Centre refuses to give money for conservation of lions
The last month's flood in Gujarat killed 10 Asiatic lions in two districts at a time when the central government refused to release more money for conserving these animals.
The deaths occurred in Amreli and Bhavnagar districts, where carcasses of ten lions were recovered till July 2, says a report by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests of Gujarat, who submitted it to the Union Environment Ministry last week.
Besides, carcasses of 1,670 blue bulls, 87 spotted deer, nine black bucks and six wild boars were also found. Four lions died in Amreli district and the other six in Bhavnagar district.
As per the 2010 lion census, the total number of these big cats stood at 411 in Gujarat. Two months ago, another round of the five-yearly lion census began. The 2005 count was 359 lions.
The ongoing census will cover Amreli, Porbandar, Junagadh, Bhavnagar, Rajkot, Gir-Somnath and Botad districts. Apart from the 1,800 sq km sanctuary area, which includes Gir Sanctuary, Gir National Park, Paniya, Mityalaya and Girnar sanctuaries, another 23,200 sq km area outside the sanctuary will also be covered in the counting.
The loss of lions comes less than three months after the Union Environment Ministry refused to sanction Rs 135 crore to Gujarat for conserving these animals in their only home in India.
The state had submitted a Rs 150 crore plan for consolidating long term conservation of Asiatic lions and sought 90 per cent funding from theCentre. The ministry rejected the proposal on the ground that funds are not available. Two years ago, Gujarat had submitted a Rs 262 crore proposal that also received approval from the Planning Commission. But the central support was nominal.
After the flood, when forest officials visited the affected areas, lions were seen moving and fresh kills of blue bulls were also observed.
"As many as 17 lions were seen in Savarkundala area while 27 lions in Amreli district and 40 in Bhavnagar district were spotted during search and rescue operations after the flood," said S C Pant, principal chief conservator of forest in Gujarat.