Gandhinagar: Motorists on the Pipavav-Rajula highway in Gujarat on Saturday evening beheld the wondrous sight of a group of about a dozen lion and lion cubs trying to cross the street.
At first, the lions were stuck on one side of the highway – where traffic had halted for them – even as trucks and buses on the other side, unable to see the lions on the poorly-lit stretch, roared down.
The lions waited patiently. Soon enough, the vehicles on the other side of the street caught on and halted for them as well.
A self-appointed lion from the group then led the others, gently, across the highway divider to the other side of the street. One rebellious cub, though, sauntered back to where it came from.
Local news reports said the lions were being relocated after there was a fire in an area near the Gir Sanctuary, which is the only place in the world that houses Asiatic lions.
— ANI (@ANI_news) April 16, 2017
The Asiatic lion census in 2015 said there are 523 lions in Gujarat of which over 168 lions have moved out into unprotected parts of the Amreli, Bhavnagar, Gir-Somnath, Rajkot and Junagadh districts. Their actual numbers though are said to be higher.
The lion population outside the protected area of Gir Sanctuary has increased by around 400%, the International Union of Conservation of Nature said in a report in August last year. This has raised fears that lions in Gujarat face the threat of illegal trade in body parts similar to that of their counterparts in Africa.
This one group of lions on Saturday at least made it safely across one road.