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Battery operated bus in Gir

Times of India, November 25th 2001

The Forest Department (FD) has introduced battery- operated bus for tourists visiting the Gir sanctuary. Three battery operated buses have been procured by the FD from BHEL. Petrol and diesel vehicles too have been banned in the forests.

Biodiversity Conservation Plan for Gir (BCPG)

Times of India, November 23rd 2001

The Biodiversity Conservation Plan for Gir (BCPG) - 1996- 2005 was recently reviewed in the context of the completion of its first five years. There are various components to the plan. Successes achieved include an increase in the ungulate populations, the creation of more check dams, water holes and fire lines.

The plan had targeted the manipulation of vegetation by thinning it in 35 hectares area each in Gir West and Gir East. This was not achieved and neither was the expansion of the core area of the park from the current 258 sq. kms to 510.94 sq. kms. The targeted eradication of lantana from 1600 hectares every year too could not be fully achieved. It was carried out only in 3676 hectares resulting in a short fall of 4324 hectares. There was also no progress in the attempt to breed the rare Rusty spotted cat.

On the whole, however, the FD has expressed its satisfaction over the progress of the BCPG.

Fire in the Forests

Indian Express, 18th October 2001

A large number of villages in and around the Gir Protected Area (GPA) that includes the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and Gir National Park are reported to have shifted from using fuel wood for cooking to LPG. The introduction of LPG in the region was taken up under the World Bank (WB)- Global Environment Facility (GEF) Gir Eco-Development Project in 1999.

In the first stage, 200 families staying in and around Gir were provided LPG connections. By October 2001, nearly 8000 families living in 9 villages had switched from wood to LPG. People are preferring LPG because it is more convenient, is turning out to be cheaper and removes the various health problems associated with cooking on a fire. The Forest Department too has reported a drastic fall in the collection of firewood for commercial exploitation.

Gloom in Gir; 5 Lions found dead

Indian Express, 26th September 2001

There were reports of the death of at least five lions from areas in and around in the month of September 2001 alone. The death of these lions in quick succession was taken very seriously by the Forest Department which decided to review its conservation program here.

The deaths of the animals have been attributed to a range of causes including poisoning, old age and disease.

Poachers from other states eyeing park

Indian Express, 5th September 2001

In a new development in Gir, suspected poachers from the Jabalpur district of Chattisgarh were arrested in the protected area a few months ago. Though local communities living in and around Gir are known to have been involved in poaching in the area, this is the first time that the involvement of a group from so far away has been reported. Iron traps, snares and skinning equipment that are not otherwise found around Gir were also seized from these people who were trying to enter park saying that they wanted to collect medicinal plants and herbs.

Census in Gir

Times of India, July 20th 2001

AHMEDABAD: The Asiatic Lion is doing fine in its only home in the wild - the Gir forest - located on the western tip of the country with the latest count putting their number at 315 or 320 - up from 304 in the last census carried out six years back.

The final results are still being tabulated but it is felt that projected population growth has remained on course and wild life experts are heaving a sigh of relief over the figure as they experimented with a new method of census earlier this week.

For the first time the census of the Lion was conducted on beat system involving 19 range, 77 rounds and 600 officers in 206 beats who completed the pain-staking exercise on Thursday. Earlier census were conducted by offering prey to the animal but it invited a lot of criticism and opposition in the media.

In 1930, the population of the lion had gone down to only 20 due to higher incidents of poaching by the erstwhile rulers and the British Officers. Alarmed by this, the former Nawab of Junagadh and Lord Curzon had initiated protective measures to save the animals from extinction. They had banned the poaching or hunting of the lion with the result, in the next decade its number had reached 55. In 1990, as per the census, the population had risen to 280 and subsequently in 1995 its number stood at 304.

The Gir forest, located in Junagadh district of the Saurashtra region was declared as sanctuary in 1972. The sanctuary is spread over in 1153.4 sq km, while the National park covers the area of 257.8 sq.m. The census this week was conducted by the Gir East division of Amreli district. As many as 600 enumerators and 25 experts, assisted by range forest officers, round foresters and beat guards were deployed at various water points for conducting the census. They prepared meticulous report based on minute observation and description of the lion, lioness and cubs. They noted down identification marks and also collected pug marks of the animal.

