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Gujarat, Centre step up efforts for lion conservation

The recent death of 23 lions in a short span had sent shock waves across the country with canine distemper virus being said to be the reason behind many of these deaths.Premium
The recent death of 23 lions in a short span had sent shock waves across the country with canine distemper virus being said to be the reason behind many of these deaths.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has begun work on a proposal for conservation of the rare sub-species for a budget outlay of 100 crore which includes translocation of the lions to a new home within Gujarat and monitoring of the ecology

After the recent deaths of Asiatic Lions in Gir forest of Gujarat, the Centre and the state government have stepped up their efforts for conservation of the rare wild cat.

The Indian Ministry of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has begun work on a proposal for conservation of the rare sub-species for a budget outlay of 100 crore which includes translocation of the lions to a new home within Gujarat and monitoring of the ecology, said two officials in the know of the development.

The details of the project which were discussed in the standing committee meeting of National Board for Wildlife recently, said a board member who did not wish to be named.

“A special conservation programme titled for conservation of lions in Gujarat was discussed at the meeting along with conservation programmes for tigers and some other species," said the NBWL member.

The proposal envisages radio tagging for some of the Asiatic Lions and translocation of lions from Gir Sanctuary to Barda near Amreli.

“The MOEF has sought our opinion for the new conservation programme which includes monitoring and surveillance of the lion and the Gir ecology," said Akshay Saxena, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Gujarat.

Gujarat government has meanwhile announced a special package of 351 crore for the conservation of Asiatic Lions. The project includes setting up a special hospital of 50 crore and special ambulance service for the lions.

The decision was taken at the State Board of Wildlife’s 14th meeting held on November 20, according to a state government media statement.

In the meeting, chaired by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani Rupani, a long-term comprehensive plan with a budget outlay of 351-crore for creating infrastructure for the conservation of lions, equipped with the latest devices was discussed. A state-of-the-art Wildlife Hospital at the Asiatic lion’s only natural abode in Gir sanctuary to check intensive care of diseases among lions and other wildlife animals will also be set up, it said.

The government has planned to carry out extensive surveillance in Gir forest during the night using drone and CCTV camera network. The surveillance not only covers lions but also other wild nocturnal animals.

The Board also discussed 29 applications for converting land for non-forest use under wildlife sanctuary and national parks for widening existing highways, laying electricity lines and optical fibre cables under the Wildlife Protection Act.

The recent death of 23 lions in a short span had sent shock waves across the country with canine distemper virus claiming being said to be the reason behind many of these deaths. In 1994, an outbreak of canine distemper virus, which can spread from dogs in the wild, wiped out nearly half of the lion population in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park.

Gujarat government’s role to handle an outbreak of disease like CDV has been questioned by wildlife and conservation experts. The 23 lions that died were in Sarsiya Sub Range and as a precaution 36 lions have been shifted from there to rescue centres. The death of the lions occurred in one sub-range out of 16 sub-ranges and was limited to one area only.

In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that Gujarat needed to relocate some of its lions to neighbouring Madhya Pradesh to avoid the possibility of disease or some other disaster wiping out the entire population.

“The hospital will come up in Gir and we are going to hire 120 well-trained and expert staff to deal that is capable to deal with any such untoward incident. A provision has also been made to set up eight rescue centres at an expense of Rs.85 crore," said additional chief secretary in the forests and environment department, Rajiv Kumar Gupta.

Using drone for monitoring a wildlife sanctuary area is being done for the first time in India, said Dushyant Vasavda, Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) in Junagadh.

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