Updated: April 2, 2021 1:27:03 pm
A fire broke out inside the Lala-Budiya Great Indian Bustard (GIB) Sanctuary near Naliya in Kutch district of Gujarat on Thursday evening, damaging at least 20 hectares of vegetation. However, forest officials said no damage to wildlife was reported and that the fire was doused within an hour with the help of locals.
“The fire started from an agricultural field on the periphery of the sanctuary and due to high wind velocity, it spread to the sanctuary. With the help of locals, we managed to douse the fire within an hour but by that time, grass in around 20 hectare was damaged,” Tushar Patel, assistant conservator forests (ACF) of Naliya in Kutch (west) territorial forest division told The Indian Express.
“Due to the high wind velocity and the fact that there was lots of grass which was dry, the fire spread rapidly and covered 20 hectares out of the 200-hectare area of the sanctuary,” the ACF further said.
However, no damage to wildlife was done, said Patel. “We have not observed any visible damage to wildlife. No bird or animal carcasses have been seen post the fire,” he said.
The Lala-Budiya sanctuary, a patch of two-square-kilometer grassland near Naliya, is among the last patches of grasslands in Abdasa taluka of Kutch hosting the only tiny population GIBs in Gujarat. Experts say due to habitat degradation, the population of the GIBs, the flagship species of grassland birds, has fallen drastically in recent years and their numbers are estimated to be a less than a dozen.
“This is for the first time in the 32-year-long history of the sanctuary that a fire has occurred. The fire started from an agricultural field around 500 metres away from the border of the sanctuary and spread to the protected grassland due to strong winds. Our beat guard and a watchman posted at the sanctuary were on duty. Local farmers rushed with water tankers and tillers and helped douse the fire,” said Ratanji Sodha, range forest officer of Naliya (south) range, which covers the GIB sanctuary said.
Sodha said the fire started around 5 pm on Thursday and but was doused within an hour.
He said the firelines had been created inside the sanctuary and that they helped keep the fire limited to a small area of the protected grassland area. “Prima facie, this appears to be an accident and no offence has been registered in this connection so far,” Sodha said, adding that a fire had damaged Bhanada grassland around 10 years ago and that was the last incident of any major fire in the GIB habitat.
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