A special register has been maintained for the purpose. Based on these reports, a final specific number of the population of the lion will be arrived at, a spokesperson for the state forest department said.

However, according to forest officials, several prides of lions have moved out of the Gir national park and sanctuary through forest corridors, they have found homes in Girnar near Junagarh, Sutrapada and Muldwarika on the sea coast and up to Mithiala in Bhavnagar. These satellite populations are not in the protected forests.

The growing lion population and its expansion into new areas has put forth the vital question which foresters have been asking for some years now - Is Gir saturated with lions? The answer, according to senior forest officials, can't really be given when the forest continues to be inhabited by a large number of human beings and their cattle - 4,000 and 16,000 respectively. "It is not yet a question of overcrowding by lions, it is still a question of not giving the lions enough space in Gir ", says a forest official.

The growth in the lion population in Gir has come despite the fact that every year one or two lions are killed because of territorial problems. Besides, the Visavadar-Talala railway line, which passed through 14 kilometres of park territory, claims one or two lions every year. The train drivers have been told to keep a watch on the track and not to drive over 20 kilometres per hour, but then these instructions are seldom followed, says foresters.

In view of the booming population of lions in Gir and the pressure on forest land there, there was a plan to give the lions a new home in Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan. However, this has run into trouble with the state's political leadership and forest department refusing to give away lions which, they consider, were a heritage bestowed by nature only on Gujarat. And even while the Wild Life Institute of Dehradun with the help of the Madhya Pradesh government is trying to develop a new habitat for lions at Palpur Kuno near Gwalior to translocate a family of lions two years from now, Gujarat has made it clear that the Asiatic Lions were its exclusive preserve.

The forest department has argued that if a new home has to be developed for the lions it could be at Barda where the lions themselves were finding the habitat most suitable and had made their home there. It has to be a natural spread, rather than an artificial one", says a Gujarat official.

Gir Space crunch driving lions outr

Indian Express: 21st June 2001

The recent lion census in Gir in May has put the total number of lions in the area at 327 (see PA Update 32). Though the total number of lions has increased, their population in the Gir Protected Area (GPA) comprising the national park and sanctuary has remained constant. Numbers in the peripheral areas have increased and this number was reported to be 56.

Much to the surprise of wildlife experts, 29 lions were found in the Bhavnagar circle and six were seen in the Hipawadli village located 40 kms from the GPA. The main reason for this is said to be the fact that the carrying capacity of the GPA for lions has been reached and new animals are being driven out by the existing population.

This increase in the population of the animal is also one of the causes of the increased human-animal conflict in the region. There have been a number of reports of deaths of lions in and around Gir, many of

Earthquake Effect

Times of India: February 18th 2001

RAJKOT: Though mankind never had the slightest inkling of the impending earthquake in Gujarat, the animals were forewarned of the tremor. This was evident from the unusual movement of the animals, including lions in the Gir forest.

Deputy conservator of forest Mahesh Singh and some forest officials were eyewitness to such a behaviour. "The animals in the 1,382 sq km area had started the unusual movement from the night of January 25 and it continued till the morning of January 26," the officials said.

The stillness of the Gir forest, the only home to the Asiatic lion, was breached with loud roars and shrieks of wild animals.

Singh said, "The lions, leopards, chittals and deer in the jungle started crying loudly and running helter-skelter. The roar of the lions was deafening and they too ran with their tails up and erect.''

The field staff in the jungle were unable to understand this unusual movement initially. Singh was camping at Jamva on that night and he saw the snakes, coming out of the holes and climbing the trees. The Sakarbaugh Zoo authorities on the outskirts of Junagadh said that the crocodiles had also showed such a behaviour and were turning and tossing in the water.

Some of the boulders from the adjacent Girnar hills had also started tumbling down, the wireless operator atop the Ambaji peak told the Junagadh collector's office. Some of the pilgrims, who were on the Ambaji peak when the earthquake started, said they had heard loud sounds from beneath the hard rocks.

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