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Reduce human encroachments and disturbance to Lions, provide world class health check-up and treatment to Lions: Parimal Nathwani writes to Govt

Ahmedabad: In the wake of 23 lion deaths since September 12, 2018 in Dalkhania Range of the only abode of the Asiatic Lion in the world – Gir National Park & Wildlife Sanctuary and Brihad Gir of Gujarat, wildlife enthusiast and Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) Shri Parimal Nathwani has requested both Central and State Governments to immediately bring a team of foreign veterinary experts from Africa, US and Europe and provide world class health check-up and treatment to Asiatic Lions in Gir at the earliest.

Nathwani said that there has been a shortage of ground staff to manage the lions spread beyond the limits of the national park in Gir. About 167 lions are outside the sanctuary area and each guard is required to patrol around 15-20 villages. He further added that with increasing number of lions in the Gir and Brihad Gir area, around 30% of lion population is present in non-protected areas so the Government needs to focus on them as well. “These lions are more prone to illegal lion shows and unnatural deaths,” he said.

He also recalled that combination of Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) and Protozoan infection killed around 1,000 lions in Tanzania’s Serengeti Reserve in 1994. “The expert veterinary doctors from Africa, US and Europe have experience of controlling the lion deaths due to this disease. So the Government of India and the Government of Gujarat need to contact them and bring them to Gir. These experts will help in checking health of lions and control the spread of this disease,” said Nathwani.

He also said that medical facilities for treatment of lions are inadequate compared to lion numbers. Even doctors are also few-only one or two. In fact, there has to have even an exclusive incentive care ambulance for lions so that any lion found ill or sick can be treated in the ambulance itself while being brought to the clinic.

He also pointed out that the Government has no plan to contain the dog menace in the forest. The CDV is also found in dogs which caused the spread of disease to lions. If the Government can think of killing Blue Bull (Nilgai) then it can very well think of containing dog menace in the forest areas too, he added.

Nathwani stated that promoting tourism in the Gir is one thing, but the forest department should take a clue from Tiger Reserves in the country where they have tourism capacity formula for each reserve thereby controlling the human disturbance to the wildlife.

It is high time for the Government of Gujarat and Government of India to pay more attention to conservation of Asiatic Lions, which is the pride of not only Gujarat and India but of the world, said Nathwani. As a long term measure for lion conservation, the area under eco-sensitive zone must be increased. The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has suggested that the width of the ESZ could go up to 10 kms around the protected area, but in Gujarat it is only 100 to 500 meter from the boundary of protected area, Nathwani stated.

He also suggested that some of the lions from revenue areas around Gir to be shifted to forests of Barda near Jamnagar-Porbandar and Rampara-Virdi near Vankaner which are conducive and climatically similar to Gir.

Rajya Sabha MP Nathwani has raised Lion related issues in Rajya Sabha time and again in last one decade. He has been promoting the cause of declaration of Lion as ‘National Animal’ of India. He has also raised the issue of launching Project Lion on the lines of ‘Project Tiger’ and ‘Project Elephant’ and allocation of more funds for creating infrastructure for long term lion conservation in Gir.

Nathwani has written letters to the Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change Dr. Harsh Vardhan, the Chief Minister of Gujarat Shri Vijaybhai Rupani and Forest Minister of Government of Gujarat Shri Ganpatsinh Vasava on this line.


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