Central probe panel to assess threat to Gir lions

The Pioneer , Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Correspondent : Staff Reporter

Waking up to reports that after decimating tigers at Sariska in Gujarat poaching gang are now targeting Gir lions, Ministry of Environment and Forests has set up a probe panel to assess threat to the king of the jungle.

The announcement follows Gujarat Government's decision to set up a probe panel headed by the State Chief Secretary. The National Tiger Conservation Authority on Monday set up an appraisal committee to look at causes of death of Gir lions, whose population has been stable in the past decades. Gir is the last home in the wild for Asiatic lions. The probe committee comprises Environment Ministry's Joint Director Pramod Krishnan and regional deputy directors Meeta Banerjee and Santosh Tiwari. It is expected to look at natural or otherwise factors leading to death of lions. It will also suggest strategy of lion protection considering the dependency of maldharis (nomads) on the forests.

The committee will also look at possibilities of restoring crucial corridors linking Gir to nearby forests to ensure that the lion population in Gir is not insulated. Studies have shown that overpopulation in Gir is leading to fights among the males for territory and prey. Younger lion are often pushed to the periphery of the forests and often foray into what was once lion territory but now human habitation.

The committee, together with State officials, expected to submit its report within a month. The Pioneer on Sunday reported that investigation by State official revealed that poachers operating in Sariska were also behind the poaching of three lions in Gir last month.

After an on-the-spot assessment of the park, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi announced a Rs 40-crore project to protect the endangered wild cats.

SOURCE : The Pioneer, Tuesday, April 10, 2007

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