CRACKDOWN ON ILLEGAL LION SHOWS IN GIR
In order to completely stop illegal lion shows in and around Gir Sanctuary and National Park — the only abode of Asiatic Lions in the world, Gujarat Government has decided to involve Special Operation Group (SOG) of the State police force.
The decision of SOG's involvement was taken after the visit of Gujarat's Environment and Forest Minister Ganpat Vasava to Gir Sanctuary in view of ongoing controversy over illegal lion shows in Gir area.
On his visit Vasava also held high level meeting of police, revenue and forest to address the issue of illegal lion shows. During the meeting it was also decided to make it mandatory to put sign boards related to ban on private lion shows near the receptions of hotels in Gir area. The Minister has also instructed to put barriers on the approach roads leading to Gir forest in coordination with revenue department.
The state forest department has appointed over 300 Vanya Prani Mitro (friends of wild animals) for the purpose of lion conservation and paying Rs 1000 to each of them every month. Now it has been decided to double the amount to encourage them to enhance vigil on those who are involved in arrangement of illegal lion shows. These friends of wild animals are serving in nearly 300 villages near the Gir Sanctuary.
At present 90 Gypsy cars (Each having maximum capacity of six tourists) are allowed to enter inside the Gir Sanctuary except Saturdays and Sundays. On week-ends the limit is 150 Gypsy cars. However in the meeting it has been decided to increase daily permits so that more number of tourists can be accommodated and automatically they would not go for illegal lion shows.
More over it was also decided to increase involvement of Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to create awareness about lion conservation and other environment related issues pertaining to Gir forest.
It is worth mentioning that in the last lion census conducted in the year 2015, total 523 Asiatic Lions were reported. For the purpose 252 sq km area of Gir National Park, 1153 sq km of Gir Sanctuary, 39 sq km of Mitiyala Sanctuary, 19 km of Pania Sanctuary and 480 sq km of protected forest surrounding Mount Girnar covered apart from over 20,000 sq km of revenue areas where lions are straying. The census covered over 1500 revenue villages in eight districts including Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli, Botad, Bhavnagar, Porbandar, Jamnagar and Rajkot based on the visitation records including the occasional visits of lions in newer areas.
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has put Asiatic Lion in endangered category.