Monday, November 30, 2015

Barda gets ESZ cover, no lions yet.

AHMEDABAD: An Eco-sensitive zone (ESZ), 500 metres to 5.6 km away from the boundaries of the Barda Wildlife Sanctuary and covering 23 villages, has been earmarked by the Union ministry for forest and environment. With this, restrictions on mining, setting up of industries and other activities that may adversely affect the wildlife in the region have come into force.
The sanctuary straddling the border of Porbandar and Jamnagar districts, which was created in 1979 when Chandraprabha (Uttar Pradesh) experiment of lion translocation failed, is, however, yet to host any lion even after 36 years.

While demarcating the ESZ, the Union government has mentioned that Barda Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the richest and compact biodiversity patches covered on all sides by good quality dry deciduous miscellaneous forests, dry thorn forest, shrub lands and wetland forests along with bamboo patches dotted in between and it maintains rich biodiversity comprising 759 species of trees, herbs, shrubs and climbers, 22 mammal species, which include some rare species, 26 species of reptiles, four species of amphibians, 55 species of butterfly, more than 3,000 species of insects, and more than 269 species of birds.

Besides Barda, another sanctuary that is waiting to hear the roars of lions is Kuno-Palpur. A 12-member committee has been formed to oversee translocation of Gir lions to Kuno-Palpur sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh in the light of an April 2013 order of the Supreme Court.

Sources said that both these projects — Barda and Kuno — were designed to shift some of the Gir lions in a bid to save them from extinction in the case of an epidemic or natural calamity. Recently a study, titled 'Assessment of Barda landscape for reintroduction of lions', by Wildlife Institute of India (WII) experts Y V Jhala and his team of Kausik Banerjee, Parabita Basu, Stotra Chakrabarti and Subrata Gayen, has pointed out how Barda was actively taken up as an alternative site for translocation of Asiatic lions by the Gujarat forest department when Kuno-Palpur was being proposed by wildlife biologists in 1990.

In order to save the Gir lions from becoming extinct, Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary of Chakia Forest Division, Uttar Pradesh, was taken up where one male lion and two lionesses were released. Lion numbers increased to about 11 within eight years. However, these big cats in Chandraprabha were killed within a decade of initial reintroduction, mostly due to retaliatory killings.

The Gujarat forest department subsequently selected Barda hill as an alternative site for reintroduction of Gir lions. Barda hill was declared a wildlife sanctuary on February 12, 1979 but nothing moved till the 1990s. In 1990s, wildlife biologists selected Kuno in Madhya Pradesh as a potential reintroduction site. Following this, Barda was considered as an alternative site by Gujarat because of its eco-climatic and human community resemblance with many parts of the Gir landscape.

Barda can be good home for lions: Experts

The WII study states that in the case of Barda, connectivity with Gir area is not desirable. Hence, the lion population in Barda would need to be managed artificially as a 'meta-population' where lion movement is human-controlled with appropriate checks for disease and to avoid catastrophic mortality caused by an epidemic. This would increase the importance of conservation. With this, the long-term viability of lions in Saurashtra will be enhanced by adding Barda, the report states.

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