Saturday, March 1, 2014
Death of Gir lions in train accidents a cause for concern.
The death of four Gir sanctuary lions in the past 30 days, after coming under the wheels of goods trains, has raised concerns in the sole abode of the Asiatic lion. A lion was run over by a container train near Bhambhar village in Amreli on Saturday last. In another incident, a speeding goods train mowed down two lionesses, less than 40 km from the sanctuary, on the Surendranagar-Pipavav port rail line in Amreli on January 22.
Officials say the rise in the number of such unnatural deaths since the 1990s is a cause for concern. According to the 2010 Census, the lion population was 411. It is now estimated to be over 500.
The 2010 Census estimated that the lions were spread across a 10,000 sq. km area. Now, they occupy double the territory. Thus space is limited for them. “Since their population has increased considerably, lions now step out into non-forest areas and become victims of accidents,” senior forest official A.K. Sharma told The Hindu.
Asked if there was a solution, Mr. Sharma said, “Their translocation to Madhya Pradesh is the only way out.”
However, exercising this option has become a political issue with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi being referred to as the “Lion of Gujarat.”
Mr. Sharma said the time had come for the State to take up the cause of wildlife conservation.
“If some lions are translocated, their deaths can be prevented.”
State Forest Department officials said railway drivers and guards would be sensitised to the threat posed to lions when trains pass through sensitive areas near the sanctuary.
A series of meetings on conserving lions were held between the railways and forest officials on Tuesday and Wednesday, they said.
The department has decided to deploy a beat guard every 3,500 metres along the Pipavav-Dhasa railway line.