Monday, March 30, 2015

Man detained with ‘lion nails’

RAJKOT: A man was detained by the forest officials of Gir West division of Junagadh Wildlife Circle, from Dhari bus depot, allegedly with two nails suspected to be of an Asiatic lion. The youth was identified as Kishor Dalit (22) from Rajpara village of Visavadar taluka of Junagadh district.

However, the forest department officials have ruled out poaching angle in this case.

Forest department had received information during routine monitoring exercise that someone was trying to sell nails of lion. They posed as customers and nabbed Dalit from near Dhari bus depot on Tuesday night and brought him to Visavadar forest range for questioning.

"We recovered two nails suspected to be of a lion. The nails have been sent to a forensic laboratory in Junagadh to confirm whether the nails are of lion or fakes," R N Nala, deputy conservator of forests, Gir West division told TOI.

Dalit told forest officials that he was engaged in diamond polishing work in the past and later he used to work as a daily wager.

"We are questioning him as to from where he got the nails. If it turns out to be genuine ones we will arrest him and produce him before the local court and seek remand for further interrogation," Nala added. As per the 2010 lion census, there were 411 lions in Gir forests and its surroundings covering Bhavnagar, Junagadh and Amreli district.

HC seeks report on ‘mining fires’ along Shetrunji riverbank.

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat high court on Friday sought details from forest officials about incidents of fire, if any, caused by the mining mafia on the banks of Shetrunji river near Gir sanctuary for mining activity. Fire creates a lot of trouble for the wildlife in the protected area which is the last abode of the Asiatic lion.

The high court has also asked the commissioner of mining and geology to report about the area with the sketch where excavation of sand in Shetrunji river has been permitted. The high court also issued notice to Amreli district collector.

The HC acted on a PIL filed by Surat-based businessman Rajkumar Sutaria. He has alleged that indiscriminate sand mining activity is taking place in the Shetrunji riverbed just outside the eco-sensitive zone of Gir National Park and Sanctuary.
The petitioner submitted that workers involved in sand mining are afraid of the wild animals coming to the river and to keep them at bay, they light fire which in turn threatens the wildlife. He cited a Supreme Court order directing the governments to restrain mining activity within 1km radius of such prohibited forest. It further directed to declare 10km radius area as eco-sensitive zone.

After citing the SC order, Sutaria has contended that despite such position the state government granted permission for mining activity in the riverbed near the sanctuary, and this should be stopped immediately.

The HC has kept further hearing on March 27.

Meanwhile, the HC has also directed the authorities of three districts to take action against those who indulge in commercial activity by opening hotels and resorts in their agricultural land around Gir sanctuary. The electricity department has initiated taking action against such property owners who illegally run hospitality units in the buffer zone.

Many such property owners have moved the HC complaining against the action taken by the authorities. Some have even claimed that they have the requisite permission to run such units. The HC has asked the government to respond to their claims by March 26.

PIL alleges illegal mining in Gir lion sanctuary in Gujarat.

Press Trust of India  |  Ahmedabad 
Last Updated at 22:57 IST
The High today issued a notice to the state government and sought details of illegal sand-mining activities in Gir lion sanctuary, the only abode for the Asiatic lions, in connection with a PIL.

A two-judge bench of the High Court, comprising justice Jayant Patel and justice G B Shah, directed the Commissioner of Mining and Geology in the state to give details about the alleged illegal sand-mining in Gir.

"Submit a report about the area with the sketch where the excavation of sand in Shetrunji river alongside the lion sanctuary in Amreli and Junagadh district is permitted," the high court order said.

The high court passed the order while hearing the PIL filed by a Surat city-based person Rajkumar Sutaria who alleged that illegal mining in the area causes life-threat to wild animals like Asiatic lions, sloth-bears, hyenas and golden jackals.

"The Chief Conservator of Forests in Junagadh district and two Deputy Conservator of Forests in Amreli shall submit the incident with details, if any, of the fire set in the eco-sensitive zone for the purpose of mining activity," said the order.

