Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Documentary reveals Gir lions co-existing with humans.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015 5:30:03 PM (IST)

Kolkata, June 30 (IANS): Lions roaming among humans may be a scary thought for many, but to those who live close to the Gir National Park, it is a matter of pride, says filmmaker Praveen Singh, whose documentary "India's Wandering Lions" captures the incredible tolerance of the people to the big cats.
The one-hour film premieres on July 6 at 9 p.m. on the Discovery Channel.
The documentary shows how an increase in the numbers of Asiatic lions have forced the cats to spill over the borders of the Gir National Park and how one of nature's most majestic predators have found a way to become an integral part of the farming community in Gujarat.
"We wanted to show how a number of lions are living outside the national park and understand and reveal how they are surviving.
"The lions seemed to be doing well and the people seemed to tolerate them. You might have one or two incidences in a year, but by and large most people see it as a matter of pride that lions are living among them," Praveen Singh told IANS.
Tracking the lions for over two-and-a-half years, the filmmaker and his team interacted with farmers, NGOs and forest guards.
"The farmers are positive about it. A lot of farmers say if the lions are there, the deer won't come to their fields, so it helps them in a certain way," he said.
Through the show, viewers will get a close look at wildlife through the deployment of special thermal, starlight, infrared and hidden cameras.
Praveen Singh said one of the major challenges during filming was following and sighting lions since they are mainly nocturnal.
Asiatic lions are endangered and over 500 are found in the Gir forests.

Gujarat floods boost MP’s lion translocation dream.

BHOPAL: Surprise flood killing eight Asiatic lions in Gujarat has rekindled hopes for Madhya Pradesh government, which has been trying since long to get a pride of big cats translocated to Kuno-palpur sanctuary in Sheopur district.

"Since a natural disaster has left eight lions dead and several missing, Gujarat cannot rule out the fear of an epidemic, which can pose a threat to the lions. We would request the Union government to shift some of them to MP at the earliest," said a senior wildlife officer wishing anonymity.

The move to relocate big cats, first mooted in 2000, has been hanging fire because Gujarat steadfastly refused to part with the majestic lions.
As chief minister, Narendra Modi refused to entertain any request from Shivraj Singh Chouhan government to shift the lions till the apex court on April 15, 2013 set a six-month deadline to the environment ministry to relocate the predators to Kuno. The court held that the species was under the threat of extinction and needed a second home. But the court's order has not been followed.

According to our Rajkot (Gujarat) bureau, eight lions have been found dead during flash flood in the last 48 hours in Bhavnagar and Amreli district.

With forest department expecting more carcasses, over 30 teams have been formed to fan out in the areas where lions were frequently seen in Bhavnagar and Amreli.

"This is something we have been trying to highlight for the last many years. We are worried about post-flood situation which may cause an epidemic," says wildlife activist Ajay Dubey. He has sent a mail to Union environment minister Prakash Javdekar to ensure compliance of Supreme Court order.

After Modi moved from Gandhi Nagar to Delhi, Madhya Pradesh's hopes of getting the magnificent species on its land had faded. Moreover, Gujarat government moved a curative petition in Supreme Court as its last legal resort to retain its Asiatic lions. Two Gujarat-based NGOs have also filed separate petitions challenging translocation of lions to Kuno, which is pending.

Blue bull carcasses found in Shetrunji dam, officials fear water contamination.

Lion carcass recovered from Ghoba village, toll climbs to 10, blue bulls toll cross 600 mark. - See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/gujarat/amreli-flash-floods-lion-deaths-touch-double-digit-blue-bulls-cross-600-mark/99/#sthash.qDWNTEif.dpuf
By: Express News Service | Rajkot | Updated: June 30, 2015 1:05 am

