Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Four lions enter GIDC in Junagadh; prey on calf

| TNN | Updated: Feb 27, 2018, 15:26 IST
Four lions enter GIDC in Junagadh; prey on calf
RAJKOT: Lions of Gir reached Junagadh city which is an urban area and near to Gir sanctuary. Four lions entered in GIDC (Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation) estate in Junagadh city and prey on calf.
The live footage of lion’s prey is taken on mobile and GIDC’s CCTV.

According to locals, 4 lioness entered in the GIDC area which is adjacent to city after midnight on Monday, they were hunting and nabbed a calf. Video shows how four lioness crash over their prey. According to locals as the lion’s population increased due to space crunch in Gir forest, lions are seen outside Gir forest area.

According to 2015 census there are 523 lions in Gir.

In Video: Caught on cam: Four lioness kill cow in GIDC area of Junagadh

Weeds threaten Gujarat’s pride & prey

| Feb 27, 2018, 07:16 IST
RAJKOT: Gujarat’s pride and its prey are both facing a fast invading foe. Two shrubs — lantana camara and cassia tora — spreading in the Gir forest are threatening to drive out not only the Asiatic lions but large number of herbivorous animals like deers too.
Experts and forest department officials said that the spread of lantana camara (locally known as indradhanu) is so rapid that removing them is proving to be a Herculean task. The problem of these ‘obnoxious weeds’ is not new and has been observed for nearly two decades now. But the failure to nip them in the bud is now threatening to hurt Gir ecosystem.

The thorny lantana and cassia tora (locally known as kaalmukho) stop the growing of grass and other shrubs that the herbivorous feed on. As a result, large swathes of land in the national park and sanctuary have very little grass. The deers, nil gai, black bucks and other herbivorous animals don’t eat plants of either of these shrubs. The longterm impact is the potential danger of lions moving out in revenue areas in search of prey, thus increasing chances of human-animal conflict.

A forest official said that lions usually like open spaces but in several ranges these are also depleting due to thick vegetation of lantana. The uninhibited spread, much akin to gando baval (prosopis juliflora), could also threaten existence of trees like caria, oak and karanj, which are essential for wild animals. Lions often take shelter in the coppice of caria trees, especially in summer.

The spread of lantana camara is so rapid that removing them is difficult

‘It’s a challenge to remove these invasive shrubs’

When these herbivores animals won’t get food, they won’t survive and if they won’t survive, it will be difficult for lions to get food. The entire ecosystem will be damaged,” he said.

Cassia tora is another plant of the legume family that renders the land nonfertile by not allowing grass to grow.

Forest department to start wildlife awareness drive

| Updated: Feb 26, 2018, 08:38 IST
Around 4 lakh students are expected to take part in the competitionsAround 4 lakh students are expected to take part in the competitions
RAJKOT: Forest department will be launching the biggest ever wildlife awareness campaign in Sasan on March 3 the World Wildlife Day. The theme for this year decided by United Nations is ‘Big cats: Predators under threat.’
As part of the awareness campaign, the forest department will organize essay and painting competitions for children on wildlife conservation subjects.
They are expecting participation of nearly 4 lakh students, which the department claims will be biggest ever.

Children of schools across five districts of Greater Gir landscape — Junagadh, Gir-Somnath, Amreli, Bhavnagar and Botad — will participate in the event.

Primary school children will take part in painting competition while higher secondary school kids will participate in essay competition. Ram Ratan Nala, superintendent of Sasan, said, “We want children to write and draw on the theme of wildlife conservation. We want them to express their imagination as the activity is more of an awareness programme then competition.”

As Gir forest holds one of the highest densities of big cats — lions and leopards — in a single, compact patch of any landscape, it would be a meaningful to raise awareness about conservation of these animals as well as ecosystem, said the forest department in an official release.

