Wednesday, June 27, 2007

India's Gir to have forensic labs to fight lion poaching

Soumitra Trivedi - Mumbai - Ahmedabad June 13, 2007

If all goes well at the policy level then Gir National Park, Sasan in Junagadh district will have two Forensic Science Laboratories (FSL) including one at Gir Sanctuary and one mobile FSL.

This is aimed at curbing lion poaching in the sanctuary. Gujarat is considering setting up these facilities.

Government sources say that three parties are involved in the discussions which include the Ministry for Home and Ministry for Forests and Environment and the top officials of the country’s most advanced FSL facility in Gandhinagar.

Sources added that a policy-level decision is likely to be taken before the election.

Sources in the Gujarat Ministry for Home and Gandhinagar FSL confirmed that the state is seriously considering setting up these facilities at the National Park.

A high-level official of FSL, Gandhinagar, while talking to Business Standard, said on terms of anonymity, “The state government is serious about setting up these facilities in Gir National Park. The government move is aimed at curbing the lion poaching.”

On the need for FSL facilities in Gir National Park he said, “If such facilities are available in the sanctuary itself it will be easier for the forest department to investigate poaching. The criminals can be nabbed within a shorter period if such facilities are there. The mobile FSL will be a part of the main FSL and it will be a big help in carrying out the initial investigation on the crime spot itself. In case a carcass is found in the sanctuary the mobile lab will help finding out if the animal was poached or it was a natural death,” he said. However, he said that no formal proposal has been made till now.

Government department sources say the final decision will be taken before the elections as it may help the government to project itself in different light. The move is also seen as a damage control process by many.

A major controversy was created recently after many incidents of poaching were unearthed in the Gir National Park. The state had confessed during the state assembly proceedings that 28 lions died during the last two years.

Carcasses of over 16 lions were found between February 24 to March 31, eight of them are feared to be poached. A number of arrests were made including three beat guards and a retired forest ranger. A gang of tribal poachers was arrested after investigation.

Recently, the Gujarat government has also decided to form a 10-member committee comprising of police and forest department officials. It will call a monthly monitoring committee and will monitor the conservation activities in the Gir National Park. leftnm=lmnu2&subLeft=1&autono=287532&tab=r

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