Wednesday, November 30, 2016

9 animals in India every wildlife lover must see!

These animals are mostly spotted in India and you shouldn't miss a chance to see them.

| Published: November 29, 2016 10:16 PM IST
snow leopard gulmarg
Wildlife enthusiasts love going to different national parks and sanctuaries to spot their favorite animals. India’s rich flora and fauna is reason enough to travel to the country or if you are already here, visit different parks as each one has its own attraction that is rarely found in others. So if you are a wildlife lover, here’s a list of animals that are mostly found in India and rarely in other parts of the world making you want to take a trip for spotting them. ALSO SEE 10 best national parks in India
Asiatic Lion

Listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Asiatic Lion is limited in number and found only in Gujarat’s Gir Forest. It is one of the five big cat species found in India and as of 2015, its population was 523 including male, female and cubs. These lions hunt in groups rather than venturing solo and the most striking feature that distinguishes it from the rest is a longitudinal fold of skin running along its belly. Since Gir is their only habitat, the area was declared a sanctuary in 1965 for their conservation and protection.
Golden Jackal
Golden jackal is easy to spot across India, more so in Rajasthan and Kolkata. Its built is slender with a pointed muzzle and short tail. Golden jackal is similar in looks to a grey wolf and is found in several parts of India as well Asia. They often adapt to their surroundings and are able to survive in extreme conditions as well. It mostly feeds on rodents, fruits and can survive without water also. To spot a golden jackal, you can visit Tollygunge Club or Keoladeo National Park.
ALSO SEE 10 endangered animals in India you should see
Being our national animal, it is only fitting that you spot one on Indian soil. There are several sanctuaries and national parks in India that are known for their tiger population. Some of them are Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh and Tadoba National Park in Maharashtra. The tiger is known for its natural beauty and India is also home to the royal Bengal tiger which is white in color. Only once you spot one on a jungle safari will you know the true beauty and fear of a tiger.
ALSO SEE 10 best places to spot tigers in India
Stripe-necked mongoose
Found in southern India, stripe-necked mongoose is a small predator that looks harmless but preys on rodents, frogs, crabs and reptiles. It can be distinguished by a black stripe running around its neck giving it the name. You will mostly find them in forested areas or near swamps and rice fields. There are two subspecies of this animal with one having a reddish tint around its fur. To spot them, visit Bandipur National Park in Karnataka.
Snow Leopard
Another endangered species by the IUCN, there are about 4000-8000 snow leopards in the world as per 2016 records. The big cat is an elusive one and extremely difficult to spot as it is mostly found in alpine regions at an altitude of over 3,000m above sea level. They also are white in color with black spots and blend in well with their natural surroundings. They can be found in the Himalayan region in India. You can try your luck spotting it in Ladakh at the Hemis National Park.
ALSO SEE A group of skiers spotted a snow leopard in Gulmarg, watch
They may look petite but hyenas are known to scare off even lions. They hunt in a pack and primarily catch their prey with their teeth rather than their claws. Hyenas are nocturnal creatures and you will find them hunting at night or sometimes in the early hours of the day. They eat very quickly and then store food. Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat is one place to spot hyena and so is Velavadar National Park.
Marsh Crocodile
Found at various spots in the Indian subcontinent, this crocodile is also called mugger crocodile or simply mugger in many regions. It is a medium-sized croc and is mostly found in freshwater lakes, ponds, marshes, swamps and rivers. They attack their prey by pouncing on them when they get a chance as they come to drink water. Because of their dark color, they can camouflage well with the murky water. Marsh crocodiles are found in different parts of India but you can spot them easily in the Chambal River or at Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary in Karnataka.
Jungle Cat
A medium-sized cat found in the Indian subcontinent, jungle cat is also called reed or swamp cat and is usually sandy, reddish-brown in color. They prefer remaining in a solitary environment and mostly come out to mingle during the mating season. Jungle cats are bigger than the usual cats and are known to hunt throughout the day. They live in burrows, grassland thickets and holes and avoid roaming in open areas. These creatures feed on rodents, insects, reptiles, small mammals and birds. In India you can spot them in Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh.
The spotted predator is found in several places in India, sometimes even in urban areas causing much havoc and manic to city dwellers. Leopard, one of the most beautiful big cats is a natural predator and loves to chase and attack its prey over long distances. Because the leopard population is on a decline, it is under the vulnerable red list of UCIN currently. This is also because they are illegally hunted, sold and killed. If you want to spot one in India, visit Kabini Forest Reserve.
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Published: November 29, 2016 10:16 PM IST | Updated: November 29, 2016 10:16 PM IST

Gir village to light up after 69 years

(Representative image)(Representative image)

| Nov 24, 2016, 06.34 AM IST
AHMEDABAD: Sixty-nine years after Independence, residents of Zankhiya village in Gir sanctuary, the last abode of the Asiatic lions, will get electricity connections and basic amenities.
However, this would not have been possible without an order from Gujarat high court (HC), which has directed the authorities to complete all formalities and finish the project in six months so that the villagers can get power supply for residential and agriculture purpose. This could be made possible through 10 years of incessant efforts by the villagers to secure basic amenities for themselves in this forest area. Interestingly, a decade ago, the state government declared that it had achieved 100% electrification in the state under the Jyotirgram Yojna.

