Towards the end of 2009, Gir National Park, the last abode of the extremely endangered Asiatic lion has been in the news for most of the wrong reasons.
On October 7th a group of 11 people were caught watching a “show” when a pride of lions killed and preyed on a buffalo. The forest department recorded their statements and after it was ascertained that it was not a “planned show” they were let off with after being fined of Rs. 500/- for intrusion.
In what seems to be a gross violation of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, a 2.5km 10 foot wide cement concrete road has been constructed in Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary near Junagadh city. The road starts from Wellingdon dam and goes to Hatipaga on Datar Hills. When questioned about it, the deputy conservator of forests (DCF), Anita Karne said, “We are not aware of this but we will inquire into the matter and do the needful.”
A report came in on October 17th 2009 about the death of a ten year old Asiatic lion whose body was found after 2 days near the Pipalva village in the Khamba taluka. Though it was sent for a post mortem to the Khamba Veterinary hospital, initial reports claimed the lion died of old age or a disease.
Within a week of the first death came the news of an eight year old lion who was found dead in the Khamba taluka by some villagers. Initial reports again claimed that the death could be because of a disease.
A few days before this, an injured lioness was found and rescued in the Mandvi area of Jasadhar range close to the Babariya range known for poaching cases. The lioness, old and blind, was found in a trap where it lay for 3 weeks before being rescued. Earlier a cub was also found in a trap in the Veraval range and another lion was shifted to the Sakkarbaug zoo from the Ranishav area after it’s condition deteriorated.
Then towards the end of November 2009, there were reports of big cats straying away from the protected Gir forest. The Asiatic lion which was earlier found only around Sasan and Dhari in Junagadh was now being spotted in Bhavnagar and Amreli districts. 14 lions were found in Ranigala village in Bhavnagar district, which is probably one of the biggest prides spotted in recent times. Forest officials said that from scattered reports of lions in these areas, finding prides of 10 had become regular. A senior forest official said that the Gir forest could carry 250 lions at most and there are around 370 lions living there, so over a 100 lions have moved out of the sanctuary in search of food and due to territorial fights.
The next was in the first week of December, another lion, possibly aged 7 years was found dead after falling 25m from a bridge near the Bhelchhar village. It was later confirmed by an eyewitness (identity withheld), that the animal was startled by the headlights of a speeding car as it was crossing the 20m long bridge going towards Junagadh. Feeling threatened, the lion jumped atop a narrow meter-high parapet on the left side of the bridge but lost it’s balance and plunged down hitting it’s head on a rock near the river bed, it walked another 4m before collapsing under the right hand side of the bridge. The cause of death as per the postmortem report was stated as hemorrhage to the head and chest.
Then on 20th December 2009, the state forest department found the carcass of a 7 year old lioness in the Tulsishyam range of the Gir forest in the Amreli district. She had been brutally killed using a sharp weapon. As per the postmortem report, she had received several wounds to the left of her chest, Some were deep enough to break two of her ribs.
All these incidents and only in the last quarter of 2009. It’s about time someone is held responsible for this.
Mr. Modi, it’s time to protect Gujarat’s Pride!