Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Gir celebrates 50 years as lions' sole sanctuary.

AHMEDABAD: Gir sanctuary completes 50 years of conservation on Friday with the release of a special postal stamp and launch of year-long festivities which will celebrate the famous man-lion relationship in Saurashtra — the only abode of the Asiatic lion in the world.

From a time many centuries back when the lion kingdom used to cover almost whole of east Asia, it is the people of peninsular Saurashtra who saved the beast from complete annihilation. Hunted down by humans and tigers, Gir had 174 lions when it was notified as a sanctuary on September 18, 1965.

In 1904, the Nawab of Junagadh Mohabat Para III banned hunting. However, hunting with permission continued even after Independence and was completely banned only after the sanctuary was declared in 1965.

Among the best-managed sanctuaries in the country, Gir has seen the lion population growing to 523, while tigers have continued to dwindle in other states of India. The protected area, which was 1265 sq. km. in 1965, has now expanded to 22,000 sq. km. as the lion kept conquering back lost territory.

SC Pant, principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife), said, "Lion conservation by the forest department would just not have been possible without the people of Saurashtra who are so much in harmony with nature." He said for the entire next year, numerous people-centric programmes will be held all over Saurashtra to celebrate this comfortable human-lion interface.

Sandeep Kumar, deputy conservator of forest in Gir, said it was essential to take the message of lion conservation to far-flung areas of Saurashtra as the growing population forces the beast to look for new territories.

H S Singh, member of National Board for Wildlife, says, "We still need to help the lion overcome new challenges posed by new industries to the coastal areas, along with roads and railways."


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