Sunday, July 01, 2007

State Govt in fix over alternate home for lions


State Govt in fix over alternate home for lions

Times of India Ahmedabad Print Edition

Gandhinagar: Despite the official recognition that the Gir National Park and Sanctuary, situated on 1,412 sq km area, has become ‘overcrowded’ for the Asiatic lion, the Gujarat government is in a dilemma on where should the ‘alternative home’ for the big cat be situated.

Referring to the overcrowding phenomenon, a high-level workshop in Gandhinagar at the wildlife training division, state forest department, has been told that out of a total of 359 lions, just about 150 to 170 live in the protected area. As for the rest, a senior forest official involved in investigation into the recent poaching of several lions, told the workshop, “They have been straying outside, endangering conflict with the human population living outside Gir. Many of these lions are old.”

He added, “One needs a very big area for the big cat. At night, the lion often moves anywhere between 40 to 60 km. The areas that the big cat has strayed into — right up to the coastal region — are not safe for being declared as the second home.”

Not that the state forest department is not aware of the need for a second home. Chief conservator of forests H S Singh, in his latest book ‘The Gir Lion’, released by Chief Minister Narendra Modi recently, says, “The ongoing programme to develop alternative home for the lion in Kuno in Madhya Pradesh and another exercise within Gujarat provide two possible options to strengthen lion conservation in India.”

Singh underlines, “For lion, politics is not an issue, as they love to possess both the territories. If alternative homes are provided in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, it would be a great human response to conserve the big cat. At this stage, conservationists expect at least one alternative home.” Yet, the fact is, neither Kuno nor any other place in Gujarat has yet been declared as the alternative home.

Not that an alternative home for the big cat in Gujarat has not been identified.

As early as 1970s, the Gujarat government came up with Gir-Barda Project, about 15 km from Porbandar. A hilly terrain, the idea was to consider a lion sanctuary in a 192.3 km area.

Ironically, even today the project is at a ‘thinking stage’, with officials saying “not more than 15 to 20 lions can make it their alternative home.” Yet another site, Hippavadli zone towards Bhavnagar, faces “too much human interference.”

All that Singh is able to say in his book is, “If the government takes some bold decisions to transfer wastelands and purchase some less productive land at open market, the entire track having savannah like characteristic can be concerted into a good home for the lion where about two to three prices with some nomads can easily be accommodated.”


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