, Volume 13, Issue 11, pp 2165-2182

Integrated approach towards conservation of Gir National Park: the last refuge of Asiatic Lions, India

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Abstract

The Gir National Park and sanctuary is one of the seven protected areas selected for biodiversity conservation through the Eco-Development Project funded by the Global Environmental Facility and implemented by the World Bank. Together with forest conservation by the forest officials, simultaneously global efforts started towards conservation of the last refuge of Asiatic Lions. The prohibition of resource use and resettlement of people from the protected area were done to meet the need of national policy (Wildlife Protection Act). However, the perception of the locality was that one of the major steps taken was restricting the inhabitants of the forest from entering the National Park and thus restricting them to the fringes of the protected areas. This has brought about a restriction in using the forest resources and thus has created an unspoken conflict between the forest and its dwellers. Over the years, however, it has been realized that effective management of the protected area is not possible without addressing the legitimate needs of the local people. The present study is an attempt to examine and understand the people's perception towards the forest conservation, and benefits realized by the people from the forest. Surveys carried out in a few sample villages were selected from three categories, that is, revenue, forest settlement, and nesses, from both the west and east division of the protected areas. The study revealed that the concept of conservation is well supported. However, the sense of insecurity due to resettlement and limitation in using the forest is a major hindrance towards proper protection of forest. Except for the low-income group, the actual dependence on the forest is not significant. To some extent humans/animals/crops conflict and the apathetic attitude of the Forest Department is also responsible for the antagonism of the people.