Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Gujarat appoints permanent panel to protect Asiatic lions

18 04 07

The Hindu - Manas Dasgupta


GANDHINAGAR: Following the poaching of Asiatic lions in their only abode, the Gir sanctuary in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat, the State Government has appointed a permanent 10-member committee of experts for the conservation of the endangered species.

The State committee comes close on the heels of the Centre appointing one. The three-member Central committee arrived in Gujarat on Monday for a two-day visit and is expected to submit its report in a month. The team inspected the carcass of a lion recovered in the Babariya range, questioned the settlers in the sanctuary and held discussions with the forest officials.


The State committee to be headed by the Principal Secretary in the Environment and Forest department, P. N. Roy Choudhury, would keep reviewing the security systems from time to time and recommend necessary measures.


A State Government spokesman said the committee was also expected to suggest additional sites in the State for the protection and growth of the lions and help overcome the managerial constraints in the protected areas.


The officials are concerned that the poaching of at least eight lions in the last one month is certain to revive the demand for shifting a part of the lion pride to the Kunho forests in Madhya Pradesh. But the State Government is opposed to any such move and is unwilling to share "Gujarat's pride" with any other State.


Some senior Forest Department officials have identified two areas within the State, Barda in Amreli district and Higolgadh near Rajkot, which they feel could be developed as "Safari Parks" both for protection of the lions and development of tourism. The experts suggest that both in Barda and Hingolgadh, 20 to 40 lions each could be shifted and reared. This would help avert any poaching threat to the lions in Gir. There would then be no need to shift to Madhya Pradesh.


The 2005 census found that of the 359 big cats in Gir, nearly 100 were outside the protected zone and have already strayed up to Barda and Hingolgadh forests. It was now only a question of declaring these areas as protected zones and develop them into "Safari Parks", a Forest Department official said.


More people arrested in connection with the poaching incidents were brought to the Forensic Science Laboratory here for lie detector and other tests. Two of the dozen women arrested in Una were given lie-detector tests on Tuesday but the results were not disclosed.

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