Monday, May 06, 2013

Gir prey base undervalued in apex court

Gir prey base undervalued in apex court

Forest officials believe certain species of prey were shown as non-existent, despite being commonly found in Gir.

Was MP Government's argument that Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary has a higher prey base than Gir based on sound facts?

Officials in Gujarat's forest department, who are studying Supreme Court's order for translocation of lions to Madhya Pradesh, claim that MP overstated its prey-base population while Gir's population was undervalued.

They believe that the statistics for prey base in Gir, which was prepared by Wildlife Institute of India, were incorrect. "A chart comparing the prey base of Gir and Kuno presented by MP in SC shows that the density per sq km for wild pig and common langur is zero in Gir. This is not correct," said HS Singh, additional principal chief conservator of forest. "The 2010 census statistics of Gujarat's forest department clearly shows that Gir had 4,400 wild boars and 17,310 langurs," he added.

Singh further claimed that MP in 2005 showed the prey-base density in Kuno as 13 animals per sq km. "In 2011, it (pre-base density) miraculously increased to 63 animals per sq km," said Singh. "It is impossible that it could be five times of what was in 2005."

It should be noted that after Madhya Pradesh presented its prey-base comparison of Kuno and Gir, Gujarat Government had filed an application on July 2, 2012 seeking a direction to the parties that a fresh survey on prey-base be done.

The SC judgment also makes a mention of a note by Ravi Chellam, a biologist who has studied the asiatic lion closely, written on July 8 on the same prey-base. "Mr Chellam in his note made some remarks on prey-base stating that prey density estimation seems to be inadequate in terms of design, data-collection, protocols and analytical methods when compared to international standards," states the judgment. It further makes a mention of the biologist suggesting that prey studies had to be conducted at least 12 months covering all seasons and habitat.

Another senior forest official, who did not wish to be identified, stated that despite Gujarat's doubts about the prey-base estimate presented by MP and even contentions raised by experts, it was not considered. "Moreover, the prey-base given by MP was just for the protected area and not the entire sanctuary," said the official.

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