59 animals have died in road accidents in last 5 years
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik
The Monday night incident, where a lion fell from a bridge after it was startled by a speeding vehicle, may be first of its kind of incident. However, from 2004-05 to 2008-09, around 59 animals, including three leopards, have died in road accidents.
Gir Sanctuary, the last adobe of Asiatic lions, has several roads passing through it, paving way for vehicular traffic. But, these roads lead to death for wild animals.
Officials said Talala-Una and Talala-Junagadh via Sasan roads have no time restrictions. Heavy vehicles, including luxury buses, move during night time here. Further, not less than 500 vehicles pass through Una-Talala or Dhari-Una Road.
Gir has thoroughfare from all major towns surrounding it. For example, while going from Visavadar to Talala via Sasan Gir, the distance is just 52 km, but if one takes a route other than this, it would be double. A driver would first have to drive down to Bilkha, then Mendarda to reach Talala, which comes to 130 km. The other roads that pass through the sanctuary include Jamwada-Kankai, Jamwada-Banej, Una-Talala, Jamwada-Dhari, Babariya-Banej-Patra, Junagadh-Talala, Haripur-Hirenwel and Jasadhar-Timbarwa (Dhari-Una via Tulshishyam). Apart from these, there is a meter gauge line passing right from the sanctuary. This railway line passes from Dhari to Sasan from the sanctuary and covers over 25 km area.
These roads are not only coming as a major disturbance to the wildlife, but are also posing a threat to big cats. A senior forest official, refusing to be quoted, said, "With no check at the gates or inside the sanctuary, these roads can sometimes lead to incidents of poaching apart from creating disturbances to the animals." He said such roads do exist in several sanctuaries in the country, but there is no political will to curb the traffic. "We are fighting a loosing battle and something needs to be done to save the big cats," he added.
Apart from these roads, major cause of worry is religious places like Kankai Mata temple, Banej, Pataleshwar Mahadev and Tulsishyam, which are inside the sanctuary.
An official said when night stay was banned, there was a lot of hue and cry, so permit stay from sunrise to sunset was given at these places. Since these are within the sanctuary, one can easily move around in the forest, the official added.
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