Tuesday, June 17, 2014

In Pics: Gujarat welcomes Monsoon, cities left submerged, life comes to a standstill.

Bhaskar News   |  Jun 16, 2014, 18:30PM IST

After striking the shores of Mumbai, Monsoon knocked the doors of Gujarat on Sunday. Moderate to heavy rainfall was experienced in Saurashtra and Gir region of the state.
In some of the areas, like, Kodinaar, Junagarh and Sutrapada heavy rainfall measuring upto 15 inches was measured. In Gir Forest, over 12 inches of rainfall was observed.
The rainfall came as a repiste to hundreds of animals housed in Gir National Park who were suffering from intense heat waves for the past few weeks.
Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) is expecting that the Monsoon will be able to cover the entire state of Maharshtra and Gujarat in the next two or three days.
With PTI inputs

Madhya Pradesh tests Modi’s lion-transfer mood.

Madhya Pradesh tests Modi’s lion-transfer mood
Gujarat government has already moved a curative petition in the Supreme Court as its last legal resort to retain all its Asiatic lions.

AHMEDABAD: The Madhya Pradesh government has forwarded a proposal for Rs 80 crore assistance to the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), for the lion conservation project to be taken up at Kuno-Palpur.

MP officials in the past had demanded the same amount from the 12-member lion expert group, which had been formed on the orders of the apex court. The court, in April last year, ordered the translocation of lions and formed the 12-member committee to facilitate this.

Sources in the forest department said that in its first communique after Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government has fired its first salvo and with the proposal to the MoEF, seeking funds to move Asiatic lions from Gujarat to Kuno-Palpur.

The proposal budget includes Rs 20 crore for infrastructure, like the construction of a hospital and procurement of vehicles and Rs 59 crore for relocation and rehabilitation of two more villages from within the Kuno sanctuary.

The MP government has already spent Rs 15 crore for relocation of 1,543 families from 24 revenue villages inside the sanctuary, while preparing the alternative habitat for Asiatic lions.

It now wants another Rs 59 crore for relocation of two more villages.

The MP government has said that the expert committee has asked the state to expand the sanctuary and have more villages relocated before the first pride of lions was shifted.

Based on the proposal from Madhya Pradesh, the Union government under a centrally-sponsored scheme — Development of National Parks and Sanctuaries —sanctioned and released Rs 15.45 crore in 2007-08 to pave the way for the translocation of lions despite protests from Gujarat.

Sources in the committee said that, so far, MP was demanding this money from the committee, but now it has forwarded this to the ministry. With Narendra Modi taking over as Prime Minister, MP wants to test if the funds are allocated or not.

"If the MoEF approves the allocation of Rs 79 crore, it will indicate that it is all for the translocation, but if it keeps the proposal on hold, it will be the first signal that the Centre was against the translocation and was waiting for the apex court to decide.

Gujarat government has already moved a curative petition in the Supreme Court as its last legal resort to retain all its Asiatic lions. Two Gujarat-based NGOs have also filed separate petitions challenging the translocation of lions to Kuno.

Lions outside Gir get radio collars.

Lions outside Gir get radio collars The Wildlife Institute of India with the sanction of Gujarat's forest department has radio-collared some lionesses which live outside Gir sanctuary to track their movements and behaviour.
AHMEDABAD: The Wildlife Institute of India with the sanction of Gujarat's forest department has radio-collared some lionesses which live outside Gir sanctuary to track their movements and behaviour.

This is the first time that the apex wildlife body will use the global positioning system to tag and track 10 lionesses in various pockets outside the sanctuary. Sources said, "This mode will enable us to keep track of each and every movement of the lions. Even by logging in once a week, we can get data regarding the big cats' movements and behaviour."

Yadvendradev Jhala, scientist and researcher of the WII, said the study is also aimed at knowing the behavior of Asiatic lions near villages. "The study will help us ascertain how much area a breeding female requires for prey-hunting and rearing her cubs. The radio collars will enable wildlife managers to keep track of the entire lion population. Which will mean better protection for them," Jhala said.

