Thursday, August 28, 2014

Gujarat lions vanish from UP forest.

VARANASI: In one of its kind wildlife mystery, what actually happened to the three Asiatic lions brought from the Gir forests of Gujarat to Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary in Kashi Wildlife Division is still a mystery. Last counted in 1965, their number was 11.

Interestingly, even the Kashi Wildlife Division officials have no idea or recorded facts about the fate of the big cats brought to the sanctuary when it was opened some five decades back. "There is no record with the department about the disappearance of the lions," said a forest official of Kashi Wildlife division. "It is believed that either they would have fallen prey to the hunters or migrated to nearby jungles of Bihar," said the officer.

"As the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, was not in force at that time, there was no effective control on hunting of wild animals," said forest officer of Kashi Wildlife Division Chandra Shekar Pandey, expressing his worst fear over the fate of the lions. But he added he was not sure about the ordeal the lions faced at that time in the sanctuary as there were no records.
"Lions were released in that region years back and probably all those animals died. We do not have any records maintained of that time, so it's difficult to say what happened of them. Moreover, enforcement was not strong at that time and there must not have been proper planning to release them," said PCCF (wildlife), UP, Rupak De.

The concept of reintroduction for purposes of conservation of Asiatic lions was accepted in 1956 by the Indian Wildlife Board, and the offer of UP government to host a population in the Chakia forests was accepted. In 1956 a lion and two lionesses were captured from Gir and placed in a zoo in Junagadh for nine months before being shifted to Chandraprabha sanctuary in 1957.

Initially, the lions prospered increasing in number to four in 1958, five in 1960, seven in 1962 and 11 in 1965, but after that they disappeared. The forest officials admit that there might have been some shortcoming in monitoring the wild cats.

In other such translocation, eight Gir lions -- four males and four females -- were brought from Gujarat's Junagadh and Hyderabad zoos to UP under animal exchange programme. While three pairs were put up at the Lucknow zoo, one was sent to the Kanpur zoo. Later, one pair was shifted to the Etwah lion safari in April.

Spread in an area of 9,600 hectares of forest, the Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary is located between Chakiya and Naugarh in Chandauli district, the neighbouring district of PM Narendra Modi's parliamentary constituency. The sanctuary was set up in 1957, covering the reserved forest area in Chandraprabha and some parts of Jaimohini Range. The sanctuary has a variety of wild animals, including black buck, chital, sambhar, nilgai, wild boar, porcupine, Indian gazelle, gharial and python.

About 70km from Varanasi Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary are the picturesque Rajdari and Devdari waterfalls. The sanctuary is one of the Protected Areas (PAs) of the National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016) that was adopted in 2002 emphasizing the people's participation and their support for wildlife conservation.

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