The death toll of Asiatic lions in the flash flood reached double digit as yet another carcass of the endangered big cat was recovered from Ghoba village of Amreli district. In neighbouring Bhavnagar, the situation was even more worrying with the recovery of around 200 more blue bull carcasses from Shetrunji dam area, and subsequent fear of water contamination.
A day after recovering carcass of a lioness from Ghoba, forest rangers spotted the body of around seven-year-old male from the slushy bank of river Shetrunji in the same village of Savarkundla taluka in Amreli on Monday.
“There is black soil on the banks of river Shetruji, and it has turned into a bog after the flash floods. We are closing-in towards the river as water recedes and area becomes accessible. As we pushed further towards the river, the carcass of the lion was found in the mud,” Anshuman Sharma, deputy conservator of forests of Gir East division, told The Indian Express.
With this, the number of deaths of Asiatic lions in the flash flood has gone up to 10.
So far, four lion carcasses have been found downstream Shetrunji dam in Bhavnagar district, and three each in Amreli social forestry area and Gir East division, also in Amreli district.
The only wild population of Asiatic lions in the world is surviving in Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts. According to a census conducted by the forest department in May this year, there were 523 lions in these four districts. Out of them, 174 were spotted in Amreli alone.
Blue bulls, major food source for the lions, appear to be the worst affected by the flash flood of June 24, as around 200 more carcasses of Asia’s largest antelope were recovered from Bhavnagar on Monday. So far, 600 blue bulls have been killed in the heavy rain and the flash flood.
Teams of NDRF and local forest offices scanned four more islands in Shetrunji dam and found carcasses of 54 blue bulls and livestock. Around 150 carcasses of the antelopes were found downstream Shetrunji dam.
“Blue bull carcasses lying on islands in Shetruji dam have started decomposing and the NDRF teams are treating them with chemical in order to prevent dam water from being contaminated. Since the carcasses are in very bad shape and cannot be handled, we are burying them on elevated patches on the islands,” Ganga Saran Sigh, DCF of Bhavnagar said.
Singh further said that death toll of blue bulls is likely to go up as daily report from villages in downstream Talaja and Gariyadhar talukas are still awaited.
Water Supply Minister Vijay Rupani, who was supervising rescue and relief work in Amreli and Bhavnagar till Sunday, said teams are scouring 80-kilometre-long stretch of Shetrunji. “Teams are sweeping the banks of the river to find out any human body or carcasses of livestock, wild animals etc. We estimate, 4,500 livestock heads have been killed in Amreli district alone. Survey is on to asses damage to houses,” the minister said on Monday.
- See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/gujarat/amreli-flash-floods-lion-deaths-touch-double-digit-blue-bulls-cross-600-mark/99/#sthash.qDWNTEif.dpuf

Puggies comb flooded jungle to track lions.

Puggies comb flooded jungle to track lions
One of the animal trackers, known as 'puggies', sits with a pride of lions at Gir. (TOI photo: Bhushan Pandya) "Waters are yet to recede completely and many lions must be hungry and struggling to find their way with their 100 kg weight in such difficult terrain," says Juna.
AMRELI: Bhimji Mehta, 35, wades through a swamp in Savarkundla in Gujarat's Amreli district in search of the king of the jungle. Ravaged by last week's floods, unprecedented in 90 years, this part of Saurashtra is home to about 75 Asiatic lions — many of them dead or marooned.

Looking at tell-tale signs, visible only to him, Mehta tracks down a hungry and weak lioness that has taken shelter on high ground to escape the swirling waters of Shetrunji river. The traumatized big cat is tranquilized by foresters who are following Mehta and appears to be responding well to treatment.

A crack team of 15 expert animal trackers, locally known as puggies, has launched a massive hunt to trace beleaguered big cats struggling to survive the floods that have killed 11 of them so far. Many of them fourth generation trackers, their mission is to locate carcasses or lions in distress in the water-logged countryside. Nearly 39 lions, many of them famished for days, have been found by them in the last 48 hours since the waters abated.

In nearby Liliya, Mohammed Juna and Rahim Baloch, puggies from Sasan-Gir, are in hot pursuit of two lions. By looking at the depth and size of pug marks they tell foresters that the two lions, aged four and 10, have passed by only moments earlier. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Rain aftermath: Lion death toll climbs to nine, over 500 blue bulls killed.


The death toll of endangered Asiatic lions due to flash flood in Amreli and Bhavnagar has gone up to nine as two more carcasses of the big cats were recovered on Sunday.

