Thursday, April 12, 2007

Breakthrough in Gir lion poaching


The Hindu


Ahmedabad, April 7 (PTI): In a major breakthrough, investigators today said an inter-state gang responsible for killing tigers in Sariska was behind the poaching of lions in Gir sanctuary even as the Gujarat government announced a major project to protect the endangered wild cats.


"We have got a major breakthrough in the two poaching incidents (in which six lions were killed in Gir in March)," P N Roychaudary, Principal Secretary Environment and Forests, said.


"Police have found the right kind of evidence to establish that it is the same gang of poachers who were responsible for the deaths of tigers in Sariska and other sanctuaries."


Chief Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the Rs 40 crore Project Lion for effective and long-term conservation of the Asiatic lions in Gir.


Roychaudary said this gang hails from Panti district of Madhya Pradesh and have a notorious record of poaching tigers.


"The poachers (who killed the lions in Gir) are from the same group. They are basically tribals called as `Katnis' and are renowed shikaris (hunters)," he said.


He, however, did not reveal how the State CID, which is investigating the incident, establish the crucial links.


The CID officials could not be contacted for comment.


An autonomous body, `Gujarat State Lion Conservation Society' will be formed which will implement the Project Lion, official sources said.


This society will evolve a management plan for the long-term conservation of the lions, protect and conserve Gir forest, ensure people's participation in lion conservation and promote ecological studies and research, sources said.


The Gujarat government has also sought Central assistance for this purpose.


Modi, who was in the city for the inauguration of a temple, also annoucned the formation of a separate Wildlife Crime Cell both in the State CID (crime) and Forest Department to effectively deal with poaching.


He also said that the state government will also consider about constituting fast-track courts to hear wildlife crime cases and engage reputed wildlife expert lawyers to fight these cases.


The chief minister also said that modern technological interventions like usage of GPS (Global Positioning System) to monitor the movements of forest beat guards and use of CCTV (closed circuit television) cameras for identifying vehicles entering Gir sanctuary will also be introduced.


A monthly-monitoring committee under the Inspector General of Police (Junagadh Range), consisting of officials from three districts of Junagadh, Bhavnagar and Amreli will be formed to keep a watch on illegal activities and suspcious people moving around in these areas, Modi said.


This was necessary because the habitation of lions was not limited to the Gir sanctuary, but had extended to the neighbouring districts of Bhavnagar and Amreli, he added.

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