Saturday, April 14, 2007

Hi-tech plans underway to protect India's lions

Sreenivas Janyala

Ahmedabad, April 12: CCTVs, global positioning systems, weapons for guards, special mobile units; conservation and management of Gir National Park and Sanctuary is about to go hi-tech. The State Forest Department is preparing a draft for a new Gir management plan aimed at augmenting and strengthening the conservation strategy. The draft will be ready in the next two days and, after approval from the state government, will be put into action. Principal chief conservator forests (wildlife) Pradeep Khanna, who is part of the team preparing the draft, says “First, we are looking at increasing manpower at all levels, from beat guards to foresters to senior level officials. We also want to create special mobile units, preferably armed, to patrol the sanctuary and fringe areas. CCTVs are being proposed to be installed at strategic locations to monitor movement of vehicles and people, while global positioning systems will help track and locate movement of wild animals.”

The funds for implementing this plan would come from the recently set up Gujarat Lion Conservation Society with Rs 40 crore marked for Project Lion. To provide extra mobility to forest officials and patrolling staff, more vehicles will also be bought.

The draft also lays emphasis on reconsidering the existing communication and information exchange set up between forest officials and communities that live within and outside the sanctuary as well. There are about 400 maldhari (cattle owners) families residing inside the Gir Sanctuary. Besides, several other communities live on the fringes of the sanctuary where they often lead their cattle for grazing. They are also an important source of information about any suspicious activity for forest officials.

Forest officials, through community development and interaction programmes, remain in touch with these communities. But after the poaching incidents, which not only caught the forest department unaware, and it was also unable to gather any credible information, Conservation and Gir management officials feel the communication channels need to be reworked with offers of incentives in exchange for information. fullstory.php?newsid=231475

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