Friday, August 28, 2015

Mulayam's Etawah project is becoming a political safari

Hindustan Times
Updated: Aug 28, 2015 00:24 IST

The deaths of Asiatic lions in Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Rs 100 crore pet project,Lion Safari, will hit Yadav’s plans for a grand opening of the safari, located in his native district, before the 2017 assembly polls. (HT Photo- Photo for representative purposes only)It was supposed to be Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Neverland Ranch.

The website of his pet project — Lion Safari — expands on that dream rather crudely: ‘It was a dream come true. The first pair of lions reached the Lion Breeding Centre and Lion Safari, Etawah, in April 2014. They roared on arrival’.
That roar is now muted after the death of five cubs in one month. These were not the first deaths: In October, lioness Lakshmi died, followed by a lion, Vishnu. Another lioness Kunwari is reported ill though the officials say she is fine. Experts are divided in their opinion on whether this project should be continued. One group is of the view that there is no climatic difference between Gujarat and Etawah and lions can survive in Uttar Pradesh. Another lot says that old gazetteer records show animals like neelgai, panther, fox, sambhar, bear, wolf, hyena, hare, etc in Etawah but no mention of Asiatic lions.
There are political overtones to this Rs 100 crore project as well: The deaths will hit Mr Yadav’s plans for a grand opening of the safari, located in his native district, before the 2017 assembly polls.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi targeted the SP during the general elections, saying that Gujarat gave UP the lions but Mr Yadav and company could not handle them and that the father-son duo should visit Gujarat’s Gir forest to see how safaris are done. With the lion safari not taking off, Mr Yadav’s son and UP chief minister, Akhilesh Yadav, has now expanded the scope of the project — just the way politicians do when they sense failure in development projects. He now wants to convert the ‘lion safari’ into an ‘animal safari’ by bringing in leopards, deer, bears and antelopes till lion cubs can be reared and released into the forest.
By all accounts, this project has not been thought through even though it has all the clearances. It exists because the father and son want it. And so it did not matter whether it had the required personnel or the infrastructure. It also has a political timeline.
So the safari bureaucracy will experiment once again without getting to the root cause of the deaths. Or even if they do, will they make it public?

Queens of Gir jungle

AHMEDABAD: They are the true 'lion queens' of Gir. These three women from Saurashtra - Rasilaben Wadher; Kiran Pithiya; and Darshanaben Kagada - have opted to work as foresters at Devaliya Safari Park in Sasan Gir where they rescue lions, manage their diets and look after their health. They even train officials of other states in rescue and management of wildlife.

The three had to overcome opposition from their families to work as foresters. They are praised and respected for their professionalism. In fact, the wildlife TV channel, Animal Planet, featured them in its documentary, `Lion Queens of Gir.' Rasila Wadher was among the first women foresters to join the lion rescue team. She has found herself at risk several times.

"Once I had gone with my team to rescue an injured lion," she said. "We were to tranquilize the beast. As soon as we fired the shot containing the tranquilizer, it almost attacked us. But we kept our cool and slowly walked back to our vehicles. The lion too slowly retreated into the forest."

Kiran Pithiya, 25, not only takes part in rescue operations but has to record the movement and change in behaviour of lions. She said that this sounds easy but is not.

"Recently, a lioness gave birth and I had to keep watch on the newborn cubs and movement of their mother," said Pithiya. "One day, I did not realize that it had turned dark. I was leaving the area on my bike alone when a lioness began chasing me." She realized she was in danger and immediately decided to signal to the lioness that she was a forester.

"I turned my bike around made a hat-hat and hud-hud sound," said Pithiya. "The lioness understood that I was a forester and turned back. If I had tried to speed up and escape, the lioness would have attacked and killed me."

For Darshana Kagada, talking in Hindi or English was a challenge. "I handle awareness programmes and even nature camps," she said. "As I am a commerce graduate, I used to find technical matters a bit difficult. But senior officers like Sandeep Kumar helped me understand these topics. I now speak Hindi fluently and understand English."

Lion Safari’s dream run laid to rest with Girishma’s cub

lions safari, girishma, akhilesh yadav, samajwadi party, lion safari, safari, india news
All 5 cubs dead, officials ‘start afresh’, put hopes on ‘next round of breeding’. - See more at:

All 5 cubs dead, officials ‘start afresh’, put hopes on ‘next round of breeding’.

