Saturday, March 22, 2008

NRI, foreign company to pump in funds for Gir lions


NRI, foreign company to pump in funds for Gir lions

Indian Express By Hiral Dave

Rajkot, March 19 Their interest for the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary (GWS) is a common thread that links Steve Mandel, president of the California-based Mandel Communication and Raju Thakrara, an NRI businessman in London.

When cases of increased poaching and rising accidental deaths of the Asiatic Lions raised concern among the nature lovers, Mandel and Thakrara decided to spread awareness on the issue.

While Mandel has taken up the task to create more awareness about the last abode of the Asiatic Lions, Thakrar plans to launch annual awards for the people involved in conservation and promotion of the sanctuary.

Mandel, who visited the sanctuary twice this year, plans to start a foundation that will help in generating awareness and raising support for these lions in the US. The body has been named ‘Lions of Gir Foundation’.

Mandel has also donated over Rs 1 lakh to the Rajkot-based Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT), which has been carrying out the work of barricading open wells located in the periphery of the GWS to prevent accidental deaths of lions. “The Lions of Gir Foundation would workin co-ordination with the WCT,” said WCT chairman Kishore Kotecha. He added, “The foundation would raise funds from the US for the conservation and awareness activities to be carried out by the WCT.”

The WCT is the only NGO involved in conservation work at the sanctuary. At present, the trust aims at barricading 9,000 open wells in the area. The NGO will continue to focus on general conservation and awareness programmes with support from the Lions of Gir Foundation, after the completion of the barricading project.

Kotecha said, “I came in contact with Mandel through the Internet. We had camped at GWS for an assessment of the situation. Mandel had proposed the idea of forming a foundation in the US during his last visit in February.”

Meanwhile, Thakrar, who is Kotecha’s acquaintance, has donated Rs 1.5 lakh for the WCT awards to be launched this October.

Thakrar said, “I feel that the GWS is the eighth wonder of the world. We must encourage the people who are working for the conservation of the Asiatic Lions and GWS. Thus, I decided to extend my support to start these awards.” Kotecha said, “So far, there has been little encouragement to the people involved in conservation and protection projects at GWS.”

The WCT awards will have five categories, including one for students who have done extraordinary work in creating awareness, for an educator, two awards for frontline forest staff and one for any remarkable research during the year.

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