In view of the recent spate of lion deaths,the forest department has launched an awareness drive and a Lion Rath for villagers living on the fringes of Gir forest.
Minister of State for Forest and Environment Govind Patel flagged off the Lion Rath from Sasan Gir on Sunday,after holding a meeting with top forest officers of Junagadh wildlife circle and local community leaders and village sarpanchs.
The rath,created by modifying a jeep,has flax banners,enlisting the dos and donts for villagers with respect to lions. A loudspeaker,mounted on the vehicle,sounds a pre-recorded audio message,requesting villagers for their support in conservation of lions and precautionary measures they require to take.
We thought this is the most effective medium to reach out to local people and muster their support and cooperation. The rath will cover seven to eight villages every day and a couple of our staff members will be accompanying it for interacting with villagers, Anshuman Sharma,deputy conservator of forest (DCF) of Gir (East) division said on Tuesday.
The plan is to take the rath through the 130-odd villages located on the border of Gir (East) forest division and create awareness among the denizens here about the wildlife and legal provisions, Sharma said. Sources said the rath would also go to villages on the borders of Gir (West) forest division and Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary .
Forest officers said the minister was in Sasan to take stock of the situation after five lions died here in the past fortnight. Patel held a meeting with the sarpanchs,members of the eco-development committees as well as wildlife enthusiasts to seek their suggestions and listen to their grievances regarding man-animal conflict,particularly damage to crops by wild animals, a top forest officer told The Indian Express.
Incidentally,five farmers of Moti Monpari village in Visavadar taluka of Junagadh were arrested last week after a lion was allegedly electrocuted an a farm. This had drawn sharp reaction from Bharatiya Kisan Sangh.
Sarpanchs suggested that erecting barbed wire fencing or a wall around sanctuaries or digging trenches in some areas would prevent wild animals from entering farmlands and damaging crops. They also demanded to hike in compensation for cattle killed by these wild animals. The minister also assured to look into their suggestions, the officer added.
In the past 15 days,three deaths were reported from the Gir (West) division,while one reportedly died in the Gir (East) division. The fifth was reported from Krakach in Amreli district on Sunday.