Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Protecting Gir's lions: Kuno's gun culture worries experts.

AHMEDABAD: Two lion experts, Ravi Chellam and YV Jhala, have expressed concern in their report over the gun culture, anti-social activities and poaching that is rampant around Kuno wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh where some of the Gir lions are to be shifted.

The report, 'Action plan for the reintroduction of the Asiatic lion in Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary Madhya Pradesh,' recommends that the gun culture in the region needs to be dealt with appropriately without disturbing local socio-economic customs.

"A large majority of the people in the area own weapons, mostly licensed guns," says paragraph 19 of the report. It states that people from lower economic strata depend on livelihoods based on forest products. These people have to be provided with alternative livelihood options.

The report says that 40% of the revenue generated from the lion reintroduction project should percolate to local marginalized communities if anti-social activities are to be reduced and gun culture restricted. "This will substantially prevent them from joining in anti-social activities. Deliberations should be made to dissuade the local gangs of dacoits and poachers and rehabilitate them in the mainstream of society," the report suggests.

The report raises concerns over poaching incidents.

Experts said that Kuno has people who, on an average, eat meat once a week or once a month. A large number of residents eat meat daily, the report says. People in the area own guns, bows and arrows and catapults. "If the natural prey base [for the lions] is to be enhanced, poaching activities will have to be controlled," states the report.

It further says that a proper rehabilitation plan for awarding market-based compensation against the death of livestock and destruction of crop have to be designed.

Chellam and Jhala have said that there are chances of people getting severely injured or killed during the initial years of reintroduction of the lion as the local community in Kuno does not have any memorable experience of living with either lions or tigers.

"Gir lions attack and maul humans in accidental interfaces. An ex gratia compensation scheme has to be introduced and revised regularly so as to circumvent hostility among local communities," the report says. It goes on to suggest that victims of a lion attack or their kin have to be provided employment with the forest department.


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