Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Compelling reasons to extend Gir


Times of India --Himanshu Kaushik


BHAVNAGAR: Poaching in Gir is not the only worry for Gujarat government, the fear of shifting the lions out of Gujarat too is bothering it a lot. This has had the state government looking for alternative sites to spread the lion population. To begin with, the Shetrunji hills in Bhavnagar may turn out to be another suitable home for lions in the state.


Already, there is a move to develop Barda Dungar in Jamnagar as an alternative for Asiatic lions. The government has begun increasing the prey base in Barda Dungar.


Officials said that the state government had apprehensions that the Central team, on visit to look into in the poaching incidents, might submit an adverse report and might suggest that Gir was too small an area for the 359 lions. Hence, the government quickly identified another site in Jesar near Shetrunji hills in Bhavnagar district as an extension of the protested area. Principle chief conservator of forests (PCCF) Pradeep Khanna said, "The lion is reclaiming its lost territory, and this is an area we are considering for extending the sanctuary."


Jesar was a natural corridor for the lions moving from the Gir sanctuary. The lions move along the natural corridor which extends right upto Jesar. The site proposed as an extension has ample water sources, with the Shetrunji river flowing through it and a dam in the vicinity. The government now has to take measures to increase the prey base in the area.


Officials said that if the issue of shifting lions out of Gujarat does arise, the state government would project these sites as the alternatives for lion conservation. This area is not dense forest, its grassland, ideal as lion habitat. All that remains to be done is to increase the prey base in Jesar.


However, according to officials another big challenge the government might face here is that large parts of the alternative site area in private hands. According to official figures, currently there are 14 lions in the area. Villagers, on the other hand, say they have sighted four or five prides comprising at least 25 lions.

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