Fire destroys part of Gir sanctuary

Firedestroys part of Gir sanctuary

13 March 2008

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Rajkot, India — A fire, ignited by some miscreants, has destroyed largeswathes of vegetation in Gir sanctuary. The fire broke out on Tuesday morningbetween Ghantula hill and Hanuman Gala in the Tulshishyam range, destroyingaround 85 hectares of the sanctuary. Around 30 per cent of the 349 lions in Girlive in this area.

Although no lion was affected, a beat guard, BT Vasoya, died of a heart attackwhile fighting the fire. It took the officials 24 hours to control the flames.

Senior forest officials said it was unlikely that such a huge fire could havebeen caused by accident. District forest officer (DFO), Gir east, JS Solankisaid, “Normally, a forest fire is caused by a short-circuit in an electricline passing through or by friction between branches of two dry trees. However,this was a ground fire and someone has ignited it.”

Solanki added that lions cover at least 50 km in a day and move to a safer placeas soon as a fire breaks out. “We have also not found any carcass in theaffected area,” he said. Forest department has registered an offenceagainst unknown persons under the Indian Forest Act.

Officials in Gandinagar said small forest fires are good for Gir. In the absenceof any major fires in the past couple of years, vegetation has become thick inGir. The lion needs large open fields, which a fire often provides by clearingthe vegetation.

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