Tech to be harnessed for Gir protection

The Indian Express , Friday, April 13, 2007
Correspondent : Sreenivas Janyala
AHMEDABAD, APRIL 12 : Closed circuit televisions (CCTVs), Global Positioning System, weapons for guards, special mobile units—conservation and management of Gir National Park and Sanctuary is set to go hi-tech. The state Forest Department is preparing a draft for a new Gir Management Plan which is aimed at augmenting and strengthening the conservation strategy.

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The draft will be ready in the next two days and, after approval from the state government, will be put into action. Principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), Pradeep Khanna, who is part of the team preparing the draft, said, “First, we are looking at increasing the manpower at all levels, from beat guards to foresters to high level officials. We also want to create special mobile units, preferably armed, to patrol the sanctuary and fringe areas. CCTVs are to be installed at strategic locations to monitor movement of vehicles and people, while GPS will help track wild animals.”

The funds to implement the plan will come from the recently set up Gujarat Lion Conservation Society. To provide extra mobility to forest officials and patrolling staff, more vehicles will also be bought. The draft emphasises on reconsidering the existing communication and information exchange set-up between forest officials and communities that live within and outside the sanctuary. There are about 400 ‘Maldhari’ (cattle owners) families residing inside the sanctuary. Besides, several other communities live on the fringes of the sanctuary where they often lead their cattle for grazing. They are also an important source of information about any suspicious activity.

Forest officials, through community development and interaction programmes, remain in touch with these communities. But after the poaching incidents, conservation officials feel that communication channels need to reworked with offers of incentives in exchange of information. “We have to strengthen our relationship with the communities,” said Khanna.

Special emphasis is also being laid on sanitising the outskirts of the sanctuary by covering blind wells, which often become death traps for lions, and removing fences which may be electrified by angry farmers or cattle owners. At a later stage, the new conservation and management plan may also consider controlling access into the sanctuary.

SOURCE : The Indian Express, Friday, April 13, 2007

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