Tuesday, March 6, 2007

In first for Gir, two lionesses, cub killed; forest officials say poachers at work by SIBTE HUSAIN BUKHARI

Source: The Indian Express


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In first for Gir, two lionesses, cub killed; forest officials say poachers at work


Posted online: Tuesday, March 06, 2007 at 0000 hrs IST

JUNAGADH, MARCH 5 Two lionesses and a cub were killed by poachers inside the protected area of the Gir sanctuary, forest department officials said on Monday.
They say this is the first time it has happened within the protected area, though there have been instances of lions being poisoned or electrocuted in areas around the sanctuary.

The claws and bones of the three cats are missing and it is suspected to be the handiwork of professional poachers. Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) Bharat Pathak said: “Prima facie, this seems to be the work of professional hunters, not locals.”

The mutilated carcasses of the big cats and a cub were found on March 3, and the incident may have occurred around March 1, forest officials said.

The department learnt of the killing from an informer, who told officials he had seen the carcasses lying on the Babaria-Una road, which passes through the Gir sanctuary and is open to visitors all day. The area falls under the jurisdiction of Jamwala Assistant Conservator of Forests headquarters in Gir (West) forest division.

A special investigation team has been formed by the Forest Department to probe the killings, and the Chief Wildlife Warden (Gujarat) has declared a reward of Rs 50,000 for information regarding the incident.

“Preliminary investigations have revealed that the lionesses and the cub were killed around March 1. The Forest Department was tipped off by an informer on March 3. Following this, Assistant Conservator of Forest (Jamwala) rushed to the spot and confirmed the finding,” said Pathak

“Apart from the claws and the skulls, all the bones have been found missing from the carcasses. This has led us to believe that professionals were involved,” said Deputy Conservator of Forest (Gir West) B L Shukala. “However, as pieces of skin have been found from the area from where the carcasses were discovered, it seems that animal skin was not what they were after.”

“A dog squad and a team of forensic experts completed searching the area by Monday afternoon. The sniffer dogs led the team to the roadside, and we suspect that the persons involved in the poaching escaped in a vehicle,” said Shukala. “We are expecting the FSL’s report in four-five days.”

The Forest Department also convened a meeting of sarpanches from Babaria, Jamwala, Talala and nearby villages on Monday afternoon for distribution of pamphlets declaring the reward for information on the incident, said Shukala. “A special investigation team comprising Jamwala ACF’s mobile squad and Talala ACF has been formed to probe the killings. The team will be led by Deputy Conservator of Forest (Gir West). The Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) will monitor the investigations,” said Shukala.

Though a protected zone, Gir lions have often been target of poachers. “A few years ago, a tribal gang from Madhya Pradesh had been arrested from Plaswa village ( around 10 km from Junagadh) and animal skin, feathers found in their possession,” said Bharat Pathak adding that of late, even locals have been targeting lions for preying on their livestock or villagers.
In August 2005, two persons were arrested from an ashram on charges of poisoning two big cats,” he said.

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