was nearly 36 months, while the average estimated age at which the sub adult males leaves the group searching for new territory was 3 years and nine months.
Officials said that the sub adult males who establish their new territory showed no or very little overlap with their parental territories. The study reveals that the low dispersal of Gir lions compared to the Serengeti is probably because of even distribution of prey and small size of available habitats in Gir.
* Conservation of all vegetation patches larger than four sq. km and attempt should be made to restore outside one kilometer radius from villages for breeding lionesses and daytime refuge for other lions. This will minimize confrontations and potential of conflicts with humans.
* Riverine patches within the Gir-Girnar corridor are vanishing at an alarming rate and the remaining patches are likely to be converted to agriculture by 2020. Sustainable management of these forest fragments along other small rivers is required with a focus on lion conservation.