The Indian Express
Apparently rattled by the Gir lion poaching cases, the State Government has announced the setting up of a "Gujarat State Lion Conservation Society" with a Rs 40-crore "Project Lion" package for the conservation of Asiatic lions. It also announced a high-powered committee headed by the Chief Secretary to suggest measures for the protection and conservation of Gir lions.
Announcing this during his visit to Sasan Gir on Saturday, Chief Minister Narendra Modi said that the Lion Conservation Society, which will be registered soon, would be an autonomous body that would also ensure an overall development of the Gir habitat and its flora and fauna. The Society will also involve the participation of local residents to achieve its objectives.
In February last, this paper had reported that the State Forest Department had mooted a proposal to set up an autonomous "Gujarat Lion Conservation Society", with the main objective of mobilising additional resources for conservation of Asiatic Lion and its associate flora and fauna in the
The other main functions of the Society will be to mobilise and provide all necessary inputs for the protection and management of Gir and adjoining meta-population of Asiatic Lions, and also to facilitate the development and maintenance of captive gene pool at selected sites in and around the Gir forests.
State Forest Minister Mangubhai Patel said, "The decision to set up the Society assumes a great significance in the wildlife area, for it will not only help protect and conserve the Asiatic Lion in Gir and its expanding territory, but also fetch funds from the national as well as international agencies like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCNNR) for conservation and protection of big cats". Under the autonomous body, the Forest Department will carry out research activity for conservation of the big Cat and its habitat, and also launch eco-development, eco-tourism and conservation awareness programmes.
There is also provision for individual and institutional membership of the Society, with annual and life membership fees for an individual being fixed at Rs 250 and Rs 5,000, and Rs 10,000 and Rs one lakh for institutional member in that order. The Society will have a 16-member executive committee under the chairmanship of the Chief Wildlife Warden, while the Conservator of Forests,
The total area of Gir sanctuary is 1,412 sq km and it houses 359 Asiatic Lions. The government has decided to expand their home territory, with 192 sq kms of the Barda forests and hilly terrains already identified. "At present, the Forest Department gets only about Rs 4 crore per year from the State Government, and another Rs 40 lakh from the Centre to maintain the Gir sanctuary," said a senior official, adding, "Over half of the funds goes into the recurring expenditure, including the salaries of about 300 foresters."