Asia's first sloth bear sanctuary under threat

A steel plant is likely to come up 500 metres away

Asia's first sloth bear sanctuary under threat

Less than 16 years of its establishment, the Daroji sanctuary already has its fate in jeopardy.

A mega steel plant is likely to come up at Gadiganur village, located just 500 meters away from the Sanctuary. Shaken wildlife enthusiasts in and around Bellary district have now written to Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh requesting him to mediate.

“It has come as a shock for us. We never even imagined that a huge steel industry is being planned adjacent to this sanctuary. We realised only when local people informed us about this,” said K S Abdul Samad, President, Society for Wildlife Adventure and Nature (Swan).

Some of the wildlife enthusiasts who tried to dig out the information had another shock when they found that a notification has already been issued in this connection.

“We were appaled to find out that the Gadiganur village and a portion of the sanctuary has been earmarked for the steel plant,” said Samad. Another wildlife enthusiast, Santosh Martin, who is also the honourary wildlife warden, Bellary said the six million-tonne capacity plant is being planned at a total area of 5,500 acres.

“The Gazette notification is over, acquisition may begin anytime. Though officials say it will come up at a distance of three to four kms away from the sanctuary, their map says a different story. We are planning a protest to save the sloth bear sanctuary,” he said.

The plant, according to some official sources, falls between the bear sanctuary and the World Heritage site, Hampi and is also said to be detrimental even to the latter.

Daroji

The sloth bear sanctuary, being an unique one and the first of its kind in the country is a rock-strewn hillock that stretches between Daroji of Sandur taluk and Ramasagar of Hospet Taluk in Bellary district. The place has been an abode of Indian sloth bears since ages.

The entire hill ranges around Hampi vicinity are believed to be the mythological ‘Kishkinda’ valley, an abode of Lord ‘Hanuman’ and ‘Jambavantha’ (the bear). Following the efforts of  former Minister and Congress leader M Y Ghorpade, the state declared 5,587.30 hectares of Bilikallu reserve forest as the Daroji Bear Sanctuary.

Apart from 120 sloth bears, the place is home to leopards, hyena, jackals, wild boars, porcupine, pangolins, star tortoise, monitor lizard, mongoose, pea fowls, partridges, painted spur fowl and quails. This unique ecosystem also hosts over 200 species of birds and 50 species of butterflies.

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