Friday, August 21, 2009

Forest department to hardsell Guj’s ‘pride’

Forest department to hardsell Guj's 'pride'
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik

With Union minister of state (independent charge) for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh planning to visit Gujarat, especially Gir Sanctuary, forest department officials here are working overtime to showcase conservation of the Asiatic Lion in the state. The department is busy making a presentation to show how effective conservation measures have been in the state. Officials said Gujarat had 12 lions in 1880 and since then the lion population has grown to 359. In 1968, there were just 177 lions and 41 years later, the population has almost doubled.

Officials said the presentation would also focus on the low number of man-animal conflicts and on the fact that people take pride in the presence of lions in their vicinity. The various sanctuaries that Gujarat has declared for lion conservation will also be showcased. The issue of transfer of lions is lying with the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL). Officials said the petition for transfer of lions to Madhya Pradesh in Supreme Court has been referred to NBWL after the Gujarat government forwarded the case that two big cats can't stay together. Kuno Palpur has tiger population in the area and transferring lions there could create a conflict. Since Ramesh is also chairman of NBWL, Gujarat is taking no chances and wants to present a strong case. Principal secretary SK Nanda confirmed that Ramesh wanted to visit the state and would come after September 10, after the by-elections at Kodinar. Gujarat would definitely showcase the conservation measures taken by Gujarat during the visit, he said.

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