Gujarat Govt To Set Up New Wildlife Division Outside Gir Sanctuary, Expand Safety Cover for Asiatic Lions
The wildlife division for certain areas in Amreli and Bhavnagar district, where 200 Asiatic lions across 400 villages are located, so far has lacked a dedicated division for rescue and conversation operations.
A two-year-old Asiatic lion cub is rescued from a well in the village of Amrapur located about a hundred miles north of Gir Wildlife Sanctuary (PTI)
Ahmedabad: The Gujarat government has initiated a process to establish a new Shetrunji Wildlife Division outside the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, ensuring the endangered Asiatic lions a bigger safety cover.
The Gir Wildlife Sanctuary – the last abode of the Asiatic lions in the world - will see 104 new posts including Deputy Conservator of Forests, two Assistant Conservator of Forests and seven Range Forest Officers and other administrative staff, for the Shetrunji division.
Currently, there are two wildlife divisions in Gir Wildlife Sanctuary - Gir East and Gir West division which function under the Junagadh Wildlife Circle. The new Shetrunji Wildlife Division will also fall under the Junagadh Wildlife Circle.
The Junagadh Wildlife Circle is headed by the Chief Conservator of Forests.
According to a 2015 census, Gir was home to 523 lions. Out of the total 523 Lions, 200 lions were found outside the Sanctuary spread across more than 400 villages in the Amreli and Bhavnagar district.
In recent years, the lions roaming outside the protected areas have faced harassment by people and illegal lion-shows have become a headache for the forest department.
Since, there was no dedicated wildlife division for these areas in Amreli and Bhavnagar district, protection and rescue operations are looked after by the respective social forestry and territorial divisions in addition to their routine work.
The new wildlife division equipped with the needed manpower and infrastructure, the forest department will be able to protect and conserve lions effectively outside the wildlife Sanctuary. The new wildlife division will be headquartered at Palitana town of Bhavnagar district. Seven new wildlife Ranges will be established in this new division which includes Rajula, Jafarabad, Liliya, Mahuva, Jesar, Palitana and Talaja wildlife Range. 30 animal trackers will also be recruited for (on contractual) basis in this new division.
According to the forest department, in last two years, as many as 2156 wild animals were rescued, mostly outside wildlife Sanctuary areas. In order to strengthen rescue operations, seven wildlife Rescue Centres will be set up in Amreli, Gir-Somnath, Junagadh and Jamnagar districts.
The additional centres will help attend wildlife rescue calls immediately and will reduce human-wildlife conflict besides timely treatment for lions. Each Rescue Centre can accommodate 30-40 wild animals. The forest department will form 10 new rescue teams as well to handle rescue operations.
Besides new wildlife division, one Maliya-Hatina Wildlife Range will be created which will under the Gir-West Division. The government has approved 23 new posts including Range Forest officer for the new Range.
It must be noted that 204 lions have died in the Gir forest region over the last two years. The Gujarat Government had reported these deaths in the legislative Assembly in February this year. Of the 204 Lions deaths, 27 lions died because of unnatural causes which include falling into well or being run over by a train.
Expanding Lions’ Kingdom
In order to provide ecological and legal safety, the government has proposed to declare 109 square km area in Bhavnagar and Amreli district as Conservation Reserve. According to sources, the process has been underway at different stages at the government level.
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