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Gujarat Shows The Way While The Wildlife Is Under Threat, The Story Of Asiatic Lions Is Different

Updated: July 17, 2010 2:13 pm

It is very sad and alarming to look at the figures that only 1411 tigers are left in our country. After the government gave the figures, people all over the country are doing all what they can to raise awareness. In fact, most of the tigers die in the rural areas near the national wildlife. Does this mean that our forest department is not able to take care of them well? Our needs for skin, fur and medical science have outnumbered the tiger’s population. Poachers are still able to fulfill their needs by killing these tigers and other animals too.

            People across the world are doing their best to raise awareness regarding the decreasing number of tigers. Drawing competitions are being held in schools, colleges and malls to support this cause of saving tigers.

            While the wildlife is under threat and quite a few species face extinction, the story is different for Asiatic Lions found only in Gujarat in India.

            Owing to the timely protection by the princely rulers of the Junagadh state and subsequent stringent protection and habitat management by the Gujarat Forest Department, the Asiatic lion did not only increase in number over the years but also showed a population spill over from the Gir PA into the surrounding mosaics of habitat matrices encompassing of the Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Mitiala Wildlife Sanctuary and the vast tract of agro-pastoral landscapes of the Junagadh, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts making it imperative for a landscape level conservation planning for the species. The GFD in reflectance initiated a Lion Conservation Programme with identifying “Bruhad Gir” (Greater Gir) by adopting the various conservation measures.

            A lion census and seasonal lion and ungulate census is being carried out to monitor population dynamics every five years by State Forest Department. The number of lions in Gir Sanctuary and area nearby has

gone up by 52 in five years. There were an estimated 411 lions during the 13th lion census held in April 2010. There were 62,944 wild ungulates in Gir with chital being the predominant during the last herbivore census.

            According to Shri RV Asari, principal conservator of forest (Wildlife), the number of big cats have gone up due to not only Habitat Management and identification of new habitat but many measures like protection of Gir, strengthening conservation efforts, use of modern technology were taken by forest department.

            Through various steps, efforts and new initiatives, State Forest Department has not only saved wildlife and lions in Gir sanctuary but also succeeded in spreading the awareness amongst the people as to why forest and wildlife is necessary in our life.

            The State Government is not only carefully maintaining the Habitat in this sanctuary but also identified new Habitat for wild animals who are staying in Gir. Gir has a good protection regime against poaching by trapping, poisoning and electrocution. A strong network of intelligence gathering, patrolling and fire protection by watch tower, fire line, camps are under way. Therefore, no chance for poachers for illegal hunting in this sanctuary, said senior Forest Officer.

            Strengthening conservations efforts, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi visited Gir and announced a package of Rs 40 crore for lion conservation. Gujarat knows better that how to protect and take care of lions, therefore, the number of lions in Gir sanctuary has increased by 52 during last five years.

            Senior officer from Forest Department apprised that there are also three well-equipped veterinary hospitals at Sasan, Jsadhar and Mahuva for timely treatment and rescue of lions and other animals. Under the supervision of competent medical team, they had conducted 228 lion rescue treatment and operation during last five years.

            By increasing mobility of staff, arms and equipments and use of modern technology, State Forest Department has taken number of steps for protection of wild life.

            Being a tourist’s paradise and wildlifer’s heaven; Eco-tourism is being excellently managed by the Sasan Wildlife Division. Gir Interpretation Zone of 412 Hectares of chainlink fenced lion area has been constructed in Devaliya. Besides there is a well managed Guest House constructed from earlier Shikhar Palace of Junagadh Nawab at Sasan Gir catering to the need of number of tourists of different socio-economic classes. Revenue generated from this tourism is straightway deposited to the GSLCS for the sake of conservation of lions. A total revenue of Rs 2,40,02,387/- has been generated from the eco-tourism during 2009-10.

            The State Forest Department has recently initiated an innovative analysis of food habit of lion. Since the research and management interventions started in Gir in 1960s; one of the basic questions was regarding the food habit of Asiatic lion. In fact it became so central to the lion conservation that Gir National Park was constituted resulting in the phased relocation of local Maldharis. Even after, many conservation lobbies disbelievingly argue about the food habit of lions in Gir and attribute the spatio-temporal variation in sampling method for such discrepancies in food habits. The debate intensifies when one considers survival pattern of lions in an agro-pastoral landscapes of the Bruhad Gir. In order to understand the food habit in a more comprehensive manner, under the guidance of the DCF-Sasan Gir, an extensive scat collection and analysis programme had been organised.

            Gujarat has shown the way to country that how to save the wildlife.

By Nilesh Shukla

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