Written by Faisal Fareed | Lucknow | Published:August 21, 2015 1:16 am
Mulayam’s pet project has now lost all cubs born here. (Source: Express Archive) For Etawah Lion Safari officials, starting from scratch is the only option left with the last surviving Asiatic lion cub dying late on August 14.
Lioness Heer had delivered two cubs on July 18 but the cubs couldn’t be saved. Thereafter on July 22, Girishma delivered three cubs but two of them did not survive. Forest officials had pinned their hopes on the third cub but he , too, lost his battle with life last week.
“Sadly, all the five cubs died, but we are starting afresh. We are hopeful of the next round of breeding and pregnancy among the lioness,” said Sanjay Srivastava, the newly-appointed director of the Etawah Lion Safari. Conceived in 2005 by Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, the lion safari has witnessed a series of deaths. In October 2014, lioness Lakshmi died, followed by a lion named Vishnu in November. This was followed by the deaths of the five cubs this summer.
Another lioness, Kunwari, is reportedly ill. Officials, however, claimed the lioness is fine. “She is taking normal diet, passing stool and, hence, there is nothing to worry,” Srivastava said.
“What happened was unfortunate. The cubs had become a pride for Uttar Pradesh; everybody was watching them but it did not go our way,” he added.
However, Srivastava said though the deaths are unfortunate, they aren’t abnormal. “As per experts, cubs born to first-time mothers have little chances of survival,” he said.
Chambal Range Divisional Forest Officer Anil Patel under whose jurisdiction the lion safari falls also said during his training at Sukkarbaugh Zoo in Junagarh, Gujarat, he had observed a similar thing. “The wildlife experts there apprised us that chances for survival of cubs of first-time mothers is quite less. We hope to do better next time,” Patel told The Indian Express. The safari also has three lions – Manan, Gigo and Kuber – from Gujarat.
Asiatic lioness have a gestation period of three-and-a-half-months after which they deliver 2-3 cubs. But time is running out for the officials as the dream project of the SP chief is unlikely to become operational before the 2017 Assembly elections in the state. Even after their birth, the cubs have to be kept in an enclosed area for at least two years before releasing them in a safari.
Meanwhile, senior officials stationed at the lion safari have returned while KK Singh, the former director, is facing a police case after an employee accused Singh of beating him and has been shifted to Lucknow. Principal Secretary Sajiv Saran has visited the safari to take stock of the situation.

Zoo marks World Lion’s Day

LION: Emperor Valley Zoo lion Mufasa in a photograph captured on World Lion’s Day celebrated August 10.

Published on Aug 18, 2015, 3:25 pm AST
Updated on Aug 18, 2015, 3:37 pm AST
By Sandhya Santoo

IN celebration of World Lion’s Day the Emperor Valley Zoo had a display for the public on lion awareness and conservation.
Celebrated last week Monday, as part of the Zoo’s Education and Enrichment Programme, officials created a display educating the public about lions.
The Zoo is home to five African lions, one of which is a white lioness named Nala. A white lion is extremely rare and gets it’s discolouration from a recessive gene. They are not albinos, according to zoological officer Sharleen Khan.
Khan said that there are two sub species of lions in the world, the African lion and Asiatic lion.
She said that there are approximately 25,000-30,000 African lions in the world and 411 Asiatic lions remaining in the wild.
She said that lions need to be conserved since their population is declining.
Khan said, “ Lions need to be conserved. Populations are declining due to mainly habitat loss, poaching, trophy-hunting and human wildlife conflict. They need to be protected before they go extinct”.

Two months on, home stay review panel yet to visit Gir

AHMEDABAD: It has been more than two months since the state tourism department formed a committee to review alleged irregularities in granting permission to guesthouses and farmhouses to operate as home stay in and around Sasan Gir but the panel is yet to visit these areas. These establishments continue to find mention as home stay units on the tourism corporation's website.

Sources said that the tourism department had directed the committee to contact forest department officials and then review the permits. However, the committee has neither discussed the issue with forest officials nor visited the locations to review the permits as yet.

A senior officer from the tourism department said that the committee was an eyewash as there was pressure from senior BJP leaders not to cancel the permits. Officials said that a majority of those given permission were close to senior BJP leaders from the area.

Earlier this year, the tourism department had given permission to 55 farmhouses and guesthouses on the periphery of the Gir sanctuary to offer home stay services. However, it is not clear whether the permits granted were legal as the Gujarat high court had declared many of these farmhouses illegal because they were earlier being used as hotels.

Sources in the department said that these farmhouses do not qualify for approval under the home stay policy. According to the policy, the owner of a home stay unit has to stay on the premises but this is not the case with most of these farmhouses. So such permission is illegal under the policy, they added. Of the 55 establishments given approval, 52 are in Sasan while three are in Junagadh district.

A senior officer said that the department has ordered the review by the same agency which had carried out the inspection while granting the home stay permission. He questioned as to how the same agency would say that their earlier inspection was wrong.

GPS-aided cameras to keep track of Gir lions

Around 250 cameras will be installed in the sanctuary. (TOI Photo by Sandeep Kumar)
Around 250 cameras will be installed in the sanctuary. (TOI Photo by Sandeep Kumar)

AHMEDABAD: The state forest department is getting ready to install GPS-aided 'camera traps' — a network of remotely operated system with motion and infrared sensors — in the Gir sanctuary. This will allow paperless monitoring of wildlife, especially lions, and for conducting habitat studies.

A senior forest department officer said the department plans to install around 250 cameras. The entire network is expected to be ready for use by October this year.

The cameras will be installed in every 4 sq km area of the sanctuary and in places where visibility is very poor. The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the Gujarat forest department, assisted by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), will use software to track the movement of not only the lions and other animals but also beat guards.

The ZSL will give £1 lakh (around Rs 1 crore) to the state government for setting up the new monitoring system. Funds for this will also come from the state government and the Centre, said an official.

