Thursday, March 13, 2008

Fire destroys part of Gir sanctuary


Fire destroys part of Gir sanctuary

Times of India


RAJKOT: A fire, ignited by some miscreants, has destroyed large swathes of vegetation in Gir sanctuary. The fire broke out on Tuesday morning between Ghantula hill and Hanuman Gala in the Tulshishyam range, destroying around 85 hectares of the sanctuary. Around 30 per cent of the 349 lions in Gir live in this area.


Although no lion was affected, a beat guard, BT Vasoya, died of a heart attack while fighting the fire. It took the officials 24 hours to control the flames.


Senior forest officials said it was unlikely that such a huge fire could have been caused by accident. District forest officer (DFO), Gir east, JS Solanki said, "Normally, a forest fire is caused by a short-circuit in an electric line passing through or by friction between branches of two dry trees. However, this was a ground fire and someone has ignited it."


Solanki added that lions cover at least 50 km in a day and move to a safer place as soon as a fire breaks out. "We have also not found any carcass in the affected area," he said. Forest department has registered an offence against unknown persons under the Indian Forest Act.


Officials in Gandinagar said small forest fires are good for Gir. In the absence of any major fires in the past couple of years, vegetation has become thick in Gir. The lion needs large open fields, which a fire often provides by clearing the vegetation.

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