Red-faced forest officers wake up to illegal lion show menace
The Times Of India
RAJKOT: Facing huge embarrassment over videos of a lioness being harassed going viral, the senior forest officials were huddled in Junagadh and decided to crackdown on illegal lion shows.
All the top officers, including principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF), wildlife, G K Sinha, held a day-long deliberations on lion shows that are going on rampantly under their nose in and around Gir sanctuary, the last abode of Asiatic lions.
Sinha also addressed a press conference in Junagadh, where he announced a slew of measures to prevent such incidents again. "The section pertaining to lion hunting will be added whenever there is an incident of wildcats being harassed. We will also take the help of forensic experts to nab the culprits," Sinha said.
Importantly, 55 teams of forest department staffers will be formed in Gir and Greater Gir to keep an eye on illegal activities and unscrupulous elements outside the protected areas. Majority of lion shows and cases of harassment are reported from the revenue areas, where lions have strayed in large numbers.
"While 24 teams will monitor Junagadh district, 10 each will keep a close vigil in Bhavnagar and Gir-Somnath besides 11 teams in Amreli district," Sinha added.
"Lions are seen in these four districts. As per the data, there are 356 lions in protected areas and 167 outside.
Sinha also promised strict action against forest officials if their involvement in illegal lion shows or harassment is found.
Replying to a question on large number of vacant posts of senior officers in the most sensitive wildlife region, Sinha claimed these would be filled soon.
"Some unofficial people, including hotel agents, private drivers and other people lure the tourists for illegal lion shows. Most of these shows are organized in revenue areas. It has come to notice that these people use hens and live animals to lure the lions for illegal sighting," the department said in a statement.
The statement added, "There is a provision of three to seven years' imprisonment under the Wildlife Protection Act and a fine of Rs 10,000 to Rs 25,000 for those convicted of harassing lions by chasing them through bike or car and harassing them in any way."