Thursday, April 24, 2008

Gir lion show: Sell cattle as bait, claim damages

23 Apr, 2008, 0240 hrs IST,Himanshu Kaushik, TNN

SASAN: Call it the lion's share, twice over. For every "lion show" organised in Gir — using cattle to be attacked and eaten by lions as tourists watch — there is a bonus for those providing the bait.

While farmers here organise these shows to earn money from tourists or sell their ageing cows and buffaloes to organisers, they also claim compensation from the government to pay for the loss of livestock. Statistics with the forest department shows the number of applications and the compensation paid have shot up over the years.

On Tuesday, TOI reported how "live shows" are organised in and around the Gir sanctuary, where live bait is used to lure lions and groups of tourists pay anywhere between Rs 500 and Rs 10,000 to watch. Forest officials claim it is non-lactating cows and buffaloes that are sold the most, each fetching Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000. As soon as the show is over, the farmer informs the forest department that his has been killed by a lion.

"Not only are villagers in and around Gir earning from tourists by organising shows or by selling their livestock as baits, they are making money by fooling the government too," said an official. While a compensation of Rs 5,000 has to be paid for a milch cow, non-lactating cows fetch Rs 1,100. A non-lactating buffalo would fetch Rs 2,100.

Sources say an elaborate racket is in place, whereby a beat forest department guard certifies that the animal was attacked killed by a lion, despite knowing that bait was offered to the beast. The department then pays compensation on the basis of this certificate.


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