Ten days into the job as the director and conservator of Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), Sunil Limaye outlined his priorities and his plans to Hindustan Times. Incidentally, the United Nations has declared 2011 as the International Year of the Forest.
In the context of the rising man-animal conflict, what is your most important task?
There is bound to be conflict with encroachments both within and outside the park. Removal and resettlement of encroachments and creating a boundary wall are my top priorities. I have already met with the government and officials of the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) on resettlement issues. However, I am in no position to give a timeline because it involves the SRA as well and they have yet to decide on where to build flats for eligible encroachers.
There were concerns that one rescue team is not enough.
I agree. A four-member Quick Response Teams is needed in every forest division. It will comprise a range officer, a forest officer and two guards. I will speak to the chief conservator of forests for Thane and work out a strategy.
Rescued animals are often kept in cramped cages.
There are 35 captive animals, including leopards, that are unfit for release. Some are injured, some are old and won’t be able to survive in their habitat. We are sending a proposal to the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) to set up a zoo-cum-rescue centre worth Rs 20,000 crore, which can house at least 100 such animals. With more space to move around, it will give the animals a sense of living in their own environment.
Any other plans?
By June-end, we will send a proposal for a management plan for wildlife preservation to the principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) at Nagpur. We want to improve the habitat of herbivores through tree plantations and water conservation. There are plans to start a captive breeding programme for the endangered rusty spotted cat.