Walk on the wild side

Susheela Nair Feb 24 2018, 23:00 IST
Nilgiri Tahr Nilgiri Tahr
As the convoy of elephants trundled their way through the dew-laden grasslands in Kaziranga National Park, I came across a pair of one-horned rhinos gently grazing in the elephant grass. This was my first rendezvous with rhinos, in their natural habitat. Built like a battle tank on stubby legs, the rhino is the star attraction of the park. From my lofty vantage point on elephant back, besides the endangered one-horned rhinos, I spotted wild water buffaloes, hog deer, and also hundreds of swamp deer trot past wild boars before they retreated into the high vegetation. This wildlife Eden also shelters hoolock gibbons, tigers, leopards, capped langurs, sloth bears, jackals, and pythons. It is also the most beautiful national park in the subcontinent, with superb ponds, lakes and rivers where otters frolic and herds of elephants splash around.
Lower down, in West Bengal, as the boat cruised through the muddy estuaries and mangrove forests in the Sundarbans National Park, my eyes kept peeled for the tigers which are rarely seen but always sensed. Sprawling over 26,000 sq km, it is the largest single tract of a unique mangrove ecosystem in the world. Water bodies crisscross the forest and separate the hundreds of islands that dot the delta. Here, in the tangle of mangrove roots, a unique mid-world between sea and land, I saw only saltwater crocodiles and mudskippers (fish that climb tree). These are among the many wonders of this wild paradise. Travelling across the mangrove-lined backwaters of Sunderbans and communing with nature at its rawest level was itself an unforgettable experience!
To experience Kipling country, I visited Madhya Pradesh, Kanha, Pench and Bandhavgarh which provide among the finest wildlife experiences available on earth. Bandhavgarh is also steeped in history, myths and legends besides playing host to a bewildering variety of animals. As Bandhavgarh flaunts the largest density of tigers in the country, it is seldom that one returns from Bandhavgarh without seeing a tiger emerging out of the tall grass, or pursuing the pugmarks crossing the jeep tracks. I had my first darshan of a tiger in the wild here. It was an experience that was both magical and mysterious. The bird life here is no less astounding, with as many as 250 species of nesting in the park, including the stately adjutant stork. In Kanha and Pench I went on wildlife safaris scouting for the Sher Khans, but luck was not on my side. My wildlife jaunts took me to Gir Forest, where I had my first fleeting glance of a lion and lioness lolling a few feet away from the jeep.
Down south in Kerala, I followed the footsteps of the nimble-footed Nilgiri Tahr, a highly endangered animal, listed in the IUCN Red Data Book, which lives in herds on the steep black rocky slopes of the mountains of Anaimudi in the Eravikulam National Park. About one-third of the world's population of Nilgiri Tahr reside in these emerald grasslands. In 2006, I witnessed in this unique ecosystem the spectacular blooming of Neelakurinjis.
At Periyar Tiger Reserve, I had glimpses of nature's wonders while the boat glided along the picturesque Periyar Lake, the sanctum sanctorum of the reserve. I sighted elephants ambling along the banks of the lake, gaurs grazing peacefully on the grasslands along the wooded waterfront, darters and cormorants drying their wings perched on the ghostly deadwood protruding from the lake. This reserve is synonymous with Asiatic elephants, but sightings of tuskers have become very rare.
This wildlife haven also houses several endangered species like the lion-tailed macaque, small Travancore flying squirrel, Salim Ali's fruit bat, and the rarely sighted Nilgiri Marten. Though there are more than 40 tigers in the reserve, they are rarely sighted. Of the 160 species of butterflies spotted here, the Travancore evening brown, one of the rarest butterflies in the world, was spotted here after a gap of several decades.
A community-based ecotourism initiative originated in this blessed place where rehabilitated poachers-turned-forest protectors earn their livelihood as guides and facilitators. I was lucky to witness the Chitra Pournami festival at the scattered ruins of the ancient Mangala Devi Temple that forms a part of the core area of the reserve. The forest road to Mangala Devi is open only once a year to the public when pilgrims from Tamil Nadu and Kerala congregate to offer worship to this deity.
Valued ageing
In Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary, the sight of Kannimara Teak, the world's oldest and largest teak tree (girth of 6.57 m and a height of 48.5 m), left me gaping in wonder. It takes five adults to encircle it with their hands outstretched. This living relic of the once-luxuriant natural teak forests was awarded the Mahavruksha Puraskar by the Government of India in 1994-95. In this unique wilderness area I saw three dams that serve as freshwater storage reservoirs, and the first ever scientifically managed teak plantation. With a rich diversity of bird life, Parambikulam is a great birding getaway, once the favourite haunt of ornithologist Salim Ali.
Located along the western corner of the Nilgiris in Palakkad district, the Silent Valley National Park deserves a special mention as it came into the limelight in the 1970s, when the government planned to dam the river. The protests that followed were the beginning of the environmental movement in India. And the entire valley was declared a national park in 1985. It is one of the last vestiges of undisturbed tropical evergreen rainforest which covered most of the Western Ghats. Ecologists call it an 'ecological island', one that boasts of a wealth of biological and genetic heritage. It is called the Silent Valley, yet I could hear it throbbing with the sounds of the forest.
