The petitioners have stated that in light of the increasing number of lions in Gir, newer strategies are necessary for better conservation management.
Highlighting the human-wildlife conflict in Gir, a retired IFS officer, who served as chief wildlife warden, along with other wildlife activists, has urged the Gujarat High Court to direct a “clear-cut policy on wildlife” as well as “to prepare fresh management plan” for holistic wildlife conservation.
The directions have been sought through a public interest litigation (PIL) filed in August 2020 by retired chief wildlife warden DM Naik, wildlife activist Mayank Bhatt and retired teacher Ramesh Raval, a former wildlife warden.
The court had issued notice to the respondents, including forest department officials, in September 2020 and were made returnable for October 21, 2020. The order noted, “Having regard to the issue raised in public interest, we expect the State Government to file an appropriate reply by the next date of hearing.” However, no affidavit has been filed as of January 7, 2020.
The petitioners said that in the absence of a wildlife policy, planning of development projects while balancing conservation has been in an “ad-hoc manner”. The petitioners have stated that in light of the increasing number of lions in Gir, newer strategies are necessary for better conservation management.
As per their submissions, when wild animals move out of the sanctuary in the nearby villages, “there is a feeling among villagers that they (lions/animals)…should be taken back” to the sanctuary area. This, as per the petitioners, goes against conservation tenets for wildlife as taking them back would include caging them.
The petitioners proposed that apart from declared sanctuaries and national parks as protected areas, the surrounding areas, too, must be protected. In case of Gir lions, this would include areas of Amreli, Bhavnagar, Surendranagar, as lions have often been spotted in these areas.
“The forest department has not significantly adapted the changes and modification needed to be taken in the proper management policy for wildlife, especially when the forest department has been successful in wildlife management at initial stage,” the petitioners, represented by advocate Anik Timbalia, submitted.
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