By: Express News Service | Rajkot | Updated: June 29, 2015 4:34 am
The death toll of endangered Asiatic lions due to flash flood in Amreli and Bhavnagar has gone up to nine as two more carcasses of the big cats were recovered on Sunday. The count of blue bull deaths has also crossed 500, as more dead animals were recovered from Shetrunji dam in Bhavnagar.
Forest rangers spotted carcass of a lion on the banks in Maidhar village, downstream Shetrunji dam in Palitana taluka of Bhavnagar district, at around noon. The Deputy conservator of forest (DCF) of Bhavnagar, Ganga Sharan Singh, said that the lion was around five-year-old and was washed away in the flood after heavy rain in Amreli and Bhavnagar districts on Wednesday.
“Our staff have located majority of lions which live in Bhavnagar. Therefore, we suspect that this lion was washed away from upstream Amreli,” said the DCF. This was fourth lion carcass to be recovered from the banks of Shetrunji in Bhavnagar in the last three days.
Carcass of another lioness was reportedly recovered from Ghoba village in Savarkundla taluka of Amreli. Ghoba village is part of Gir East division.
On the other hand, two teams of NDRF scanned nine islands in Shetrunji dam and recovered 135 carcasses of wild animals. Out of them, 130 were of blue bulls, while the rest were bovines, the Bhavnagar DCF said.
“In all, 157 carcasses of blue bulls were recovered on Sunday, taking the toll to around 400 in Bhavnagar alone. Carcasses of nine spotted deer, six wild boars and one jackal have also been recovered so far,” said Singh, adding the NDRF teams will keep on inspecting islands in the dam on Monday also.
Carcasses of as many as 112 blue bulls, seven spotted deers, seven black bucks and a jungle cats have been recovered from banks of Shetrunji in Amreli district. “But in an encouraging sign, our staff have traced location of 27 Asiatic lions in Liliya taluka and they are safe,” DCF (social forestry) of Amreli, Mangal Gujjar said.


Conceived: lion politics sequel.

Saturday , June 27 , 2015
- Cubs on way, Akhilesh hopes to answer Modi
Number's game
Lucknow, June 26: Two Asiatic lionesses at a park in Akhilesh Yadav's native Etawah are pregnant, boosting hopes the chief minister's pet project of safaris may fructify before the 2017 polls and offering him a chance to roar back at Narendra Modi's taunt that he can't "handle Gujarat lions".
"We are happy that two of the lionesses are pregnant and the news is pregnant with new possibilities," said Rupak De, the state's chief conservator of forests, unable to resist the pun as he spoke of the park with four lions at present.
The word about the likely new arrivals comes after last November's death of two of six lions gifted by Gujarat in 2013 to the heartland state - which had asked for 10 - amid teething problems in rearing the animals.

The deaths, for reasons not yet known, had struck a blow to Akhilesh's dream of starting safaris for which, wildlife officials say, at least 10 to 12 lions would be needed.
"The chief minister (Akhilesh) asked us for lions... but he cannot handle the lions of Gujarat," Modi had said during the campaign for last year's Lok Sabha polls.
Akhilesh had hit back by declaring he would "keep the Gujarati lions in Etawah and not let them out", suggesting he knew how to "tame" Modi. The BJP, though, could not be "tamed" as it rode the Modi blitz to win 71 of the state's 80 seats.
Cut to June 2015 and the chief minister, who has allocated Rs 100 crore for the project with the avowed aim of promoting tourism, may have reason to smile.
Project director K.K. Singh said the two lionesses, Girishma and Heera, were due in the third week of July. "The news has spread joy among the workers. The pregnancy happened in the course of natural cohabitation between the Asiatic lions, not through artificial insemination," Singh said.
With last year's deaths still fresh in their minds, park officials aren't taking any chances. "Doctors are monitoring their health regularly," said Singh, adding a team from the Indian Veterinary Research Institute in Bareilly, around 200km away, had camped in Etawah to keep a watch on the lionesses' health.
If the cubs come along well, they will do more than just bolster the safari project, which was conceived by Akhilesh's father Mulayam Singh Yadav as chief minister in 1995 but remained on paper for almost two decades.
More lions at the 350-hectare park will help meet long-standing demands that Asiatic lions should be shifted outside Gir - the Gujarat pocket that has been for years the only haven for the dwindling species - to ensure the entire pride isn't wiped out in an epidemic.
India's first count of such lions in 1975 put the number at only 177. Although their population has now increased from around 400 in 2010 to over 500 at present, a lot more needs to be done to keep the lions safe, experts said. Five Asiatic lions have died in rain-triggered floods in Gujarat in the past two days, PTI reported.