There is an incredible number of sanctuaries and parks that I have not journeyed to. Ranthambore National Park, which is widely regarded as one of the best parks for tiger sightings, is one of them. Tadoba also has become a hotspot for tigers. Each national park has its own signature wildlife. In Tamil Nadu, the lesser-known Mudumalai National Park, Kalakad-Mundanthurai, Point Calimere can provide unending delight and a variety of experiences to nature enthusiasts. From Chennai, every January, I used to go to Vedanthangal, the oldest water-bird sanctuary, when it resonates with the melodious birdsong - of the winged visitors of exotic plumage. Other winter havens for migrants are Point Calimere and Pulicat Lake where large flocks of flamingoes can be spotted.
Karnataka boasts of some of the largest jungle tracts south of the Vindhyas. From the majestic evergreen forests of the Western Ghats to the scrub jungles of the plains, a wide variety of habitats teem with diverse flora and fauna. Bandipur, Bhadra, BR Hills, Nagarhole, Kudremukh and Kali tiger reserves boast of admirable heterogeneity of faunal heritage. Though elephants take the lead role in Bandipur and Rajiv Gandhi national parks, it is also the land of roars. Photographers troop to these reserves to capture wildlife in close proximity. Ranganathittu is my favourite bird sanctuary where I have experienced the thrill of a boat ride that took me within touching distance of the birds. Kokkarebellur, where pelicans and painted storks live in harmony with villagers, is claimed to be one of the best among the 46 community reserves in the country.
The genesis of Indian wildlife can be traced back to the days of yore when royalty used the jungles as their hunting ground. They had an unsurpassed communion with wildlife. Bandhavgarh was once the shikargarh of the maharaja of Rewa. The Baghel Museum has on display ancient hunting equipment used by him. Even late Rajmata Gayatri Devi, the maharani of Jaipur, indulged in hunting, right from the days she was the princess of Cooch Behar, a state in North Bengal, which perhaps has an unrivalled record of big game shooting in all of eastern India. The Keoladeo Ghana preserve was created by the maharaja of Bharathpur at the turn of the century to attract migratory birds, which he and his guests took pleasure in shooting! Even the venerable forest of Bandipur was once the private hunting ground of Mysuru's royalty. In Mughal and British India, tigers were hunted for prestige as well as for taking as trophies. During the reign of Mughals, efficient hunters were awarded titles such as 'Hunt Master', and in the first phase of the reign of East India Co, tiger hunters were highly rewarded. Subsequently, many hunters turned into conservationists.
Wildlife first
Wildlife conservation in India through dedicated parks started with the Jim Corbett National Park in 1936. India's first national park was established in 1936 in Uttarakhand as Hailey National Park, which was later rechristened as Jim Corbett National Park. The rich saga of Indian wilderness, started by the legendary Corbett, continued. By 1970, India only had five national parks. In 1972, India enacted the Wildlife Protection Act to safeguard the habitats of endangered species. Project Tiger was launched by the Government of India in 1973 to save the endangered species of tigers in the country. Starting from nine reserves in 1973, currently, the number of tiger reserves is 50, with a total area of 71,027.10 sq km. Tiger population, as per the last census, is 2,226. Further, federal legislation strengthening protection for wildlife was introduced in the 1980s. As of July 2017, the number of national parks has burgeoned to an impressive total of 103, encompassing an area of 40,500 sq km, comprising 1.23% of India's total surface area. The number of wildlife sanctuaries has increased to 544.
Quite a few important faunal habitats have gained recognition after their inclusion in the 'biosphere reserve' and the 'world heritage site' programmes. However, many species of the wild fauna and flora still remain greatly endangered, and so do their habitats. The loss of these fragile habitats is counterproductive to wildlife conservation efforts. Equally disheartening is the poaching activity rampant throughout the country, made worse by matters beyond the control of conservationists. The introduction of site-specific innovative conservation measures will help save many endangered species.
The wildlife movement has caught the fancy of people, and wildlife tourism is growing by leaps and bounds, something that could not really have been envisaged when the first national park was declared around 1935. The need of the hour is not tourism control, but tourism management. Concerted efforts should be made to divert the attention from tiger-centric tourism, which has become the norm in our national parks. I have seen overenthusiastic drivers embark on 'tiger-chases'. Tiger fixation leads to a bizarre concentration of vehicles, which often causes distress to the beleaguered animal, besides destroying the serenity of the forests. One has to break the mould and concentrate on other equally interesting denizens of the forest such as small mammals, birds and butterflies through ecologically sensitive means.
From this World Wildlife Day, celebrated on March 3, whenever we visit a sanctuary, let's remember that we are guests in the animal's habitat, and that we have to be quiet, considerate, and respect our hosts and their space.

