Friday, June 20, 2008

Foresters in overdrive mode to save Gir lion from anthrax


Foresters in overdrive mode to save Gir lion from anthrax

Indian Express

Gandhinagar, June 19 State Animal Husbandry Dept requisitions 1,500 anti-anthrax vaccines

Last week's anthrax incident that took a toll on at least eight cattle-heads in Bagdana village of Bhavnagar district has put the forest officials on a high alert, forcing them to take preventive measures to protect the Asiatic Gir lion from the dreaded cattle disease.

In a related development, the state Animal Husbandry Department has requisitioned 1,500 anti-anthrax vaccines that are being dispatched to Bagdana village where veterinary doctors attached to the epidemic cell of the department have launched a concerted drive to quarantine the cattle. Last week, anthrax had claimed the lives of five cows and three buffaloes in the village.

"Following the outbreak of anthrax in Bagdana, we have started taking several preventive measures in the vicinity of the affected villages to protect the Asiatic lion. Water holes are being disinfected, the grazing areas are being burnt to drive away the Big Cats from the disease-hit areas," PCCF (Wildlife) Pradeep Khanna told The Indian Express on Thursday.

Khanna said his department had also formed several teams comprising foresters, beat guards and officers that have fanned out in the nearby Gebar forest areas to monitor the movement of Gir lions and other wildlife. Local villagers are also assisting these teams to take preventive measures initiated by the forest department. "We have to ensure that lions do not occupy the peripheral region surrounding the anthrax-hit village," he said, adding that wild animals were often found occupying the grasslands in Palitana and Mahuva talukas of Bhavnagar in search of prey.

Conservator of Forest (Junagadh Circle) M M Sharma said on phone that the teams formed by the department have been constantly tracking the Asiatic lions in the region to keep away the animals from the vicinity of anthrax-hit villages. "At present, the lions occupy areas 12 kms from Bagdana. We have to also ensure that the Big Cats do not prey on local cattle or feed on carcass," said the forest official.

As per the latest census, the total population of Asiatic lions in pegged at 359. They are usually found occupying the forest area (Gir) of Junagadh, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts. Besides, there is large population of other wild animals like leopards, jungle cats, blue bulls and jackals in these forest areas. "The Bagdana village is about 200 kms from the world famous Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, and anthrax is localized. So, there is a remote possibility of the fatal cattle disease hitting the lions in the sanctuary. However, we are not taking any chances in the forest area of Bhavnagar district where Bagdana is located,"said the wildlife official.

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