Zankhiya, one of the nine villages in forest settlement area in the western region of Gir, tried hard to get power supply . Five villagers moved the HC in 2014. Later, the process for acquiring permissions from concerned authorities was put on a fast track after the HC observed that the progress was at "snail's pace". The standing council of National Board of Wildlife granted permission in March to lay 11KV overhead electric line. The nod was given on the ground that the proposal for electrification was "for a public utility of no impact on the wildlife of the area".

In its permission, the National Board of Wildlife asked the state authorities to ensure that no dama ge sho uld be cau sed to flora and fauna and insu lated cable should be used for transmission line. It also ordered that the labour camp during the project should be kept outside the sanctuary , that fuel and other requirement be met with by purchaser from the market and that the sanctuary must not be burdened.

The Paschim Gujarat Vij Company Ltd told the HC that it had no objection in carrying out the project. After hearing the case, Justice R M Chhaya

Tourism in Gujarat affected badly by cash crunch

Asiatic lions in the Gir forest, one of Gujarat's most famous tourist attractions (TOI Photo)

| Nov 23, 2016, 11.13 PM IST

Tourism in Gujarat has been hit badly by demonetisation, as potential visitors are choosing to hold on their cash, industry sources say
  • Several tourist attractions, such as the Gir forest, the Small Desert of Kutch, Pavagadh and Dakor have seen a drop in tourist numbers.Asiatic lions in the Gir forest, one of Gujarat's most famous tourist attractions (TOI Photo)

  • AHMEDABAD: Tourism in Gujarat has taken a hit after the currency ban was announced more than two weeks ago, as potential visitors are choosing to hold on to their money during the cash crunch, industry sources say.

    For example, tourists have been cancelling advance
    bookings for the Kutch Rann Utsav, an annual festival which this year started on November 1, and will go on till February 20. Other attractions, such as the Polo forest, the Small Desert of Kutch, Pavagadh, and Dakor have also recorded a decrease in tourist numbers.

Even the Gir forest, home of the Asiatic lion, hasn't been spared.

