April 10, 2021 9:36:02 am
Nine Asiatic Lions and eight leopards were among the 69 species of protected wild animals and birds that were hunted or poached in forests of Gujarat during the last three years.
The Gujarat government shared a list of over 1,200 protected animals and birds of different species that were hunted between 2018-19 and 2020-21 (till September 30, 2020) in response to a unstarred question asked by Congress MLA CJ Chavda during the just concluded Budget session of the Gujarat Assembly.
Apart from lions and leopards, a host of other animals including Bluebulls or Nilgais (86), Pangolin (2), Indian Wild Ass (4), Monitor Lizard (1), Spiny tailed Lizard (20), Red Sandboa (37), Chinkara (6), Star Tortoise (14), Python (9), among others, were hunted during this three year period.
A number of migratory waterfowl species, including Gadwall (7), Pintail (33), Barheaded Goose (2), Common Pochard (17), Common Teal (21), Coot (3), Wigeon (2) and Cranes (32) fell prey to the hunters. Among birds, peacocks (52), rose ringed parakeet (442), Alexandrine parakeet (147), Plumheaded parakeet (7), were hunted in large numbers.
When asked about the poaching to lions and leopards in Gujarat, VJ Rana, conservator of forest (Wildlife Crime), said the definition of “poaching” in the Wildlife Protection Act, is a wide one and sometimes even includes accidents. “Traditionally, hunting is a killing for a game or for food. If you go by the definition of poaching, many things are included. So sometimes, when there is an accident, the offence is booked under poaching. If there is an unofficial lion show and if they have lured the animal then as per the definition it constitutes poaching. Similarly, if you remove eggs or an reptile of a bird, then it is also falls under the definition of poaching. It is a wide definition. So it may not be actual poaching in several cases,” Rana explained.
Under Section 2(16) of The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, “hunting” includes: “killing or poisoning of any wild animal or captive animal and every attempt to do so”; “capturing, coursing, snaring, trapping, driving or baiting any wild or captive animal and every attempt to do so”; and “injuring or destroying or taking any part of the body of any such animal or, in the case of wild birds or reptiles, damaging eggs of such birds or reptiles, or disturbing the eggs or nests of such birds or reptiles.”
Dushyant Vasavada, Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) of Junagadh wildlife circle, which covers most of the habitat of lions in the state, said, “There has not been any incident of poaching by any organised gang. These deaths were due to lions getting electrocuted or getting trapped in fencing on agricultural farms etc. But such incidents are also, as per provisions of Wildlife (Protection) Act, are treated as hunting,” Vasavada told The Indian Express.
During these three years from 2018-19 to 2020-21, the government has caught 336 persons which includes 11 gangs of hunters. When asked about gangs of poachers operating in Gujarat, “Poaching is rare here… Only one attempt (of poaching) of was made in case of Asiatic Lions in 2007-08,” Rana added.
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