Friday, April 06, 2007

Central team on a fact-finding mission to Gir


THE TIMES OF INDIA -Nitin Sethi & Himanshu Kaushik


NEW DELHI/JUNAGADH: The Union government has set up a special committee to do a spot appraisal of Gir in wake of the recent spate of poaching cases in the last home of the Asiatic lion.


The committee comprises the regional deputy directors of north and west under the Union environment ministry and the joint director, wildlife. It will report back to the ministry in 30 days.


The committee, being rushed to Gir, will look into all natural and unnatural deaths of lions over the past three years to understand the trend and the recent happenings. The team will also look at the resource-dependency of the local 'Maldhari' tribe. The 'Maldharis' rear cattle and come in constant conflict with the lion that depends upon cattle kills for its nutrition.


"It is critical to review how deep the crisis is. So we are sending a high-level team to understand the situation. This team will complement the work done by the state agencies," said Rajesh Gopal, member-secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority. The Central team comes at a time when Gujarat officials have already begun defending their 'turf' from a 'poaching attempt by Madhya Pradesh'. Gujarat has repeatedly refused to translocate lions to Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, a proposal that the Centre had mooted for the safety of the genetically limited lion population stuck in one isolated pocket — Gir.


Gujarat chief secretary Sudhir Mankad called a high-level review meeting of senior police officials on Tuesday in the wake of poaching of six lions in Gir forests last month. Director general of police P C Pande and principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) Pradeep Khanna were among those present at the meeting. There is a fear in the state that Madhya Pradesh may step up its demand for transfer of several lions to Kuno-Palpur National Park, saying the big cat "isn't safe in Gujarat".


In a parochial war of sorts, a senior official said, ‘‘We have got reports that an MP gang was involved in the recent incident".

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