Although the Gir Asiatic lion sanctuary is protected as an eco-sensitive zone, where no construction or development activities can take place in a radius of 10 kms, mining in Shetrunji river is going on, which threatens the existence of the wildlife, alleged the petition.

"Because of development of the mining activity in the river, the people working for the said activity are afraid of the wild animal coming to the river and therefore, just to keep the wildlife away from the working area, they light fire on the river bank which not only causes harm to the wildlife but also threatens their life," it said.

The High Court has posted further hearing in this case on March 26.

Earlier, a PIL was filed on the illegal tourism-zones in the Asiatic lion sactuary of Gujarat.

Lion census in Gujarat in May.

Press Trust of India  |  Gandhinagar 
Last Updated at 22:02 IST
A of Asiatic lions will be carried out in May to find out the exact number of the big cats in Gujarat, where their population stood just over 400 five years ago, the Assembly was informed today.

As per the last census, carried out in 2010, there were 411 lions, 1,160 leopards, 293 bears and 48 Great Indian Bustards in Gujarat. Now, the state government would carry out a fresh census of lions in May, Forest and Environment Minister Mangubhai Patel told the House.

He was speaking on the allocations made in the state Budget of 2015-16 for his Department. Patel said due to the Government's continuous conservation efforts, has seen a significant increase in the population of wild animals.

For the conservation of lions, Patel said his Department has alloted Rs 11 crore, which will be spent mainly on putting fences on both sides of rail tracks passing through Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, the last abode of Asiatic lions.

Fencing will keep lions away from the railway tracks as several cases of the big cats being run over by trains had been reported in the past, the Minister said.

As per a census carried out two months back, wild ass population in Gujarat has registered a jump of 413, taking their total number to 4,451, stated Patel.

A sum of Rs 1.60 crore has been earmarked for the conservation of bears and development of corridors used by wild animals to search food and water in the forests, he said.

Similarly, Patel said Rs 1 crore has been allocated for development of habitat for Great Indian Bustards, which is considered a highly endangered species.

The bird is found in Abdasa taluka of Kutch, where there is a sanctuary for them. However, these birds usually prefer to breed in the grasslands outside the sanctuary. Thus, to develop that area as their habitat and also to make it more suitable for their breeding, the government will spend Rs 1 crore, added Patel.

Gujarat makes strong pitch in SC for its lions.

In an affidavit filed in response to a petition by Wildlife Conservation Trust (WTC), Rajkot, challenging the April 15, 2013, order of Supreme Court directing translocation of Gir lions to MP, the state government has submitted that there is no immediate ground for lion translocation as the big cat does not face any threat of extinction for the next 100 years.

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat has finally presented a strong case to protect its pride — the Asiatic lion. Instead of taking refuge in technicalities, the state government has recently presented before the apex court scientific studies and guidelines of world's top conservation body — International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) — suggesting that translocation of lions from Gir in Gujarat to Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh may not be a correct move.

In an affidavit filed in response to a petition by Wildlife Conservation Trust (WTC), Rajkot, challenging the April 15, 2013, order of Supreme Court directing translocation of Gir lions to MP, the state government has submitted that there is no immediate ground for lion translocation as the big cat does not face any threat of extinction for the next 100 years. Currently, there are 411 lions in Gir sanctuary in Gujarat as per 2010 census.

"IUCN, in its red list, has noted that current population of Asiatic lions — though vulnerable — is a large and healthy one. Population and Habitat Viability Analysis workshop organized by IUCN in India has predicted 0% chance of extinction of lions over next 100 years," the affidavit says.
In fact, the Gujarat government has insinuated that translocation may prove counter-productive for tigers in MP instead. It has quoted National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) report that emphasizes Kuno Palpur as an important corridor for tiger movement between Ranthambore and Sihor. "This corridor should be developed as a tiger habit for tiger conservation."

"Gujarat is of view that it is undesirable from a scientific, technical and legal point of view to direct the translocation of Asiatic lions to Kuno. It would be in the best interest of Asiatic lion if this subject is left to the experts in the field and to statutory authorities."

Last month, a 12-member expert panel formed for translocating lions to MP sought maiden opinion from NTCA whether lion and tiger can co-exist in Kuno Palpur or if the body would rather prefer Kuno as a sole tiger habitat.