The lions of the Gir

An Asiatic lion, found only in Gir National Forest in India.
An Asiatic lion, found only in Gir National Forest in India.
A female antelopeA female antelope
The female Asiatic lion, also known as the Indian lion.The female Asiatic lion, also known as the Indian lion.
The Gir Forest in India is home to one of the most successful conservation programmes for lions. Kevin Galea gets up close and personal to some of them.
Conservation areas are bad for the back. The Gir Forest in Gujarat, west India is the last remaining home for Asiatic or Persian lions.  It also has the largest number of marsh crocodiles, leopards and sleeping policemen.
As well as a highly successful breeding programme of potholes, their numbers grow every night.
If you go on an Indian lion safari you will be in for a bumpy ride. The Gir is made up of 400 partially-tarmaced kilometres from Ahmedabad, which one brochure described as “a city flourishing in pollution.”
I decided to forgo some of the unique on-site attractions of the family-friendly Fern Resort in Sasan Gir – ranging from kite flying ( seasonal) to jiggery making, beginners’ kabaddi, lemon and egg racing, kho kho (tag), musical chairs and even ‘make your own lion mask’. Instead, I went on a three-hour, £120 early morning jeep safari to spot a rare gene pool.
“Isn’t he handsome?” said my English-speaking guide Mr Bhikku. “A really good-looking fellow.”
Ten yards away from us, a lion was dozing off his early morning kill and, although we remained upwind, he was audibly suffering from unneutralised stomach acid.
Under a nearby flame tree, a group of lionesses picked at the carcass of their breakfast,  a spotted chical deer.
A crested serpent eagle circled overhead. Vultures queued in the tree tops. A boar scurried into the undergrowth. “We are all vegetarians here,” smiled Mr Bhikku.
“There is no dearth of bush meat for the king of the jungle!”  He tilted his head, giving a textbook wobble. “The shiyals and sharakhs will be close by – those are the jackals and hyenas.”
It was 7am and already 40°C. There were four of us on the dawn tour – an American, a German couple and me. The American couldn’t close his aperture and went on and on about preventing motion blur and how he was on evaluative metre mode in JPG format and trusting to horizontal stabilisation. He thrust his outsize lenses past my nose. He was eager, he said, to add to his on-field wildlife portfolio.
He asked me what I was using. I said “C2H5OH”. To reduce camera shakes I had invested in a tourist alcohol licence. Gujarat is India’s one dry state.
We bumped up and down through the scrub. Every tree root tested the coccyx. Our guide spoke of rock pythons and spectacle cobras.
“Tigers are found across 17 Indian states but lions only in one.  The dry deciduous forests of north-west India, an one hour flight from Mumbai, are the last remaining habitat of the Asiatic or Persian lion. It is the only place in the world where you can see “Leo panticara” in the wild.
We stopped. Bhikku put his finger to his lips and shushed us. “Babbar sher.”
Asiatic savaj lions were removed from the critically-endangered species list in 2005
Another bloated lion panted in front of us.
“Gir forest management has become a model for the study of human-wildlife management,” he whispered.  “We have lady rangers who look after the lions. For some reason, they trust them more than they trust men men. We have just had our lion census. It happens every five years. There are no issues, only good news. The lions are surviving and thriving.”
We moved further into India’s largest tract of semi-arid deciduous forest.
Begun in 1962, the Gir Lion Project is a conservation success story. The first count was undertaken in 1880 by a Colonel Watson. He recorded 12 lions. The first Forest Service tally was in 1963 (285). In 2010, 411 lions or “were recorded (97 males, 162 females and 152 cubs).
The most recent census – the 14th – revealed a 27 per cent increase in lion numbers; 109 males were counted as well as 210 females and 213 cubs.
A lioness sprawled under a carvanda tree. They live separately from males. They can have six litters. Once, the presence of lions was widespread from the Middle-East to Greece and north and east India. However, they died out in Europe some 2,000 years ago. They were hunted to near extinction in India by princes, maharajahs and Brits until the Nawab of Junagadh banned hunting at the end of the 19th century.
There may be now 48 official tiger reserves in India. The tiger, with its 2,000 wild population, might bring in more tourism revenue but the lion, thanks to Indian PM Narendra Modi, has been re-instated as the national animal.  In 2007, Modi, who was born in Gujarat, started a programme to involve more female villages in conservation work.
“Poaching and timber felling is a problem,” explained Bikkhu.
He introduced us to one of the Blue Caps or Behens (sisters).  “They are the famous cat women of Gir!” He laughed.
“We are preserving our heritage,” said Sonal. She was sitting astride her Honda Hero motorbike.  She held a walkie-talkie and she was dressed in khaki. “The lion is the symbol of Indian sovereignty and the four-headed lion is on our bank notes. The Persian lions are the last remaining descendants of the lions of Daniel, Androcles and the Roman gladiators. They are our pride, but Gir also has largest population of leopards in India.”
A sambar raced past. She smiled. “That’s the menu!” A boar  disappeared into the bushes.
Asiatic savaj lions were removed from the critically- endangered species list in 2005.  A breeding centre has been established at Sakkarbaug Zoo in Junadagh.
A lion yawned and stretched in front of us. So did the Germans.  The American kept clicking.
Back at the Fern, I birdwatched from my balcony, ticking off black drongos, tailor birds, sunbirds, green bee-eaters, rose ringed parakeets and  the charming and very helpful  hotel manager, Debasish Muduli. He asked me whether I was enjoying the aviculture.
“They are our most important guests. But the savaj and sinh are the king of the jungle here. Long live the lion king.”
We heard a camera click and looked over at the American’s room.  The manager smiled and handed me a leaflet.
“Photography vantage points within the resort attract a lot of birds and offer complete contentment to the greedy lenses of enthusiastic camera.”
Blurbs never lie. Shooting things is still a popular pastime in India.
The writer flew to India from the UK using The closest airports to the Gir are Porbandar and Keshod. He stayed at the Fern Gir Forest Resort (

Over 35 forest officials engaged in lion release operation

| | Nov 19, 2016, 04.00 AM ISTDhari (Amreli): The forest department has formed three teams headed by Range Forest officers (RFOs) for round-the-clock monitoring of the 15 lions that were released into the wild on Thursday.

"We have formed three teams involving 15 staffs to monitor their movements. We hope that all lions will settle down in their natural habitat soon," said Dr T Karuppasamy, deputy conservator of forests, Gir East division (Dhari).

"A veterinary doctor has checked all the lions before their release into the wild. Our staff have worked round-the-clock in past six months to ensure that the pride of lions settles in the wild again," said Karuppasamy.
The entire release operation was carried out under guidance of chief conservator of forests, wildlife division, Junagadh, A P Singh and with support of R R Nala, DCF, Sasan Gir and Pradeep Singh, (DCF, Gir-west.

"Atleast 35 members of forest department were engaged in the release operation since last 10 days. This included gathering the lions, caging them doing health check-ups and transporting them to the location of release. Each process require meticulous planning and execution." said a forest official.

