Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Incidents of man-animal conflict in Gir reach an alarming level


Incidents of man-animal conflict in Gir reach an alarming level

Indian Express By Sibte Hussain Bukhari

Junagadh, January 1 Incidents of man-animal conflict in the famous Gir forest have reached an alarming level. A total of 74 leopards were caged from the revenue area surrounding Gir in 2007. In addition, two separate incidents of minor boys being killed by leopards in the adjoining area of Gir forest were reported. This apart, there were more than half a dozen more incidents of fights reported between humans and the big cats in 2007.

When contacted, deputy conservator of forest (Gir west) B P Pati admitted that in recent time, conflict between human and the big cats have increased. "In 2007, in Gir west forest division alone — 48 leopards and two cubs have been caged and shifted from the revenue area. In addition to this— 13 lions along with 13 cubs have also been shifted to the forest interiors from an area falling under this division," said Pati.

Pati said the increasing population of the lions and leopards, coupled with the shrinking natural habitat, lack of wasteland, were the main reasons behind these conflicts.

In addition, some other reasons responsible were possibly due to change in cropping patterns in an area adjoining the forest. "Particularly mango farms and sugar cane fields are providing a convenient natural habitat for the big cats particularly leopards. Many a times, the third or fourth generation of leopards have been growing and taking shelter in sugarcane cultivated areas of namely Talala, Kodinar, Una and Sutrapada taluka," said Pati.

Deputy conservator of forest (Gir east) J S Solanki, said, "as many as 24 leopards have been relocated in an area falling under Gir east forest division during 2007. "Population increase and adaptive migration among big cats were the prime reasons for man-animal conflict," he said.

A senior forest official said, while a leopard could make its habitat in grassland or vidi land near water pockets, a lion required at least seven sq km area for its territory.

The total area of the Gir forest measures around 1,800 sq km, and according to a 2005 census, which estimated a total of 359 plus lions, the minimum forest areas required to accommodate the 'king of the jungle' is 2,500 sq km. "This indicates a shortfall of 700 sq km forest area," said Solanki.

Summary of the recent incident as listed below:

*November 17, 2007: A boy aged of about 3 years was killed in a sugarcane field located on the outskirts of Bhimdeval village near Talala.

*December 15, 2007: A leopard attacked a woman in a sugarcane field at Sawani village near Prabhas Patan town. The woman fended off the big cat but received injuries in the process.

*December 23, 2007: A lion attacked a farmer on the outskirts of Bhacha village near Una. The farmer received stitches.

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