Friday, April 25, 2008

Poachers on prowl again

25 Apr 2008, 0203 hrs IST,Himanshu Kaushik,TNN

SASAN: The Asiatic lion may be under threat again. Over 200 members of the Baheliya tribes, who were suspected to have killed lions in the Gir forest last year, are back.

There are intelligence inputs indicating their camps in and around the forest, which have put the Junagadh district police and forest department on vigil.

An alert has been sounded in the villages around the Gir National Park to look out for Baheliyas who are labourers from Madhya Pradesh.

Officials from the forest department confirmed that with the sugarcane harvesting season already on, a large number of labourers from MP are camping in Saurashtra.

On March 3, 2007, carcasses of three lions were found in the forest. The lions were killed by poachers in the Babaria range under Gir West Forest division. On March 29 the same year, three more lions were killed in the same area of the forest, followed by two more on April 12, on the outskirts of Bhandariya village near Jesar town in Bhavnagar.

The CID (crime), which was probing the incidents, had written a letter to inspector general of police (Junagadh range) Mohan Jha last year about the Baheliya community being "actively involved" in poaching of Asiatic lions in Gir sanctuary. This community, apart from working in the fields, indulges in poaching of wild animals under the garb of selling traditional medicines and toys.

Jha told TOI: "This year the police are on alert and watching the activities of the labourers." Conservator of Forest Bharat Pathak refused such intelligence inputs.

But said that the forest department was using local NGOs to keep a watch on these tribes.Kanubhai Sanabhai, sarpanch of Vadal village in Akolwadi range, said the villagers are alert now.


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