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Wild grazers make up 76.4% of lion prey in Gir

Times of India, New Delhi, September 10, 2014


The lions of Gir are more expert hunters than cattle lifters. A study by experts revealed that lions within the sanctuary hunt ungulates - chital, sambar, nilgai - as well as wild pig, more than domesticated animals. The study 'Living with Lions: The Economics of Coexistence in the Gir Forests, India,' by Wildlife Institute of India experts Kausik Banerjee, Yadavendradev Jhala, Kartikeya Chauhan and Chittranjan Dave revealed that in the Gir sanctuary, about 76.4% of the big cats' food was chital, sambar, nilgai and wild pig, while the remaining 23.6% was domestic livestock from within the sanctuary. The scat analysis of lions living in the Gir Sanctuary brought out this fact. The study, also found that of the 23.6% of domestic animals, buffaloes accounted for 13.7% and cattle for 7.8%.


The remainder was of other domesticated animals. The study recorded a total of 308 livestock mortalities from six nesses, of which 58.4% was due to lion predation, 3.2% from predation by leopards and 38.4% from other natural causes. The study reveals that of the domesticated animal killed by lions, 69.4% was cattle, followed by buffaloes (29.4%) and camels (1.2%). The study also brought out an increasing fact. Maldharis have also learnt to save their buffaloes, which are more expensive than cattle. "Maldhari grazing herds were always observed to have a few non-productive cattle. Thus, when lions attack, they are more likely to kill these vulnerable cattle.


Moreover, maldhari herdsmen arrange their herds with cattle leading, buffaloes in the middle and juvenile animals trailing," stated the study. "We speculate that the current traditional mechanism of warding off lion predation by corralling livestock at night and having a mixed grazing herd composition being always accompanied by expert herdsmen minimized risks and economic losses to lion predation. In Gir, since livestock are reared only for dairy products and are not eaten by maldharis, there is a large cohort of old and weak cattle in which natural mortality is high and these carcasses are available to lions for scavenging," the study observed.