Wednesday, December 15, 2010

'Lion census reports could've drawn poachers' attention'

'Lion census reports could've drawn poachers' attention' By Jumana Shah

It's ironical but perhaps a bitter truth. The prosperous population of the Asiatic Lions in Gir could have become an eyesore for poachers. Wildlife experts from across the globe, following the issue closely, believe that the latest census report of the state government, highlighting a healthy growth in the population, may have drawn the attention of international poaching gangs.

It is widely held that there was calm in the region after the crackdown on poachers following the poaching cases in 2007. But the rise in lion population and the knowledge that they are roaming free in non-protected areas, may have drawn poachers' attention back to Gir. "These gangs keep a watch out for such things," a senior reliable source said.

The official lion census covered 5,000 sq km in four districts, but lions have been spotted roaming freely over approximately 10,000 sq km. Gir wildlife sanctuary is spread over only 1,600 sq km. Twenty-one lions were recorded in Kodinar, Una, Sutrapada and Chhara regions in Gir West where the recent gang was apprehended.

"This is a very serious development. Though the forest department is doing as good a job, it is not humanly possible to guard the whole area sufficiently. They have gone very far away and there are too few people," a senior police officer who was a part of the investigation team in 2007 said.

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