With the delegates at CMS COP 13 in Gandhinagar making their final deliberation before the Committee ahead of the closing plenary, the India Pavilion organised a session on wildlife conservation in Gujarat, that summarised the activities of the Gujarat Forest Department, the progress made and the way ahead for the coming years.
Dr. D.K Sharma, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) and Head of Forest Force (HoFF), Gujarat leading a panel of subject matter experts said, “Issues for conservation are changing, the lion is regaining its territory and moving out of the core area, hence it is important for the forest department to gear up for the new challenges, not just for lion but all species.” He also appreciated Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts towards conservation of lions and other species during his tenure as the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
There are 523 lions living in a 22,000 sq km area across eight districts in Gujarat including the Gir sanctuary. The Asiatic lions in Gujarat have seen a good increase in their numbers. This is a result of the commendable efforts in key management areas such as habitat management, wildlife monitoring, mitigating human-wildlife conflict, rescue operations, wildlife crime control, eco-tourism, people’sparticipation, awareness programs and research and training. Mr. Mohan Ram, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Sasan, Gujarat attributed the highest significance to research and training since they are the source of all other key management areas.
With the setting up of a digitized model at Gir National Park, the area is equipped with camera traps for monitoring, radio-collaring of Asiatic lions (world’s largest project), GPS monitoring, wireless communication system, foot patrolling and trailing, state of art facilities at the wildlife rescue service and digitized eco-tourism which enables tourists to register quickly for the safari without having to stand in queues.
The National Park also holds nature education camps and more than 50,000 students learn from these camps, every year. Furthermore, a compensation scheme has been implemented to provide compensation for human or livestock loss as well as Gir Samvad Setu Program for interaction with local people, resolving small issues at local level and sensitizing local people about wildlife and its presence.
In a unique initiative, the Gujarat Forest Department has built a high tower called ‘Machada’ in Gir and Greater Gir Landscape to monitor human-wildlife conflict zones. The tower is equipped with solar light powered mobile charger, and a financial assistance of Rs.17,300 to farmers for the foundation work of building machada.
The session also consisted of a presentation on zoonosis by Dr. Kamlesh Upadhyay, Head of Medicine, B.J. Medical College, Ahmedabad. Zoonosis refers to diseases that can be passed from animals to humans. They are sometimes called zoonotic diseases. Animals can carry harmful germs, such as bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses. These are then shared with humans and cause illness as well as deaths in some cases. Precautions can be taken in case of animals that are imported from different countries but migratory birds that fly all around the world without any legal binding or border restrictions need to be dealt with on a case by case basis with a solution that protects both humans and birds.