Friday, August 29, 2014

Gujarat lions vanish from UP forest

Gujarat lions vanish from UP forest
The Times of India

As many as three Asiatic lions, brought here from Gir forest of Gujarat 57 years ago — which led to a population of 11 in last count in 1965 — have vanished from the Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary near Varanasi.

Officials of the Kashi Wildlife Division, under whose jurisdiction the sanctuary falls, say they have no records of the lions and no idea about their fate. Wanting not to be quoted, they say that "it is believed that either they would have fallen prey to hunters or migrated to nearby jungles of Bihar."

"As the Wildlife (Protection) Act was not in force that time, there was no effective control on hunting of wild animals. But, we are not sure what happened to the lions in the sanctuary as there are no records," said forest officer of Kashi Wildlife Division Chandra Shekar Pandey.

"Lions were released in that region years back and they probably died naturally. We do not have any records maintained of that time, so it's difficult to say what happened of them. Moreover, enforcement was not strong at that time and there must not have been proper planning to release them," said principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife), UP, Rupak De.

The concept of reintroduction for purpose of conservation of Asiatic lions was accepted in 1956 by the Indian Wildlife Board, and the offer of UP government to host a population in the Chakia forests was accepted. In 1956, a lion and two lionesses from Gir were placed in a zoo in Junagadh in Gujarat for nine months before being shifted to Chandraprabha Sanctuary in 1957.

Initially, the lions prospered increasing in number to four in 1958, five in 1960, seven in 1962 and 11 in 1965, but they disappeared soon after.

Spread over 9,600 hectares of forest area, the Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary is located between Chakiya and Naugarh in Chandauli district, the neighbouring district of PM Narendra Modi's parliamentary constituency. The sanctuary, one of the ?Protected Areas' of the National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016) that was adopted in 2002, was set up in 1957, covering the reserved forest area in Chandraprabha and some parts of Jaimohini Range.

The sanctuary has a variety of wild animals, including black buck, chital, sambhar, nilgai, wild boar, porcupine, Indian gazelle, gharial and python.

About 70km from Varanasi Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary are the picturesque Rajdari and Devdari waterfalls. The sanctuary is emphasizing the people's participation and their support for wildlife conservation.

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