Thursday, April 09, 2009

Rise in Gujarat's wild ass population

Rise in Gujarat's wild ass population
DNA By Jumana Shah

Ahmedabad: Wild ass population in the Little Rann of Kutch in Surendranagar has increased by around 10%. The increase in wild ass population reveals a healthy trend. The population had dipped to as low as 700 about a decade back.

The rise in the mammals' population can also be gauged from the fact that a few groups have also been spotted in farms surrounding Nal Sarovar and some as far as the Great Rann of Kutch. Hence, it's not only the Asiatic lions in Gir that are reclaiming their traditional corridors, even the asses are following suit with reports of being sighted as far as 140 km away from their habitat in the Rann.

These details and several more have been revealed by the state forest department from its recently concluded census of the last surviving species of the wild ass (Equus hemionus khur) in the Wild Ass Sanctuary (WAS) in Surendranagar. The 2-day census was conducted on Sunday and Monday involving a team of 400 officials, activists and environmentalists. For the first time, the census was conducted over an area of 7,000 sq km, including 2,000 sq km of peripheral areas.

Even as the details are being compiled by forest department, sources confide the initial trend emerging is an approximate increase of 10% over the population of 3,860 revealed in the 2005 census. "Change in habitat has been noticed in this census. Despite the vast area of 4,954 sq km of protected sanctuary area, the animal is venturing out of the dry desert in search of water and food," said Devjibhai Dhamecha, a Dhrangadhra-based activist in know of the census proceedings. The group spotted near Nal Sarovar seems to have settled in the area and there is little chance of bringing them back to the Rann. Several groups have been sighted on the southern fringes because of the Narmada Canal, which provides them water and better food, he added.

Ajay Dhamecha who too was involved in the census in Dhrangadhra zone says 50% of the asses were found in the Rann and the rest in the fringes. DFO MJ Chavda said the details are being compiled from all zones and will be revealed by the forest department by weekend. "In addition to the team, we have also taken inputs from villagers about sightings. This information is being compared with the findings of the previous census data to arrive at changing trends of habitation, movement etc," he said.

There are 107 villages dotting the fringes of the sanctuary. "Complaints of the asses harming crops have emerged in recent times, but the issue has been a deadlock as some farms are an encroachment on the sanctuary area.

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