Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Asiatic Lion death data fudged: Forester


Lion death data fudged: Forester

Times of India

Gandhinagar: A senior Gujarat forest official has now put it on record that the state forest department manipulated data on lion deaths in Gir forest to show unnatural deaths as natural ones.

Chief conservator of forests (research and training) H S Singh has stated in his book ‘The Gir Lion’, published by Pugmark Qmulus Consortium, Ahmedabad, that “over half-adozen lions are poisoned or electrocuted every year in the fringe villages of Gir”.

Disputing the official version that an average two or three lions are poisoned to death each year, Singh believes the forest department figures are fudged. He says: “The actual figure is high. Some of the cases of poisoning have been manipulated as natural deaths.”

This book was released by Chief Minister Narendra Modi at a grand function organised in the state Capital. According to Singh, electrocution is a new method used by villagers around Gir to kill lions. “Recently, villagers started using open live electric wires at night at strategic locations to eliminate lion or leopard,” writes Singh.

Citing a case to which he was himself witness, Singh says, “A farmer near Mendarda killed a pair of young lions by laying electric wire at the entrance of his compound.”

He recalls, “When the lions died on the spot, the farmer burnt them and buried bones in the field. The case was settled by the staff without recording it. It was investigated when the author initiated an inquiry. The case was unearthed after excavating the field to recover bones. A good number of intentional killings of the lions do not appear in the official records.”

Singh attributes the killing of lions every year to the escalation of lion-human conflict and the “pervasiveness of hostility among local villagers towards lions”.

Pointing out “the alarming shift in the intensity and dimension of lion-human conflict around Gir”, he warns that the trend could complicate lion conservation efforts in the area.

According to Singh, raids on crops by blue bulls and wild boars create feelings of hostility among the farmers towards wildlife.

Suggesting how people are compelled to “work against wildlife conservation”, Singh says, “At present, man-animal conflict is the key management issue. The politicians, public representatives and villagers have started questioning wildlife conservation activities at the cost of the interest of local communities”.

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