Mining Taking Toll on Goa's Wildlife: Environmentalists
Incessant digging that had been taking place around Goa's forests in search for iron ore has taken a heavy toll on wild animals and other species, according to environmentalists.

Rock pythons and king cobras have been found dead in these areas, where rare species of reptiles and birds had to bear the brunt of rampant mining activity, animal rescue organisations and environmentalists in the state have said.

"We have rescued hungry and unhealthy pythons from the villages located near mining leases in Bicholim taluka. Rare reptiles like king cobra were lying crushed under stones," Amrut Singh, founder, Animal Rescue Squad (ARS), told PTI.

Singh's voluntary group, with more than 100 volunteers trained to rescue snakes and wild animals, receive regular distress calls from people living on periphery of mines. "King cobra, russell viper, saw scaled viper are often rescued from homes adjacent to the mining leases in Bicholim," he said.

Bicholim, an iron-ore rich belt, is nestled in the foothills of the Western Ghats. The eco-sensitive area houses nearly 70 per cent of birds and reptiles found in the Ghats.

Singh recalls how decades back flying snakes were sighted in the area, which now stands devastated in search of iron ore that is exported to China. "Some snake species are on verge of extinction. Ceylon cat, beddome's cat and ornate cake snakes, found in abundance early, are rarely sighted."

Bicholim locals have reported an unusual phenomenon -- crocodiles being sighted on busy streets during night. An ARS volunteer explained that since marshy areas in the river bed are getting silted with iron ore and mud, the crocodiles venture out to find new water bodies.

A little further from Bicholim, in remote Sattari taluka, is Gavane, a village tucked between three wildlife sanctuaries, which has seen several Indian bison, Goa's state animal, found dead in mining pits.

Environmentalist Rajendra Kerkar said on many occasions, bison, the largest bovine of India, had been spotted lying in the mining pits.
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