PM Modi Launches Rs 1000-crore Development Schemes For Daman & Diu

Somnath temple and Gir forest are located around 80 kilometres from Diu. Ahmedabad to Diu road journey takes 12 hours and the air-connectivity reduces the travel time to just an hour.

Updated:February 24, 2018, 4:28 PM ISTDaman: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today launched development schemes worth Rs 1,000 crore for Daman and Diu, and also inaugurated a flight connecting Ahmedabad to the coastal town of Diu.

The Prime Minister, who inaugurated Air Odisha's flight connecting Ahmedabad with Diu under the Centre's regional connectivity scheme UDAN, said air connectivity will boost tourism in the region.

He also launched a helicopter service connecting Daman and Diu at an event here. "The air connectivity will boost tourism as tourists who want to visit the Somnath temple, Gir forest (in Gujarat) can now go (there) from Diu," Modi said.

Somnath temple and Gir forest are located around 80 kilometres from Diu. Ahmedabad to Diu road journey takes 12 hours and the air-connectivity reduces the travel time to just an hour.

PM Modi also laid the foundation stones for a slew of projects, including a water treatment plant, a gas pipeline, an electric sub-station, a municipal market and a foot-bridge for the union territory.

The Prime Minister also inaugurated anganwadis (child care centres) and schools constructed under corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. On the occasion, he distributed e-rickshaws to women and scooters to differently-abled beneficiaries.

PM Modi said his government has launched schemes worth around Rs 1,000 crore today for development of Daman and Diu. Earlier in the day, PM Modi arrived at the Surat airport where he was accorded a grand welcome. People gathered in large numbers to greet him on both sides of the road in Daman.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

East African lions dying of poisoning

Inside East Africa’s largest national park, Ruaha in Tanzania, stands a group of conservationists with six carcasses of dead lions before them.
Beside the lions is another carcass of a cow, which they seem to have been eating before they met their death. The Ruaha Carnivore Project (RCP), an organization working with communities living near the park to promote co-existence, said in a statement last week that after alerts from the park, they found a “devastating scene” where the lions, four females and two males, had been killed apparently by poisoning.

“This event had additional tragic consequences, with dozens of critically endangered vultures found dead or badly affected. RCP worked closely with colleagues from Wildlife Conservation Society Tanzania Program, the [Tanzania National Parks Authority] authorities and other local agencies, and they eventually found 74 dead vultures as well as the six lions,” the statement said.
RCP said preliminary investigations pointed to the possibility that someone poisoned the cow carcass after lions attacked his cattle. But this is not the first incident and this is not the only part of the region where the activity is ongoing.
East Africa is known as the home of the big five game animals and you cannot miss to see at least one in any country you choose to visit; and now one of them, the lion, is under threat, because of attacks from the community especially through poisoning and from trophy hunters, and poachers.
Conservationists say many communities that live near the parks are ranchers and livestock keepers whose animals are always attacked by the predators. These, like poachers, have become big threats to national parks and wildlife.
“Alarmingly, poisoning is a common response to conflict, and this highlights how vital it is to do all we can to prevent carnivore attacks on stock, and reduce chances of retaliatory killings,” the statement reads in part.
What should be done, according to the organization, is to put up predator-proofing enclosures and engaging communities, but it maintains that much more is still to be done in protecting grazing livestock, a particularly challenging venture.
The organization, however, says such attacks have been reduced of recent.
“It is also vital to secure the wildlife management areas and – probably most important of all – make sure that local people receive real benefits from wildlife, so they eventually see them as more of an asset alive than dead,” they said.
Tanzania has the largest number of lions remaining in Africa to a tune of over 16,000 but they are being threatened by trophy hunting, poaching and retaliation killings by communities near parks.
Poisoned lion in Kenya. Photo: Marsh Pride of Lions Facebook Page
Two years ago, researchers from the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of St Andrews in Scotland analyzed the density and population distribution of the African lion in three of Uganda’s national parks.
In two of the parks surveyed, Queen Elizabeth national park and Murchison Falls national park, lion populations have decreased by 30 per cent and 60 per cent respectively over the past 10 years, which the study attributes to poisoning and physical killing of the lions by nearby communities.
Only in Kidepo Valley national park, in the northeastern part of the country was the number of lions found to be increasing, climbing from 58 to 132 in the last decade.
The dwindling number of lions in the region could be a threat to the region’s tourism sector if massive sensitization and protective measures are not adopted.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) gives a percentage of its revenue to the communities where the national parks are situated, as a way of improving the sense of direct stakeholding in the parks. Already districts are earning hundreds of millions of shilling from UWA under this partnership.
Interesting facts about lions
• The East African lion (Panthera leo melanochaita) is a lion population indigenous to East Africa.
• Lions occur in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.
• The reputed king of the jungle is extinct in Djibouti, Egypt and Eritrea.
• African lions are the most social of the big cats and live together in prides. A pride consists of about 15 lions.
• Females do most of the hunting. Despite this, the males eat first.
• The lion is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN red list of threatened species.
• The lion was once found throughout Africa, Asia and Europe but now exists only in Africa, with one exception. The last remaining Asiatic lions are found in Sasan-Gir national park in India, which was primarily created to protect the species.
• A lion’s roar can be heard from as far as five miles away.
• Even though the lion is referred to as “king of the jungle”, it actually only lives in grasslands and plains. The expression may have come from an incorrect association between Africa and jungles.
• The darker the mane, the older the lion.
• A lion may sleep up to 20 hours a day.
• The female may mate approximately every 15 minutes when she is in heat for three days and nights without sleeping, and sometimes with five different males due to physical exhaustion of males when only one or two are involved.
Compiled from the Internet.

