Gujarat foresters are dealing with a new threat to the Gir wildlife Sanctuary. Scarcity of fodder on the periphery of the sanctuary is forcing politicians to pressure the forest department to permit Maldharis to bring their cattle inside the sanctuary for grazing.
Forest officials said that MLAs from the ruling party were trying to ensure that the Maldhari community around the sanctuary was allowed into Gir, Girnar, and Mitiyala sanctuaries. Sources said the pressure was constant.
This being an election year, officers are in a fix as members of the two main political parties want local inhabitants to illegally enter the area.
Bhagvan Bharwad, the MLA from Talala, said: “We will wait till Sunday and if there is no rain, we will make representations to the state government and even write to chief minister to permit grazing in the forest.” Bharwad said grass was not available and one could not let animal’s ir for want of food. “If the forest department or the state government refuses to give us permission, we will enter the forest without permission” he said. “Let them take action”.
A forest official said that in the recent past, a couple of attempts were made to enter the forest but guards prevented people from venturing deep into the sanctuary.
The sanctuary is closed for public for four months during monsoon, from June 15. Forest officials said that during this period the danger of lion attack was high. If Maldharis were permitted to enter the forest with cattle, risk to their lives would be immense.
Forest officials said that Maldharis were illegally allowing their cattle to graze in areas near the boundary of the sanctuary. “This is the park season for breeding for not just big cats, but even for the herbivores,” a forest official said. “The newborn of the herbivores learn to walk. At such a time, if cattle are permitted to graze in the sanctuary, they could be a nuisance to the newborn.