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Ahmed Patel Writes to PM Modi on Death of 23 Gir Lions, Blames Govt for Negligence, Mismanagement

Patel suggested urgent measures, including the extension of the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) — a buffer zone around the protected area to up to 10 km.

Aniruddha Ghosal |

Updated:October 6, 2018, 6:59 PM IST
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Ahmed Patel Writes to PM Modi on Death of 23 Gir Lions, Blames Govt for Negligence, Mismanagement
Representative image. Photo: Reuters
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Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel on Saturday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the death of 23 lions in Gujarat’s Gir National Park and called them a “manifestation of negligence”, “state’s prolonged mismanagement” and “poor oversight”.

In his letter, the Rajya Sabha MP said a number of steps need to be taken to protect the “pride of Gujarat”, including the creation of a Rs 1,000 crore fund for the conservation of the Asiatic lion along the lines of ‘Project Tiger’.

A similar suggestion, Patel mentioned, was made by Modi back when he was the chief minister of Gujarat.

“The Centre can consider creating a Rs 1,000 crore fund for the conservation of the Gir Lion and launch a national-level programme on the lines of ‘Project Tiger’. As CM, you (PM Modi) also gave similar suggestions, hence I am absolutely confident that you would agree with me on this proposal,” he wrote.

He appealed to the Centre to not “neglect the lions of Gujarat” and treat them “with the same importance given to the tiger”.

The Gir deaths, experts argued, were foretold with red flags raised as early as in the 1950s. The deaths have been attributed to the canine distemper virus (CDV) and a tick-borne infection that is usually found in canines and cattle in the wild.

“The Gir lion is the pride of Gujarat but unfortunately their large-scale deaths are a manifestation of negligence. The reasons for their deaths have not occurred overnight but are a result of the state's prolonged mismanagement and poor oversight,” Patel alleged.

He suggested urgent measures, including the extension of the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) — a buffer zone around the protected area to up to 10 km.

“The width of the ESZ should extend up to 10 km from the protected area. In Gujarat, the ESZ extends only up to 0.5 km. This has caused unwarranted interference in the ecosystem of the lions. The Centre in consultation with the State government can consider revising the ESZ for Gir National Park,” he said.

Extending the eco-sensitive zone sounds relevant given the increase in the population of lions. The big cats often wander off the protected areas, thus bringing them increasingly closer to conflict with humans and disease.

“There must be a fine balance between promoting tourism and conserving wildlife. The expanding dog menace and uncontrolled growth of resorts near the sanctuary have become a serious threat for the survival of the lions. The Government must show the will to end up such illegal resorts irrespective of their ownership,” he said.

Patel also argued that there was an urgent need to revamp the existing medical infrastructure for the species.

“Both the Centre & the state must make immediate investments for better medical facilities for the lions… There is a huge shortage of both medicines and trained veterinary doctors in the national park. There is not a single intensive care ambulance for the lions at Gir,” he said.
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