Thursday, April 12, 2007

After poachers, now it's poisoned water

DNA – India By: Jumana Shah Ahmedabad Date: 11-4-2007

Lions also fall prey to water poisoned by farmers to kill animals destroying crops

As CID and Gujarat police continue the wild goose chase hunting the lion poachers, the king of the jungle continues to face threats from newer arenas with each passing day. With mercury soaring, lions are increasingly venturing out of the sanctuary area looking for drinking water and prey. But what they get is food laced with poison! Last week six nilgai were found dead due to mysterious circumstances. Locals believe the deaths were caused due to consumption of water or food grains poisoned with insecticide or pesticide by local farmers to save their crops and kill animals venturing into their farms.

Forest department officials acknowledge the seriousness of the incident but refuse to comment. Conservator of forest (wildlife), Junagadh Bharat Pathak said, "The remains of the animals, the water in the farm and the food grains have been sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory, Gandhinagar for examination. If proven positive, a complaint will be registered against the farmer and action will be taken as attempt to kill animals is illegal."

While this is not a new occurrence, these continuing incidents are putting wildlife enthusiasts on edge.

"The poisoned water is not meant for the lions, but owing to the hot weather, they often have it. Despite repeated warnings, farmers continue with electrified fences to ward off animals like nilgai and porcupine. This kind of inadvertent poisoning coupled with sinister poaching, and lions falling in open wells, clearly sounds the death knell for the Asiatic lion," says Kishore Kotecha of Wildlife Conservation Trust of India.

"Gir is an ecosystem gone completely haywire. Man has impounded wildlife's habitat, and is killing their prey to protect their crops.

Water is extremely scarce and everybody's fighting for it… The chaos has brimmed over now," Kotecha added.

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