The ZSL and the forest department had signed a memorandum of understanding for protecting the Asiatic lion and its habitat. In 2014, the ZSL had launched 'Lions400' campaign to raise funds for saving the Asiatic lion.

Y V Jhala, head of WII's animal ecology and conservation biology division, said that earlier a Gir lion was given as gift to the ZSL for its zoo. In return, the ZSL raised funds and decided to support the move to install GPS-aided camera traps in Gir.

Jhala said the advantage of these traps is that they can record accurate data and help the forest department keep watch on poaching and illegal activities, besides ensuring that forest beat guards visit their designated zones. These cameras will be camouflaged and will not disturb even birds. He said the battery in each camera will have to be replaced every 15 days.

Jhala said the new system will help beat guards record any illegal activity in real time and upload it to the server for officials to take necessary action immediately.

Diamond trader held, 503 kg of smuggled sandalwood seized from his residence

Kamlesh Shah in Bhavnagar

Acting on a tip-off, a team of Bhavnagar forest division officers raided the residence of one Kamlesh Shah in Amroli area of Bhavnagar city in the wee hours and seized the sandalwood worth approximately Rs 20 lakh.

Written by Gopal B Kateshiya | Rajkot | Updated: August 13, 2015 4:25 am
Kamlesh Shah in Bhavnagar Forest officials on Wednesday arrested a diamond merchant from Surat in connection with a sandalwood smuggling case and seized 503 kg of sandalwood from his Bhavnagar residence. This was the latest arrest in this case after the Gir East Division officials held four persons on Tuesday evening.
Acting on a tip-off, a team of Bhavnagar forest division officers raided the residence of one Kamlesh Shah in Amroli area of Bhavnagar city in the wee hours and seized the sandalwood worth approximately Rs 20 lakh. “We had a tip-off that a consignment of smuggled sandalwood had been sent to Surat from Saurashtra. Based on this input, our team conducted a raid on Shah’s house and arrested him after seizing the sandalwood consignment,” said Ganga Sharan Singh, deputy conservator of forest (Bhavnagar).
The seizure in Surat comes three days after 329 kg of sandalwood worth Rs 10 lakh was recovered from a gaushala in Bhadrod village of Mahuva taluka in Bhavnagar. The precious wood was cut from Gir forests. Sources involved in the investigation said the sandalwood seized from Shah’s residence was cut from Gir East Division forests, and the merchant was likely to be handed over to officers of the division.
Meanwhile, acting on the inputs provided by Bhavnagar officers, Gir East officers arrested four persons on Tuesday evening in connection with the sandalwood smuggling. The four have been identified as Jaga Rathod, Dinesh Parmar (both from Amreli), Dhanji Sisanda and Karamshi Sisanda (both from Dhari). The four were produced in a Dhari court and were remanded to a six-day custody of Gir East forest officers.
“There were incidents of cutting of sandalwood trees from forest and revenue areas in Gir East Division around a year ago. We suspect these people were behind that theft of sandalwood,” Gir East DCF Anshuman Sharma said.
Sources said Dhanji was pointsman of Lalji Jinjala, a resident of Mahuva. Jinjala, in turn, used to sell smuggled sandalwood through Jaysukh Patel, a diamond merchant of Bhavnagar. Incidentally, Jinjala and three others were arrested by Bhavnagar forest officers Saturday after sandalwood, suspected to have been smuggled from Gir forests, was found stored in guashala.

Lion deaths: Centre may bring out new policy on sand mining in forest area

AHMEDABAD: Minister of state for environment and forest Prakash Javadekar on Sunday said that central government is planning to bring a new policy to allow sand mining in forest areas in order to stop the the flood waters from overflowing into the forests.

The minister made the announcement citing the death of 10 Asiatic lions and other wild animals in the recent Amreli floods in June.

"Due to the flood in Amreli recently, 10 lions along with many other wild animals have died. As per the Supreme Court's order, you cannot excavate silt gathered in rivers passing from forest area. As a result, large amount of silt have gathered in such rivers across the country," said Javadekar during an interaction with media at circuit house on Sunday.

"As a result, the river beds have become shallow and the flood water eventually spread in nearby forests. If we do not remove this silt, Forest Rivers will eventually vanish and flood will keep coming. Thus there is a need to remove this silt to avoid such situation," added Javadekar.

He further said, "We have prepared a 'sustainable sand mining policy to allow sand mining in the forest area for this purpose. We will also inform the court about it to seek permission" said Javadekar.

35 projects in Gujarat given clearance in last 15 months: Javadekar

Javadekar claimed that his ministry has cleared at least 35 projects of Gujarat, which were not given clearance since long. "When Congress was in power at the Centre, they had stalled many projects of Gujarat. In last 15 months, we have given clearances to 35 such projects of Gujarat government. Many of the projects were stuck in this ministry since 2007" said Javadekar. Some of these projects which received environmental clearance include 800 MW extension at Vanakbori thermal power station, drilling of 103 wells in Vadodara by ONGC, development of Dholera SIR and limestone mining project in Rangpur village of Junagadh, claimed Javadekar.