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50 Lionesses In The Gir Sanctuary Are Pregnant Expecting Cubs

The pride is set to grow; 50 lionesses in the Gir India sanctuary are pregnant and are expected to give birth early next year. The development has thrilled the state forest department, which has started monitoring these wild cats through GPS and has asked beat guards to be extra vigilant.

According to a census conducted earlier this year, there are 411 Asiatic lions in Gir, the last natural abode of such cats in the world. In 2005, when the previous count was held, this figure was 359.

“We are very happy that 50 lionesses are pregnant. Our efforts to limit the movement of vehicles during the mating period of lions have yielded results,” Principal Secretary to the Forest Department S K Nanda told Mirror. Restrictions on vehicular movement in and around the sanctuary would continue to be in place, he said.

“Vehicles will not be allowed to enter the gir forest. Outside the sanctuary, speed limits have been introduced,” Nanda said.

“During pregnancy, lionesses move slowly. We are tracking their movements through GPS. Beat guards are also keeping a watch.”

Expectant cats are likely to give birth in January and February. The survival rate of cubs, which are often killed by lions looking to mate with their partners again, is low.

However, this time forest officials feel more cubs will survive because for the past one year elder lionesses have been looking after young members of the pride.

“We have seen that old females protect cubs from adult males. In fact, the number of attacks on cubs by adult males has come down,” a Gir official said. The population of adult Asiatic lionesses in Gir is more than that of adult males. There are 162 adult females and 97 adult males.

This year’s census revealed that there are 77 cubs. Nearly 40 per cent of the lion population is young and this bodes well for the Asiatic beast’s future.

Last year, the state government announced a special package of Rs 40 crore for the region. Forest officials were provided more staff and better equipment to prevent unnatural deaths of the wild cats.