Sunday, August 05, 2007

India: Lion, leopard killed by vehicles in same day

Sibte Husain Bukhari

Junagadh, August 3: Within less than 24 hours, one more big cat — a young lioness, came under the wheels of an an unknown vehicle in Gir (east) forest division. The incident occurred on the state highway No. 90 between Chaturi and Khadadhar villages in Khambha taluka early on Friday morning. On Thursday too, a young leopard cub was killed when she came under the wheels of an unknown vehicle.

Deputy Conservator of Forests (Gir east) V G Rana rushed to the spot on being informed about the incident. He sent the carcass to Khambha for a post-mortem examination, which was conducted by the veterinary officer in Khambha.

Rana said, "The post-mortem report confirmed that the two-year-old lioness succumbed to injuries. It had multiple fractures in its right limb and the right side of the head. All the claws have been found intact. We are on the lookout for the vehicle."

Recent incidents have brought to light the increasing pressures on wildlife in and around the Gir forest, which is the last resort of the Asiatic lion. Though the wild animal population here, particularly that of lions and leopards has considerably increased in the last decade, so has the human population. This has led to an increase in animal-human conflict.

When contacted, Conservator of Forests (wildlife) Bharat Pathak said, "Every year we carry out about 60 operations to rescue lions and leopards in Junagadh wildlife circle comprising the three districts of Junagadh, Amreli and Porbander. More than half of these operations are carried out to save the leopard for which we regularly received complaints from the revenue area."

According to the last census of lions and leopards carried out in May 2006, the leopard population in Gujarat was estimated at 1,100 plus. About 30 per cent (nearly 380) leopards are found in Junagadh district particularly in Gir, Girnar, forests on the costal belt, reserved forest, vidi land and in protected areas under Junagadh wildlife circle.

When asked about accidental deaths of big cats, which mostly occur while crossing the road, Pathak said, "We have identified three roads which have frequent movement of wild animals. We have written to the government departments concerned to put up speedbreakers on these roads, for we cannot stop traffic on them altogether," he said.

When contacted Deputy Conservator of Forests (Gir-west) B P Pati said, "Whenever we receive complaints about leopards taking shelter in revenue areas particularly sugarcane fields, we trap them and then, release them deep inside the jungle. It happens all year round," he said.

Rana said, "The leopard population has increased in the last two decades. And wild animals know no boundary such as revenue or forest area.

About a decade ago, there was very little human population around the Gir forest area. But now things are different.

While in 1984 the estimated population of leopards in Gujarat was 498, in 2006 it reached 1,100. And, with animals and human both increasing in numbers there's bound to be encroachment from either side.

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