Saturday, January 25, 2014

Two Lionesses Killed by Goods Train Near Gir Forest

One of the two lionesses killed by a train outside Gir Forest.

It has recently been reported that two lionesses had been hit and killed by a train carrying goods near Gir Forest National Park. The accident took place on the Surendranagar Pipavav port rail line, where a lion cub and a leopard were killed last year on separate incidents. This train which killed the two lionesses was bound for Port Pipavav between Dehra and Pasada villages in Amreli district's Rajula taluka. The site where the accident occurred is around 35 to 40 kilometers from Gir Forest. According to divisional forest officer J.K Makwana, the train's driver could not stop the train once the lionesses dashed in front of it. He further added that the forest department will look for solutions to this problem by consulting with all the people involved. This latest incident has also raised questions about the lions' safety in the state of Gujarat. Villagers who reported the accident blamed growing development in the lion corridor for the accident. One of them was Mangabhai Thapa, who was among the first to reach the site of the accident. In his own words, he stated that he had personally seen lions close to such areas where heavy vehicles are moving in. Another key individual who has noted the continuous development in the area surrounding Gir Forest is Dinesh Goswami of the Prakruti Nature Club. He warned that the area is home to close to sixty lions and the development has led to establishment of mines and ports, which will eventually result in human-lion conflict. He further added that the area is not patrolled by forest officials compared to Gir Forest, and as long as no solid methods are taken, such tragic incidents will continue to happen. Mr. Goswami also indicated that lions have moved to coastal areas, which have also undergone rampant development consisting of mining and urged to do something before any potential conflict takes place.

This is accident is an explicit example of the dangers posed by development implemented on wildlife corridors in surrounding areas of national parks where wildlife is known to spread. Gir Forest is an ideal example since its lion population has in recent times dispersed beyond the boundaries, and has been coming into conflicts with people. Majority of these cases result in both people and lions suffering as a result of such conflicts. This recent incident is the reason why wildlife corridors should remain free of human encroachment of any sort by any means necessary. In addition, forest officials are not patrolling such areas indicating that they feel wild animals living within the boundaries of national parks should deserve the most attention regarding protection. However, once these animals begin to disperse beyond the national parks' boundaries, then it seems that forest officials feel they have no responsibility whatsoever about protecting the animals from the dangers they face when coming into conflicts with people. This was exactly seen in the case of lions suffering from the impact of development outside Gir Forest and tigers killing people in some parts of India and being labeled as man-eaters. It is extremely crucial that wildlife officials in India and around the world must be fully aware about wildlife populations dispersing beyond national parks or other protected areas, and should implement actions in an effort to keep them protected. Otherwise, incidents resulting from human-wildlife conflicts will prevail and raise tensions between regular people and those committed to conservation and protecting wildlife.

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