Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mobile surveillance of lions outside Gir

Mobile surveillance of lions outside Gir
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik

For the first time, the forest department has decided to shift its focus away from the Gir sanctuary. It plans to launch mobile surveillance outside the protected area apart from setting up inspection huts and watch towers.

These include coastal areas of Junagadh and Amreli and even Bhavnagar districts, where lions have been found straying. The state government in the 2011-12 budget has proposed to not only strengthen surveillance inside Gir, but for the first time has made allocation of funds for areas away from the sanctuary. The areas will also cover Gariyadhar, Liliya and Savarkundla Taluka of Amreli district and Mahuva and Palitana of Bhavnagar district where the big cats have been spotted during the May 2010 census.
As per April 2010 population estimate, the population of lions inside the sanctuary and their ecological zone is 411. In the coastal areas of Junagadh, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts, there was a population of 74 lions.

The increase in population has resulted in spill over of the lion population outside Gir protected area (Gir PA). Therefore, at present, the most pressing threat to the lion population of the Gir PA comes from the possibility of increased hostility towards the resident lion population outside Gir PA. To combat these threats, it is very important to strengthen the patrolling efforts outside Gir PA boundaries as well, say foresters.

The forest department's Rs 12.5 crore budget will also include watch towers for other wildlife sanctuaries across the state to monitor big cats.

Forest officials said that there are very few watch towers in Gir sanctuary and these are near dams. But the new proposal will have more such towers in the entire sanctuary also with security check posts.

The stress is because with the development, vehicle movement has increased manifold, necessitating strict vigilance and protection in view of the serious offences recorded in the near past which include poaching, illegal stealing of paws, claws, and organs of lion.

The proposal also states that to strengthen protection, the state government has set up a Wildlife Crime Cell. A task force cell has also been established in Junagadh to strengthen and protect the Asiatic lion.

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