Jhala added, "The study will reveal the movement pattern of lions and whether they return to the sanctuary frequently. Recently we collared four lionesses in different prides. We now plan to collar another six lionesses. We will keep watch over these 10 lionesses with their cubs. This will enable us to know movements of the entire group."

The study is being undertaken by Jhala along with Stotra Chakrabarthy, research biologist of WII with the help of Anshuman Sharma, DFO Dhari and a team of four expert trackers and research assistants of WII.

As per the May 2010 census, there are 130 lions outside the sanctuary. But this number has increased since May 2010.

Gir forest to be shut down till October 15.

An Asiatic lion at the Gir Sanctuary in Gujarat. File photo: K.R. Deepak
The Hindu An Asiatic lion at the Gir Sanctuary in Gujarat. File photo: K.R. Deepak

Updated: June 16, 2014 22:09 IST

Owing to the mating season of animals during monsoon

The Gir National Park — home to the Asiatic lion — will remain closed for the monsoon till October 15, forest officials said.
The forest was closed for tourists from Monday, a day after the monsoon arrived in Gujarat. “Like every year, forest activity is shut for tourists from June 15 to October 15. The monsoon closure is part of the management plan. It is the mating season for the wildlife. Moreover, roads and paths get broken and washed away in the rains,” Sandeep Kumar, Deputy Conservator of Forests, told The Hindu.
Taking advantage of the lean season, the forest management conducts special rescue and protection drive during the monsoon.
“During monsoon, there are chances of animals being infested by maggots, if they sustain injury. We divide our staff into teams and give them maps who will conduct special drives in the forest, checking on the health status of the animals, giving them treatment when needed. While we do this for all animals, our main focus will be on the Asiatic lion. We also check for cubs which might have strayed,” Mr. Kumar said.
The forest has to mandatorily remain shut till the end of September but depending on the duration of the monsoon the management may decide to open the park for tourists in the beginning of October.
“But that is only if we feel there is no chance of rain,” said Mr. Kumar.
According to the census conducted in 2010, the Gir Forest has 411 Asiatic lions, 4,400 sambars, 600 leopards and 302 species of birds, besides 63,000 herbivores.
The next census is due in 2015.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Experts not too enthusiastic over proposed shifting of Gir lions to Madhya Pradesh.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014 - 11:34am IST | Agency: ANI

  • Stock Image RNA Research & Archives
Asiatic Lions, which are found in the Gir forests of Gujarat, are in news for their proposed relocation to the Kuno Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. The present habitat for these big cats is considered dangerous because of an inbreeding threat as also Gir's location in a seismic zone.
Naresh Kadyan, a leading animal rights activist, told ANI that, "Wildlife sanctuaries in Madhya Pradesh were witnessing massive hunting and poaching of lions and tigers. The main agenda of the Madhya Pradesh Government is not the conservation of the species but to promote tourism and that's the reason they want to shift the Asiatic Lion to their state.
The Rs.79 crores proposal made to the Gujarat Government is nothing but an investment to promote tourism in their state."
A PCCF forest official of Gujarat, who wished to stay anonymous, asserted that the environment ministry has constituted a committee on the directions of the Supreme Court to ensure the betterment of the lions' future. The proposal to shift Gir's Asiatic lions to Kuno has been delayed for years due to certain objections by the Gujarat Government, but a recent Supreme Court order has now reportedly cleared obstacle.
The Supreme Court has directed the Madhya Pradesh Government to expand the Kuno Palpur wildlife area for the relocation of the lions. Sarbaranjan Mondal, an award winning wildlife activist, feels the Asiatic Lion should not be shifted to the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. "It is imperative to conserve the environment as well as the animals and the shifting of the Gir lions to some other wildlife sanctuary won't solve the issue", Mondal said.
Earlier, Gujarat had opposed the plea of Madhya Pradesh, saying that lions would not be safe there as the central state had failed to preserve its own tiger population in the Panna reserve forest. However, the Kuno Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh is expected to become the second home of the Asiatic Lion, which are currently only found in Gujarat's Gir National Park.

