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Lion returns to Gujarat’s Barda Wildlife Sanctuary after 143 years

Representational image. The Asiatic lion confined to Gir forests has started moving out and a male lion was spotted in Barda Wildlife Sanctuary (Pic. Courtesy Twitter/@@mpparimal)

Though it is a small step it definitely a major development as it provides a ray of hope for a second home for the famous Asiatic lions, at present confined to Gir forest area in Gujarat. A male lion has crossed into the Barda Wildlife Sanctuary in the State and this marks the return of the big cat to the area after 143 years, envisaging well for Project Lion.

The feline had been spotted near the coastal Madhavpur village of Porbandar district for the last few months. It is three-and-a-half years old and part of the lion population in Junagadh and was tagged with a radio transmitter last October when it started exploring new areas.

The movement of the lion on its own to BWS was reported by the field staff from Ratanpur village. Talking to Indian Express, Mulubhai Bera, Gujarat’s Minister for Forest said: “This is an important development as the forest department had been preparing Barda as a potential lion habitat for a very long time. A breeding centre of spotted deer is functioning there and now, there is a sufficient prey base for lions in that forest.”

In an official Press release, Parimal Nathwani, Rajya Sabha MP and member of the advisory committee for Gir National Park and Sanctuary said: “The lion’s last presence in Barda was recorded way back in 1879 AD.”

The dispersal of lions from Gir started in the 1990s as they moved along the banks of Shetrunji river. Following this, these big cats established territories along the coastal parts of Gir Somnath, Bhavnagar, Amreli, and Porbandar districts.

As part of conservation efforts, the State Forest Department has opened a lion gene pool centre at BWS.