Latest Comment

well done goodyash

These lions were caged following increase in human-wildlife conflict around Gir forests, the last abode of majestic Asiatic lions. The lions were spreading and venturing closer to human habitats.

According to last census of Asiatic lions, there were 523 lions in and around Gir Forests and spread over four districts including Junagadh, Gir-Somnath, Amreli and Bhavnagar.

Gir's Maulana, Big B's co-star in Gujarat ad, dead

AHMEDABAD: Maulana, the iconic Asiatic lion of Gir, who was among eight lions featured in the advertisement 'Khushboo Gujarat Ki', died on Wednesday. Megastar Amitabh Bachchan, after seeing Maulana in 2010, wrote on his blog: "LION!! And no, not just one, many!"

Bachhan then described the scene, "They are just coming in numbers..3, 4 its 7 of them, led by the male lion, two females and cubs! They calmly come up to the water and start drinking. The older male leaves the hole and sits down by the side, the others still moving about the water..."

Announcing the death of the majestic lion on Thursday, chief conservator of forest, A P Singh, said, "The lion, which frequented the tourism zone, was named Maulana because of his looks. He was around 16 years old and under treatment for the last 10 days." Singh said that for the past couple of years, Maulana lived without his pride, and was one of the oldest surviving lions along with Ram, another old male. Ram, too, was 16 when he died earlier this month. Usually, a lion loses h is 'lordship' of a territory in about three years, but Maulana and his brother Tapu could not be dislodged for several years. The two reigned over a group of 39 lionesses and cubs.
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Lions’ abode gets eco zone cover

| | Nov 15, 2016, 04.00 AM IST
Ahmedabad: The ministry of environment, forest and climate change has notified an area up to a maximum radius of 17.9 km from the current boundary of Asiatic lion sanctuaries in Gujarat as Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ).

Sources in the department said that the ESZ has been notified in consultation with the Gujarat forest department, and it will ease the movement of lions along the natural corridor.

In view of the sensitive nature of the movement of Asiatic lions, the Gujarat forest department decided to have the maximum - 17.9 km radius from sanctuary boundary as ESZ.

"17.9 kilometres from the boundary of the Mitiyala Wildlife Sanctuary, 16.3 km from the boundary of the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and up to 14.98 km from the Paniya Wildlife Sanctuary of Gujarat, has been notified as Eco-Sensitive Zone," states the notification.

The ESZ has been created along the river flowing in the area. In the case of Nalsarovar and other sanctuaries the department had fixed an ESZ ranging from 2 km to 10 km. But in case of Gir Sanctuary, the area has been extended to a maximum of 17.9 km.

Popular TV show revealing private lives of animals at Chester Zoo set to return

Published date: 09 November 2016 |
Published by: Steve Creswell
A POPULAR TV show that reveals the private lives of weird and wonderful animals at Chester Zoo will hit screens for a second series this month.
At the start of 2016, more than four million viewers per episode tuned in to series one of The Secret Life of the Zoo.
Now, the groundbreaking Channel 4 documentary series is back, putting more cameras in more places the public never gets to see at Britain’s most popular wildlife attraction.
From the difficult birth of a baby zebra, to elephant mating, to moving a giant python, the series will tell the stories of extraordinary rites of passage in the lives of some of Chester’s 20,000 animals, many of which are rare and endangered.
Using a micro-rig to capture animal behaviour at eye level, the series takes us closer to these creatures than ever before.
And Chester’s keepers and animal care staff will reveal their close relationships with animals they have cared for over many years.
The Secret Life of The Zoo starts on Thursday, November 17, at 8pm.
A spokesman for the show said: “Many of the animals in the zoo are threatened with extinction.
“We’ll see how some of the rarest animals in the world, from Eastern black rhino to Sumatran tigers, are helped to breed. And we’ll also see how babirusa give birth, sloths form pair bonds, Asiatic lions mate, and orangutans protect their territory.
“The first episode of the new series sees Florence and Nadine, two of Chester’s Grevy’s zebras, both about to give birth. But fixing a due date is almost impossible, and so the keepers are keeping a close eye on both.
“Other animals are struggling to produce offspring. Iblis is an Asiatic lion, one of the rarest animals in the world. His partner of five years, Kumari, seems to be losing interest in him.
“Keepers can find nothing physically wrong with the pair, so decide to put Iblis on a programme of tearing animal carcasses from trees in order to get him into shape. But will it be enough to impress Kumari?
“Meanwhile warthog dad Magnum is feeling the pressure of parenting. Two of his older children, Dobby and Neville, are becoming increasingly hard to control. Magnum must impose order on his family again – if he can.
“And a new arrival to the zoo, Rico, a two-toed sloth, is finding it hard to attract the interest of female sloth Tina.”