Monday, March 3, 2008

High alert around Gir range on poaching anniversary.

Posted online: Friday , February 29, 2008 at 11:53:32
Updated: Friday , February 29, 2008 at 12:13:33

Junagadh, February 28

The forest department has geared up to check incidents of poaching in and around the Gir Forest. As the first anniversary of the infamous Gir poaching incidents approaches, a high alert has been sounded across the range against a possible repeat of the last year’s acts.

According to BP Pati, deputy conservator of forest (Gir west), “A high alert has been sounded in and around the Gir forest. Apart from regular check post, three more permanent checkposts have been erected on three different strategically important points.”

It was on March 3, 2007 that the carcasses of three lions were found in the forest. The lions were killed by poachers in the Babaria range falling under Gir West Forest division. And it was just the beginning of a string of daredevil poaching acts that rocked the range during the previous year.

In an open defiance to security clamped by the state government, poachers repeated their dastardly act 26 days later. On March 29, three more lions were killed in the same area of the forest sending the forest department into a tizzy. And before the department could chalk out any action plan to check such incidents, two more lions were killed on April 12 — this time in the revenue area, on the outskirts of Bhandariya village near Jesar town in Bhavnagar. With this third major poaching incident in nearly a month and a half, the very existence of the last surviving group of Asiatic lions looked in danger.

An stung forest department was really clueless about the whole affair even as Chief Minister Narendra Modi air-dashed to Sasan — the prime hub of lions — to take stock of the situation. Call it a result if a relentless effort or sheer chance, the day the chief minister visited Sasan, the Junagadh police nabbed 21 alleged poachers, including seven women, allegedly responsible for the Gir incidents. Later, the Bhavanagar police also arrested 17 people, including seven women, while they were planning their escape. All of them belonged to the Parghi tribes from Madhya Pradesh’s Katni district. Poaching is their main occupation. All of them are still in custody and their bail pleas have been repeatedly rejected — first by the trial court and then on January, 2008 by the Gujarat High Court.

When contacted, conservator of forest (wildlife) Bharat Pathak said, “Intensified patrolling and checking of migrant labourers working in agriculture fields in the area surrounding the forest is going on round the clock.” He added that in a bid to keep a close watch on any suspicious movement in the revenue area adjoining the forest, some 200 villagers had been pressed into service after being appointed as ‘friends of wildlife’.

“Soon, 100 more people would be added to this group. A series of village meetings have been organised as a part of people’s awareness programme and village heads have been asked to keep extra vigil in their respective area,” he said.

JS Solanki, deputy conservator of the forest (Gir East), said: “We will not allow the repetition of the last year’s incident. Random checking at any place surrounding the Gir Forest is going on. Besides, we have also been effectively using mobile checkposts in our strategy.”

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