Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lion census becomes picnic for senior foresters’ families

Lion census becomes picnic for senior foresters' families
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik

Loud cheers resounded in a portion of Gir sanctuary as children started clicking photographs. This was when a pride of lions was spotted during the ongoing census. You might wonder as to what were children doing at the spot. Well, the lion census has actually become a holiday of sorts for the families of senior forest officials, who have descended upon the jungle to witness the mega-exercise to count the lions.

Intriguingly, media has been kept out of the exercise citing reasons like overcrowding and disturbance that may adversely affect the counting exercise.

A volunteer, who was in the sanctuary, refusing to be identified, said that during the census the usual practice was to ban the entry of outsiders, but this time it has been observed that several officials has come to the sanctuary with their families.

Citing an example he said that a senior forest officer posted in Gandhinagar, who was a part of the census did not find a room to stay. This officer had to sit in the waiting lodge for long before he found a room for himself. Even the room he got was a run-down one.
The volunteer said that several rooms at official Gir lodge were already grabbed by other forest officials for their families. Another volunteer said that several volunteers who returned after the first round of counting did not find any place to stay or even take a bath.

He said that he had to go to the residence of a beat guard and take bath. At Sasan there was no facility for food or even drinking water, he said adding that the junior officials were seen taking care of the families of their seniors present at there.

The volunteer said that several of them could not manage even a place to attend nature's call. During the meeting the officials has issued instructions to the volunteers not to talk to the media citing directives from Wildlife Institute of India and the Centre.

The officials, when the media sought permission, had said that there were instruction not to involve media as it would hamper the census. He said that to avoid interference the entire mock drill of census was conducted in advance for the media. Surprisingly, the officers' families seem to be proving no hindrance.

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