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Groups make clarion call against ‘relocation’ of hoolock gibbons

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TURA, June 30: The Tura Garo Senior Citizens’ Forum (TGSCF) along with the New Tura Development Forum (NTDF), Garo Hills Environmental Protection Society (GHEPS) and the Garo Graduates’ Union (GGU) have appealed to Chief Minister Conrad Sangma to ensure the hoolock gibbons are not relocated elsewhere from Garo Hills.
Airing strong opposition to any proposal for relocation of hoolock gibbons from the region, the groups, in their appeal to the chief minister, said, “It has been learnt that the Government of Meghalaya is keen to go ahead with the proposed shifting of hoolock gibbons from Sonja Wildlife Rescue Centre to the upcoming Meghalaya State Zoo at Umtrew once the zoo becomes functional, and also elsewhere in the country to relocate the animals from the Rescue Centre. We reiterate our demand for withdrawal of the government’s decision to shift the hoolocks from Garo Hills. We request you with our folded hands to retain the animals in our land, Garo Hills at any costs instead of shifting them elsewhere,” the organisations said.
On the statement made by the state government that the Sonja Rescue Centre does not meet Central Zoo Authority (CZA) standards and thus lacks its approval, the groups observed that while this might be true, serious attention has neither been given to improve and upgrade the existing Rehabilitation Centre nor appropriate steps have been taken to rehabilitate the animals, although they were housed in the Rescue Centre for quite a long period, reportedly for more than 15 years.
The groups felt that instead of shifting the hoolock gibbons to the upcoming zoo at Umtrew and elsewhere in the country, efforts should be made to retain the animals and appropriate steps should be taken to relocate them elsewhere in Garo Hills itself if the existing Rescue Centre is not suitable to house the animals and the site is not a natural habitat for them.
“While many precious animals in Garo Hills are on the verge of extinction for reasons which need not be elaborated here, we want that these unique animal species of our land are not shifted anywhere. These hoolock gibbons have been held in high regard since the time of our ancestors and continue to be so by the people of the present generation. So, the loss of any of them by shifting elsewhere will not be bearable for the Garo people,” they said.
Meanwhile, the proposed move by the government to relocate the gibbons has also been opposed by the ACHIK.
The organisation, in a separate statement, questioned why the Sonja Rescue Centre was not upgraded if the government felt it was inadequate.
“Before any decision is taken to relocate the gibbons, why not relocate elephants from Garo Hills to the zoo instead. It would save more human lives,” it said, referring to the frequent man-elephant conflict in the region.

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