Cyclone Tauktae Uprooted 3.5M Trees in Gir, Experts See Silver Lining
It is a sign of hope for lions as they prefer open areas but other wildlife might suffer
In May 2021, the devastating Cyclone Tauktae hit Gujarat’s Gir National Park and uprooted more than 3.5 million trees in the region. After that, the state forest department did various surveys on the area. Some experts also say that this is a sign of hope for Asiatic lions’ survival, as they love to live in an open landscape. However, the concerns are for the remaining wildlife that may push away from the protected sanctuary if there are no trees.
According to a 2019 census, half of Gujarat’s total 674 Asiatic lions – approximately 325 to 350 – live in the protected national park. This sanctuary spreads over 1,412 square kilometres. Moreover, given the high risk of forest fires during a heatwave, which has become quite intense and frequent amid climate change, a dense forest would anyhow threaten lions living in Gir.
The forest department has submitted the final report on the fallen trees after a year Cyclone Tauktae hit. It was earlier estimated that the highest number of fallen trees – around 3 to 4 million – was recorded during the damage caused by a cyclone that hit the state in 1982.
According to a forest department official, there were some discrepancies in the previous findings. Therefore, a special task force was formed to conduct a final survey after the monsoon in 2021.
Aaradhna Sahu, the chief conservator of forests, Junagadh, said that the officials have started removing the fallen trees. It will ensure the movement of wild animals will remain unhindered. Moreover, there won’t be any risk of forest fires. But she is unsure about the bad impact on the lions.
On the other hand, Uday Vora, a former chief conservator of forests, mentioned that leaving Gir at nature’s mercy is not right. The rooted-out trees need to be cleared. He also stated that, if the ground area density of green cover increases above 60 percent, it is not favorable for the lions. So, it may prove to be detrimental in the long run.
Experts have said that Gir was turning into a non-typical lion habitat due to dense tree cover after better protection. But in 2015, the forest department started thinning the sanctuary as per the forest management plan. But it was stopped due to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Now, we all have to wait and see how the forest department manages the forest cover, lion habitat, as well as other wildlife in the region.
Via: Hindustan Times