Thursday, February 15, 2007

Another safety net for lions in Gir

Ahmedabad Newsline Date 14-2-2007



Gandhinagar, February 13: It’s a roar of a move by the Gujarat Government. In a bid to mobilise additional resources for conservation of Asiatic Lion and its associate flora and fauna in the Gir National Park and adjoining areas, the State Government has decided to set up a separate autonomous body called “Gujarat Lion Conservation Society” to be registered under the Indian Societies Registration Act (XXI), 1860.


The other main functions of the Society will be to mobilise and provide all necessary inputs for the protection and management of Gir and adjoining meta-population of Asiatic Lions, and also facilitate the development and maintenance of captive gene pool at selected sites in and around the Gir forests.


State Forest and Environment Minister Mangubhai Patel has already cleared the file containing a proposal to form the Society. As soon as a government resolution (GR) on this is issued, expectedly sometime this week, we will initiate the process of getting the Society registered under the Indian Societies Registration Act”, sources in the State Forest Department said on Tuesday.


Confirming this development, State Forest Minister Patel told The Indian Express, “The decision to set up the Society assumes a great significance in the wildlife area, for it will not only help protect and conserve the Asiatic Lion in Gir and its expanding territory, but also fetch funds from the national as well as international agencies like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCNNR) for conservation and protection of Big Cats”.


Under the autonomous body, the Forest Department will carry out research activity for conservation of the Big Cat and its habitat, and also launch eco-development, eco-tourism and conservation awareness programmes. It will generate funds through the various sources : membership fees, donations, endowments, bequests, gifts, contributions, adoptions etc from/by national and international agencies, grants (both recurring and non-recurring) from the State and Central Governments and local self-government bodies.


There is also provision for individual and institutional membership of the Society, with annual and life membership fees for an individual being fixed at Rs 250 and Rs 5,000, and Rs 10,000 and Rs 1 lakh for institutional member in that order. Any India citizen, and institution, corporation, company or organisation constituted under relevant laws and interested in pursuing and promoting the objectives of the Society shall be eligible for its membership, informs a senior Forest official.


The Society will have a 16-member executive committee under the chairmanship of a Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden, while the Conservator of Forests, Wildlife Circle (Junagadh) will be its member secretary and chief executive officer (CEO).


The government will also nominate two NGOs on the committee that will be empowered to collect and/or generate resources and funds on behalf of the Society, and will also coordinate and exercise supervision of its activities.


The total area of Gir Lion National Park and Sanctuary is 1,412 sq kms, which is the habitat for as many as 359 Asiatic Lions. Keeping in view the number of Big Cats increasing every census, the government has decided to expand the their home territory, with 192 sq kms of the Barda forests and hilly terrains having already been identified and earmarked as additional habitat for lions.


“At present, the Forest Department gets only about Rs 4 crore per year from the State Government, and another Rs 40 lakh from the Centre to maintain the Gir National Park and Sanctuary.


Over half of the funds goes into the recurring expenditure, including the salaries of about 300 forest staff employed there. This is too meagre an amount to carry out protection and conservation activities in the Girl forests - the only habitat for Asiatic Lions.


Hope, the Society will help the department generate adequate funds”, explains a senior official.

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