ADDITIONAL CHIEF secretary Punamchand Parmar, who held the charge of forest and environment department in the Gujarat government till recently, on Monday said the department should consider ways of accommodating more wild animals within protected areas to mitigate man-animal conflict, and suggested the idea of pruning and thinning of forests should be looked into.
Minister of State for Forest and Environment Shabdasharan Tadvi, however, said no such proposal was under consideration as of now.
Addressing the inaugural session of a two-day national workshop on conservation of Asiatic lions in Gujarat at Sasan, the headquarters of Gir National Park and Sanctuary, Parmar said it was encouraging that the population of Asiatic lions has gone up to 523 in 2015 from 177 in 1968. But at the same time, he said, it was a matter of concern also since the big cats were moving out of sanctuaries and roaming in areas dominated by humans.
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“We are also concerned about the safety of people of the villages in which lions are moving. In such a scenario, you will have to think of how our sanctuary area can be pruned and thinned so that the population of herbivores in the forest goes up, their movement becomes free and movement of lions also becomes free. You will have to think of how more animals can live in our captive areas,” said Parmar, ACS for urban development and urban housing department of the Gujarat government.
The two-day workshop marked the culmination of year-long celebrations of the golden jubilee of the Gir sanctuary. Gir forest was notified as a sanctuary in September 1965 and part of it was notified as a National Park in 1975. Gir Sanctuary and National Park are the oldest sanctuary and national park in Gujarat.
Parmar said his observations were based on the ecosystem of Serengeti National Park in Kenya. “I observed that since it is a grassland, the density of herbivore population is high and therefore, the lion population density is also high. I suggest two-three of you should visit a couple of such sanctuaries, and later share your observations with the state government,” he said, while addressing forest officers, wildlife conservationists and nature enthusiasts.
Speaking earlier, retired chief wildlife warden of Gujarat, G A Patel said that the increased number of endangered Asiatic lions presented new challenges to the forest department and stressed on the development of the area as greater Gir region. Patel is a strong votary of thinning Gir forest, the only natural habitat of sub-population of Asiatic lions.
The core Gir forest is a thick woodland of teak and other trees, and a quarter of forest officers and conservationists have long held the view that the forest should be thinned so that it can accommodate more wild animals.
But minister Tadvi told The Indian Express on the sidelines of the workshop that there was no proposal of thinning the Gir forest. “There is no such proposal under our consideration. Nor do we intend to take up any such matter in the near future,”he said. However, other forest officers said that a decision in this regard will be taken after through discussion and research.