The State Board for Wild Life, led by chief minister Bhupendra Patel, met for the 23rd time in Gandhinagar and instructed the forest department to start preliminary surveys for declaring the intact forest area of 69,668.51 hectares in two divisions of the Surat forest circle as a sanctuary.
The Forest Department’s field officers will survey the information, flora, and fauna of seven ranges, covering the intact forests of Umarpada, Vadpada, Mandvi North and South, and Kherwada, Tapti, and Vajpur in the Tapi Vyara region of Surat district. The meeting also presented 15 proposals for laying underground optical fibre cables, erecting mobile towers, and building roads in seven sanctuaries in the state. Besides the Wild Ass Sanctuary, these projects will be carried out in the sanctuaries of Kutch, Balaram-Ambaji, Narayan Sarovar, Gir, Jambughoda, and Shurpaneshwar.
The meeting reviewed the forest department’s long-term measures and actions to prevent human-leopard conflicts in the state. Senior Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Nityanand Srivastava gave a detailed presentation, showing the ongoing efforts, such as buying enough tranquillizer guns to deal with hostile leopards. Considering the high human population density in the South Gujarat region, the plan is to get 10 cages per taluka for capturing leopards when they approach human settlements. The department has also started the radio-collaring of leopards and the buying of trap cameras to observe their behaviour and track their movements. At present, five leopards have been given radio collars. Moreover, it was revealed that two new rescue centres are being set up in Surat and Valsad in South Gujarat, while rescue centres have been recently opened at Pavagadh and Jambughoda. Chief Secretary Raj Kumar proposed the strategic planning of a Rehabilitation Center by the Forest Department as a long-term solution to move leopards to protected forest areas, away from human populations.