In an attempt to mitigate the human-animal conflicts in Gujarat and to increase the prey-base for wild animals in its forests, the State Forest Department is planning to set up three breeding centres of ungulates, jungle fowls and hares in Sabarkantha, Dahod and Bhavnagar districts.
The initiative is part of a Project for Ecosystem Restoration in Gujarat (PERG) to be funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which has sanctioned a soft loan worth Rs 905 crore to the Forest department for the project of nine years’ duration. PERG, expected to begin this year, includes restoration of various ecologically sensitive areas of the state like coastal areas, grasslands, wetlands and degraded forests.
A top forest official said, “The concept behind setting up the breeding centres is to make sure that wild animals get enough prey-base within forests so that they do not venture out and come in conflict with humans… By breeding these animals – like ungulates, jungle fowls and Indian hares – and releasing them into forests, we will try to increase the prey-base.”
As per the official, the proposed breeding centre in Sabarkantha will breed animals of ungulate family.
In Devgadh Baria of Dahod district, Indian hares will be bred. And the proposed centre in Bhavnagar district will witness breeding of red jungle fowls.
The project is planned to address the lion and sloth bear landscapes in the state that will include leopard habitat too in those landscapes. As per forest department officials, major man-animal conflicts in Gujarat are observed due to leopards, Asiatic lions, sloth bears, crocodiles, blue bulls and wild boars. They add that wild animals, especially lion and leopard, attack and kill large number of domestic livestock and even human beings. And the breeding centers are an attempt to improve the habitat of these wild animals by increasing the prey-base in forests.
Forest officials also said that they have felt a need for the breeding centres of ungulates, hare and red jungle fowl since forests of Gujarat, other than lion landscape, have scarce prey base.
As per the official figures of the Forest department, in last five years between 2016-17 and 2020-21, different wildlife circles of Gujarat have witnessed total 116 cases of human deaths, 679 cases of human injuries, and 21,273 cases of injuries or deaths of cattle in incidents of man-animal conflicts. In all these cases, the state government has paid ex-gratia amounts to the victims and their families running into crores.
The forest department is planning to spend around Rs 32 lakh to set up the three breeding centres.