Wednesday, September 16, 2009

'No taking Gujarat's pride out of Gir'

'No taking Gujarat's pride out of Gir'
Times of India

Even as the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife prepares to discuss the issue of translocation of Asiatic lions from Gir forest to Kuno in Madhya Pradesh (MP), on Wednesday, non-governmental organisations and wildlife activists from Gujarat have launched a campaign to prevent it.

Since Monday, nature lovers sent over 1,000 emails justifying why Asiatic lions should not be translocated to MP. Letters have even been sent to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging him to intervene and stop translocation of lions. The last census showed the lion population in Gir at 360.

Revtubha Rayjada of the Sky Forest Youth Club-Keshod said local communities have made sacrifices by demonstrating their commitment to lion conservation besides technical issues that go against its shifting to MP.

Rayjada said the lions have dispersed up to Mahuva, Talaja and Bhavnagar. He added local people in Kuno are known for poaching and that is how the local tiger population is on the verge of extinction in MP. Earlier, attempts to relocate the lion to Uttar Pradesh and Sheopuri MP had failed due to lack of local support.

Ahmedabad-based wildlife activist Manisha Rajput, who has also initiated a fax and email campaign, backed Rayjada's stance and said that "looking at MP's track record, the entire project of lion shifting should be scrapped as there is no local support for the tiger. How can one expect support for lion conservation?" She also pointed out how the tribes involved in lion poaching in Gir in 2007 were from MP.

Bhushan Pandya, a wildlife photographer, has also sent emails and joined in the drive. He said, "Translocation should not be based merely on scientific aspect. Social and historical facts are equally or even more important for this particular species." He added that lions are known to visit and even live close to human habitations. In Gujarat, people have played a very crucial part in lion conservation and protection of other flora and fauna around them.

Kodinar-based Prakruti Pariyavaran Trust has also handed over a memorandum to Junagadh collector against the move.

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