Saturday, January 28, 2012

Five wild asses drown in Narmada canal.

The Times of India: Himanshu Kaushik: Saturday, January 28, 2012.
AHMEDABAD: The worst fears of conservationists over the under-construction Narmada branch canal meant to carry water to Kutch district came true on Friday when five wild asses drowned in the Little Rann of Kutch after getting stuck in water under a bridge being constructed across the canal. The incident happened near the famous wild ass sanctuary in Surendranagar district, which is the only location in India where wild asses are still found. A herd of 17 wild asses fell into a slushy cavity while trying to cross under the bridge and only a dozen of them struggled back to firm ground.
Officials said that the remaining 12 were rescued in an operation that continued till late in the evening. Earth moving machines were used to dump mud into the death trap to help pave a way for the animals which got stuck. The incident took place in Haripar village in Dhrangadhara taluka, just five kilometers off the sanctuary.
Forest officials were alerted early in the morning by villagers who saw the herd stuck under the bridge. District forest officer AM Chaudhari said the dead animals were still floating in the water.
The National Wildlife Board (NWB) had in 2008 given conditional approval to the canal which passes through 11 km area of the sanctuary. Officials said there were several doubts raised over the safety of the shy and sensitive animal. The Supreme Court had in 2009 upheld the decision of the NWB.
The canal construction was inaugurated by chief minister Narendra Modi in April last year after assurances by the Gujarat government in the Supreme Court that it would not pose any danger to the endangered species. Only around 4,000 wild asses survive in this desert habitat spread over 5,000 sq. km. The Indian wild ass (Equus hemionus khur), is known locally as the ghudkhar.
The only other two subspecies of wild asses live in the high arid plateaus of Tibet, making Gujarat the most accessible place to see wild asses in their natural environs.

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