40 Gir lions feared missing.

Manas Dasgupta
Gujarat forest department officials have fanned out in the flood-ravaged Amreli district in the Saurashtra region of the state for an intensive search of around 40 Asiatic Lions who were spotted in the area in the census last month but are now reported "missing." The recovery of two carcasses, a lion and a lioness, found floating in the Shetrunji river, which was still flowing above the danger mark despite a halt in rain since yesterday, has heightened the forest officers' concern about the safety of the Asiatic Lions. Around 40 lions were spotted in the region outside the Gir lion sanctuary falling in the Amreli district, which was badly ravaged in the heavy rain earlier this week with Bagasara taluka, the home of the Asiatic Lions outside the declared sanctuary being the worst-affected having received a record 600 mm rainfall in a single day on Wednesday. After the May, 2015, lion census, held every five years, the Gujarat government had declared the extended area of the Gir sanctuary as home to 523 lions, an increase by 112 from 411 recorded in 2010 census. At least 40 of these big cats were spotted around the banks of the Shetrunji river, one of the major rivers in the Saurashtra region and the main source of water supply for the Bhavnagar city. A senior state forest official, however, said the lions were unlikely to be submerged in flood waters.


Don’t worry, Gir lions will survive the Gujarat floods, say wildlife conservationists.

Saurashtra's floods have submerged hundreds of villages and parts of the Gir forest, but experts assure us that the lions will be all right.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
As hundreds of stranded villages in Gujarat’s Amreli district struggle to cope with this week’s destructive floods, wildlife enthusiasts have been worried about the fate of endangered lions in the Gir forests of the region.

For the past three days, torrential rains triggered floods across five districts in Saurashtra, submerging villages and farms and displacing thousands. On Friday, Gujarat’s health ministry reported at least 70 deaths across the state, although disaster management officials claim that the figure is exaggerated.

“So far 45 people have died in the floods, 13,000 have been evacuated and eight people are still missing in Amreli and Rajkot districts,” said Bipin Bhatt, the director of relief and rescue operations in Gujarat. “Our electricity board is working day and night to restore power to areas that are cut off, but otherwise the rains have stopped now and the flood situation is very much under control.”

Amreli, by all accounts, has been the worst affected, where 33 people have died and 600 inundated villages are now dependent on the National Disaster Relief Force and the Indian Air Force for food and other humanitarian aid. The forested areas of southern Amreli are also home to many Asiatic lions of the Gir wildlife sanctuary, and in the midst of all the chaos, forest authorities have been concerned about their safety.

Worrying signs?

On June 25, residents of Amreli’s Bavadi village discovered the body of a lioness floating in the murky flood waters of a farm. As many as 50 lions had been living near the villages around Bavadi, on the banks of the river Shetrunji that had overflowed during the heavy rains.

Forest officials have sent out teams to reach out to those villages, but have not officially attributed the lioness’s death to the floods. “We don’t know for sure how the lioness died – she could have been diseased,” said an official from the Gujarat government’s department of forests. “From our side we are trying to pump out the water from the areas where lions live. And we are trying to provide them with food by making sure that the animals they prey on – like cheetal – do not fall ill.”

Concern about the lions’ flooded habitats increased after a video of a lion walking along a national highway in Gujarat hit the news channels on June 24. The cell phone video was shot by a passing commuter and has been perceived as a sign of wildcats attempting to escape flooded forest areas.

Nothing to worry about

Some wildlife conservationists, however, believe that people are getting too carried away with their concern for the survival of Gir’s lions. The Asiatic lion is undoubtedly and endangered species – there are only 523 of them left, almost all of them in Gir – but they are very unlikely to drown in the floods.

“The Gir national park has got a lot of elevations and hills that lions retreat to when it floods, so this is not new,” said K Ramesh, a scientist at the Wildlife Institute of India. “There is also nothing new about spotting a lion along a highway, especially since their population has been increasing.”

Flooding is a risk to all animals, but wildlife is far more likely to perish in flood plains like the ones at the Kaziranga wildlife sanctuary in Assam.

“In Kaziranga, many animals do die during floods, and many move to another, hillier sanctuary nearby,” said Anish Andheria, president of the non-profit Wildlife Conservation Trust. “Some amount of mortality for various reasons is natural, but lions have survived through many floods and can look after themselves.”

While the Saurashtra floods need not be a major cause of worry for India’s lions, there are some who believe the risk posed to the animals is a good reminder of the fact that the Gir forests are the only natural home for endangered lions in the country.

“The floods are a reminder that we need to translocate some lions to other sanctuaries so that they can survive outside Gir as well,” said Ravi Chellam, a senior wildlife conservationist. “Right now, we are putting all our eggs in the same basket.”
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