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Friday, August 17

Thin rain fall leaves Asiatic lions in Gir thirsty, Forest authorities filling 500 artificial ponds

When the rain fall in the Junagadh district shrunk to a mere 10 percent of its normal rate, it has dried up the major rivers in the area leaving the human beings in a drought like situation, not to mention the lions in the Gir Forest national park which is the last abode of Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica) in the world. Now forest officials are making hurry moves to fill the 500 odd artificial ponds in the area to quench the thirst of the only remaining 411 lions in the area.

Asiatic Lion at Gir, Gir Forest National Park, Panthera leo persica
Asiatic Lion ( Panthera leo persica)
at Gir Forest National Park in India.
Image Courtesy : Wikimedia Commons

Also known as Sasan Gir, the national park usually gets enough rains by mid-June when the forest staff usually stops watering the artificial ponds in the area. However, this year things have changed a lot with unexpectedly thinning rain fall in the area which has forced the authorities to fill the ponds even in August, something that happened more than a decade ago.

The situation has worsened as the drastic fall of the water level has made the automatic water filling mechanism with some of the artificial ponds ineffective. About 55 artificial ponds in the Gir Forest National park has automatic water filling mechanisms which make use of solar and wind power to fill the water holes. But the top forest authorities has confirmed that the drastic water level fall is leaving the mechanism almost useless.

The water tanker owned by the department is shuttling to the inside forest areas eight to ten times a day, according to forest officials. They  are thinking of pressing more tankers into service if the water scarcity worsens. However, certain areas of the park, including lion zones in Amreli, Bhavnagar and coastal areas have no artificial ponds. These areas will be severely affected by the drought like situation, says forest officials.

Seven rivers in the area - Ghodavadi, Hiran, Datardi, Shingoda, Machhundri, Saraswati and Raval have almost dried up leaving the animals in the protected area thirsty. A worsened drought may force animals in the protected area to wander into populated area, raising more issues.

Meanwhile, environment experts have suggested that the department should make thorough check on the quality of the water used for filling the water holes since water from polluted sources may bring unexpected infections and animal deaths in the protected area. Apart from lions, Sasan Gir has Chital, Nilgais, wild snakes and leopards as part of its macro fauna. 

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