Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Post killings, man-animal camaraderie comes to fore

Ahmedabad Newsline      3-4-2007


Rajkot, April 2: Rattled by the sudden spurt in lion deaths, people in Saurashtra gave a clarion call even as they took up cudgels for the endangered Asiatic lion. So if Junagadh saw people fasting, Kodinar — some 80 km away — had denizens holding a massive rally on Monday.


Somnath Temple was abuzz with prayers while Sasan town, hub of the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary has decided to observe a bandh on Tuesday.


The corporate world and wildlife organisations have come forward to provide financial assistance for a free and fair investigation, while others want nothing less than death for the accused, so that it acts as a deterrent.


Six lions were hunted in a short span of less than a month, this when CID sleuths were camping in the jungle to find leads and the forest department was claiming that security had been beefed up.


From countless to just 11 in 1911 — when conservation of lions was started by then Junagadh nawab on suggestion of Lord Curzon — to the 2005 census when its population touched the highest-ever mark of 359, Gir Wildlife Sanctuary has seen many ups and down, but the death of 13 lions in a month’s time has sent alarm bells ringing.


Members of Raventgiri Nature Club (RNC) observed a day’s fast in front of the office of Conservator Of Forest (CFO), Junagadh. More than 25 students from various towns across Saurashtra — including Gondal, Bhayawadar, Kharchia, Upleta, Dhoraji, Talal, Keshod and Una — supported the club pressing for a fair investigation, even as they demanded death for the accused. “The poachers should not be spared at any cost,” says the RNC in its memorandum submitted to CFO.


Businesses, shops, schools and private offices will remain closed on Tuesday in Sasan to protest the killings. The Gypsy Owners’ Association, which ferries tourists to the sanctuary, will also support the bandh.


“Lions, for Maldharies and other locals settled in and around Gir, are like family members. Its killing is as painful as death of our dear ones,” says B Maldev, a Maldhari leader and resident of Sasan, adding, “Locals and lions have developed a bonding. This is a crisis as such things have never happened in the past and people are feeling very sad.”


In Kodinar, residents took out a massive march to condemn the poaching. In a memorandum submitted to the mamlatdar, they demanded immediate action against the accused.


A meeting followed by a prayer was organised at the Somnath temple to save the lions. Some other organisations and corporates too, stepped forward to solve the crisis in best possible manner.


If Reliance Industries Limited expressed a willingness to build parapet for the open wells— watery grave for the lions — the Asiatic Lions Prevention Society (ALPS), which demanded a high-level inquiry by expert committee, is ready to fund the panel.


It has also declared a reward of Rs 21,000 for any informer even as SMSs to “save lions” and advertisements in vernaculars expressing concern over current state of affairs inside the sanctuary do the rounds.

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