Ahmedabad Newsline By Sibte Husain Bukhari 3-4-2007
Junagadh, April 2: A man suspected to be involved in the poaching incidents in Gir forest on March 1 and 30, was arrested on Monday by the police here. Though the CID (crime) officials who are assisting the forest department in the investigations are tightlipped, sources said, the 30-year-old man detained from a cluster of hutments in Babaria range in Gir (west area) — where the first poaching incident occurred — is the local link to the poaching gang.
“Within a day or two we hope to reach the bottom of the case and also find out if there were any more poaching incidents that went unreported. This man has helped the poachers escape successfully,” a source said.
In two separate incidents that occurred on March 1 and later on March 30, six lions were brutally killed by the poachers who escaped with the claws and bones. The state forest department had sought the assistance of the CID (Crime) in detecting the cases.
A massive combing operation by police and SRP jawans led by deputy superintendent of police of Keshod and Veraval is still on in and around the entire Gir forest since the first incident and the second incident last week caused panic in the forest department. When contacted, IGP (Junagadh range) Mohan Jha said: “A security plan has been put into practice for protecting the wildlife in Gir. Apart from the existing 14 check posts, 5 new check posts have been erected at various points at the forest-revenue land border and security has been tightened in the area. Villages falling in the Gir border area under constant vigil also.” Besides, the two poaching incidents, which have kept the forest department and police on the toes, the department has its hands full with incidents of eight more big cats dying in Gir east and west forest division in various other incidents.
The April 2005 figures of lion census, which showed a healthy population of 359 big cats, has taken a big hit with the Gir Lion Sanctuary and National Park having lost the maximum number of lions in the last two years. A total of 28 animals — 14 lionessess, 7 full-grown lions, 4 sub-adult males, and 3 cubs, died of various reasons since the census conducted by the forest department from April 21-25, 2005. The number of lions that have died here in the last two decades is much more than those that died during the harsh summers of the mid 90s when the forest department had to supply drinking water to man-made waterholes .
The biggest threat is posed by blind wells without parapet walls. Most animals specially the lions and leopards fall into these wells while chasing their prey or at night. In most cases rescue arrives too late. According to the forest officials, there are more then 10,000 blind wells on the forest-revenue land in the Gir forest area, which are virtually death traps for the wild animals.