Cyclone Tauktae cast its destructive shadow on wildlife in the state, too. At least 18 lions were reported missing from the coastal districts of Amreli, Gir-Somnath, and Bhavnagar which bore the maximum brunt of the cyclone.
Senior forest officials said that18 lions were reported missing from Rajula and Jafrabad talukas in Amreli, Una and Kodinar talukas in Gir-Somnath and Mahuva taluka in Bhavnagar. The three districts are reportedly home to 40 lions.
While there was apprehension over the fate of the missing animals, many hoped that the big cats had taken refuge in high altitude areas. In fact, considering that Saurashtra — the only abode of Asiatic lions in the world — was severely battered by a severe cyclone, the forest department will undertake a comprehensive survey of all the 674 lions last counted in the 2020 Purnima Avalokan exercise.
“Cyclone Tauktae affected almost all the districts in Saurashtra. Forest beat guards and officials have been directed to report about the well-being of all 674 lions which were counted in the last informal census held in 2020,” said a senior officer.
It needs to be mentioned that of the 674 lions, some 340 reside outside Gir sanctuary in the revenue areas of neighbouring districts namely Amreli, Bhavnagar, Porbandar, Gir-Somnath, and parts of Junagadh.
Experts said that in the past lions are reported to have climbed hillocks and moved to the safety of higher altitudes in a bid to escape flooding. “During the Amreli flash floods in 2015, 20 lions had gone missing. Of these, 14 died while the rest were found sitting on hillocks,” said a senior forest official.
Local experts, however, were apprehensive whether the lions were equipped to sense a major adverse event like an extremely severe cyclone. “Such a natural calamity has seldom occurred on the Saurashtra coast. Hence one is not sure of how the lions may have behaved in its wake,” said a lion expert.