Zoo ready to barter tiger for Asiatic lion.

Kanpur Zoo is ready to barter some of its tigers for a pair of Asiatic lions. Discussions are already underway with Rajkot, Jaipur and Bhopal zoos in this regard.

Zoo director Mukesh Kumar said, "We want to have both a pair of lion and tigers. It will be easy for us to barter tigers for lions." The zoo currently has six tigers, including a pair of white tiger.

As per Central Zoo Authority (CZA) guidelines, getting Asiatic animals is not an easy proportion. As per exchange programme, a big sized animal or an animal on verge of extinction coming under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 have to be bartered for giant animals like lions.

Currently, the zoo has three tigresses, including Trusha, its daughter Chitra and white tigress Savitri. However, Chitra is yet to attain the age of mating. Same is the case with white tiger Luv, who is merely one-and-a-half- year-old.

Hence, zoo veterinarians are chalking out a mating plan for Savitri, which arrived from Vizag Zoo on March 3. Zoo officials said that it had adjusted to the new environment.

Zoo vet RK Singh said, "We will have to mate Savitri with a yellow tiger. The idea is to introduce a new bloodline. But we do not have more space to accommodate any more tigers. Therefore, giving away a tiger or a pair of it can help us in getting some other animal may be Asiatic lion."

Among the giant animals which can be roped in via barter are Giraffe and Cheetah to name a few.

Rs 82 lakh petrol used for patrolling in Gir forest.

AHMEDABAD: The 309 bikes used for patrolling in Sasan Gir and adjoining forest areas have consumed fuel worth Rs 81.98 lakh in the last two years. This comes to be around Rs 36 per bike per day. A sum of Rs 10.83 lakh was used for repairs and maintenance of these bikes.

In the reply to a question by Mahudha MLA Natwarsinh Thakore, the state government said that from February 1, 2013 to January 31, 2014 petrol worth Rs 42.92 lakh was used by 309 bikes for patrolling and during the same period in 2014-2015 petrol worth Rs 39.06 lakh was used.

The bikes were given for effective patrolling in Gir sanctuary and areas near the sanctuary. Each staffer had been instructed to maintain a logbook and not to use the vehicle for personal use, said the government.

In the reply to another question by Thakore, the government said that 124 lions and 135 leopards had died in Gir and Dhari regions in the last two years ending January 31, 2015.

The government said that 63 lions and 69 leopards died between February 1, 2013 and January 31, 2014, while during same period in 2014-2015 the number of lion deaths was 61 and that of leopards was 66. However, the government made it clear that no animal was poached in last two years.

Power to sarpanch

The state government said the village sarpanch has been given the power to eliminate neelgai destroying the standing crops. The government has also introduced a scheme to give 50% subsidy for creating barbed wire fencing around the fields.

After white tigers, Kanpur zoo eyes pair of Asiatic lion.

KANPUR: After a pair of white tiger, Kanpur Zoo is now eying a pair of Asiatic Lions. Discussions are already underway with a few leading zoos across the country.

The zoo had procured one-and-a-half-year-old white tiger Luv from Chandigarh Zoo on February 4 this year, while white tigress Savitri arrived from Vizag Zoo on March 3. Savitri will celebrate fourth birthday on March 16.

Meanwhile, zoo authorities are in talks with their Jaipur, Rajkot and Bhopal counterparts for a pair of Asiatic lion. A pair of Asiatic lion headed to Lion Safari in Etawah was housed in the zoo for six months. However, soon after being shifted to the safari, both of them died after suffering from canine distemper disease.

The zoo authorities are trying to find a pair of Asiatic lion for the vacant enclosure ever since. Zoo director Mukesh Kumar said that efforts were underway to procure a pair of Asiatic lions and added that till the arrival of lions, their enclosure would be used to house white tigers.

On mating Luv and Savitri, he said that Luv was not yet ready due to its age. "Hence, we are yet to decide Savitri's partner. But it is still early to comment as we need more space to accommodate offsprings," he said.