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IN: Wolves soon to be ally in neelgai control in Gujarat

Himanshu Kaushik | TNN

AHMEDABAD: The drastic drop in the population of the Indian grey wolf in Gujarat, from 1,374 in 2000 to less than 200 now, is worrying wildlife experts. The state forest department has now decided to identify wolf habitats and put radio collars on some animals.

The forest department has set up special breeding centres at Sakkarbaug Zoo, to revive the dwindling Indian grey wolf population. Officials said that there are only about 1,000 wolves left in the country.

According to officials, in Gujarat, there are 25 wolves in Velavadar sanctuary and 10 to 15 in Rampara sanctuary. The rest of the animals are scattered across Kutch and Saurashtra.

Putting radio collars on some wolves will help understand their location, movements and breeding habits. Chief conservator of forests, A P Singh, said the department has decided that the revival of the Indian grey wolf is the need of the hour, to save crops from wild boar and neelgai. If the department successfully revives the wolf population, they will help control the populations of boar and neelgai, which has increased by more than 56% in five years, to around 1.86 lakh.

Singh said wolves feed on neelgai calves and boar piglets as well as on cattle, goats, sheep and other prey. He said that in the past, the maldhari community would kill wolves. Maldharis would throw burning wood into dens and this has led to a sharp decline in the wolf population.

Singh said the department will identify areas with wolf populations. The department has asked the state government to consider giving legal protection to wolves and paying compensation to maldharis for domesticated animals killed by wolves, as is done for leopard and lion predation.

Another officer said the department is scanning accident reports to identify areas where wolves die frequently. “We will propose underpasses where there are frequent wolf fatalities,” he said.

Sources in the department said the state government has been asked to increase budget allocations for breeding centres. According to a study, there are only an estimated 190 wolves in Gujarat and between 253 and 350 in Rajasthan. The study recommended according legal protection, paying compensation for loss of livestock and protecting the breeding habitats of wolves.

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