PIL filed against night stays at Kankai temple

| Updated: Feb 22, 2018, 07:17 IST
AHMEDABAD: Gujarat high court on Wednesday issued notice to the state government and forest authorities in response to a PIL objecting to the state government’s decision of allowing 50 pilgrims night halt at Kankai temple inside the Gir National Park and sanctuary, the last abode of the Asiatic lion.

Rajkot-based NGO, Wildlife Conservation Trust, has filed the PIL against the government’s circular issued in September 2017, by which permission has been granted to the Kankeshvari Jeernodhar Samiti to let 50 devotees stay inside the sanctuary at night. The petitioner has claimed that this was nothing but a back-door entry for tourists and for those who indulge in hunting inside the protected area, which otherwise is strictly prohibited. The Kankai temple is situated in Ankolvadi range in the protected area. The trust governing the temple has put up illegal construction in the sanctuary, the petitioner alleged. Initially, very few devotees were visiting the temple, but the flow increased during 1990s and entry of vehicles in the sanctuary also increased due to this.

In August 1993, the state government banned night halts by pilgrims in Kankai and Banej temples. The pilgrims were required to obtain permit to enter the sanctuary during day and were allowed only when in state transport buses.

However, the decision taken by the state government to allow night halt for 50 pilgrims has created dangerous situation for the wildlife in Gir, which is home to the endangered species like lions, the petitioner has contended, and demanded immediate revocation of the permission granted to the temple authority.

A bench headed by Chief Justice RS Reddy has sought reply from the principal chief conservator of forests and chief wildlife warden as well as from the temple trust by March 28.

Video shows trucker chasing lions in Gujarat forest

| TNN | Updated: Feb 21, 2018, 15:49 IST
Video shows trucker chasing lions in Gujarat forest
RAJKOT: Depicting miserable conditions of Asiatic lions, a video is being widely circulated on social media platforms in which a trucker is seen chasing a lioness and its three cubs in Greater Gir forest area.
According to the local villagers, the video was shot near Pipavav Port state highway in Rajula taluka of Amreli district in Gujarat.

The truck driver is speaking in Hindi and is chasing lions while a person sitting next to him is capturing the video on his mobile phone. The truck might have come to Pipavav Port from outside the state.

The video shows a lioness and three cubs running in fear as the truck chases them.

“Forest department has hired trackers and deputed foresters in all lion habitats but they are careless in protecting the endangered animal," wildlife activist Atabhai Wagh said,

The higher officials of the forest department are investigating the matter. 
Whats the big deal, the trucker is just taking video of the lions which are foolishly running ahead. Imagine if the lion had just stepped aside then you wouldn''t be seeing this video. Mind it that h... Read MoreKiron P

However, it's not a one-off incident. A video went viral in November last year showing a biker chasing a lion. The forest department had assured inquiry after an outrage, but till date nobody has been booked.

The apathy of forest department has created outrage among animal lovers and lion protection groups.
In Video: Video shows trucker chasing lions in Gujarat forest