Modi’s dilemma: Whether to shift Gir lions to MP or not.

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, June 09, 2014
As the Gujarat chief minister in 2009, Narendra Modi had entered into a public spat with then environment minister Jairam Ramesh. The issue: Relocation of lions from Gir wildlife sanctuary state to Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh.
Modi had then opposed the relocation, saying he would not part with “Gujarat’s pride”. Now, as Prime Minister, Modi would be asked to reconsider his view in ‘larger national interest’.
Wildlife activists and the environment ministry have argued for the relocation of the Asiatic lions to MP since only a single habitat for these big cats is considered dangerous, especially because of inbreeding threat and Gir’s location in a seismic zone.
“The Prime Minister will take a call on the issue,” a senior environment ministry official said. Modi will have to decide on the matter before the next meeting of the National Board for Wildlife.
In August 2013, the Supreme Court had sided with the experts who said it was better for the lions’ future if some of them could be relocated. On the court’s directions, the environment ministry constituted a committee, which directed the MP government to expand the Kuno Palpur wildlife area for relocation of the lions.
The MP government this week submitted a proposal of Rs. 79 crore for the rehabilitation of two more villages. This was the first communication from the state forest department to the ministry after the Modi-led government took charge at the Centre.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Rules of a wildlife sanctuary decoded for forest officials.

Updated: June 5, 2014 10:27 IST
A view of the mesmerising Meghamalai.
Special Arrangement A view of the mesmerising Meghamalai.

“Keep an eye on the population of the wildlife and take pride in conservation”

Not many in Madurai know that the Regional Passport Officer S. Manishwar Raja has had a six year stint chasing lions in Gir National Park in Gujarat.
At a function organised by the State Forest Department in association with Vanam, an NGO, Mr. Raja said that “dedication” was the word to be adhered to by forest personnel in a wildlife sanctuary.
In his address to forest officials assembled here on a sensitisation drive on Tuesday evening, Mr. Raja, an IFS officer, narrated a story from his Gir days.
“One night at about 8 p.m., a lion cub was found stranded. From the time we received information, we went around looking at groups of lions to identify the group to which the cub belonged. Only at 9 a.m. the next day, we were able to locate the correct group. None in the team slept. It did not end there. We had to make sure that the cub was welcomed in that group and the mother started taking care of it. So we waited till 9 p.m. that night and left after convinced that it was a happy reunion…”
Unlike here, the biotic pressure around the Gir National Park was tremendous and the forest officials were always on the move to solve problems one after another, he said asking the wildlife officials in the Meghamalai Wildlife Sanctuary to be dedicated and on their toes to meet any emergency situation. In 2011, the State government carved out the Meghamalai Wildlife Sanctuary, nestled amidst Periyar Tiger Reserve, Cumbum and Varusanadu Valleys in Theni district.
“A dream has come true with the creation of the wildlife sanctuary. Now, the forest officials should shift their approach from target-oriented tasks to wildlife culture,” said Sanjayan Kumar, Deputy Director, Periyar Tiger Reserve.
Noting that the Periyar Tiger Reserve provided a healthy eco-system for the big cats to thrive, he said the spill-over population was bound to venture into the Meghamalai and Srivilliputhur sanctuaries in due course of time.
Camping culture
“The forests in Meghamalai sanctuary is best suited to be the home for the tigers,” he said urging the forest officials to take to ‘camping culture’ wherein the officials should camp inside the forests and keep an eye on the population of the wildlife and take pride in conservation.
“The forest officials should know each and every species in the wild in their jurisdiction and monitor their population very closely,” he said.
Theni District Forest Officer and wildlife warden of the sanctuary Sornappan and Vanam Managing Trustee Dr. C.P. Rajkumar participated.

The wild side of Nature.

Updated: June 5, 2014 18:58 IST
The girls and their mentors at Gir National Park.
  • Special Arrangement The girls and their mentors at Gir National Park.

Two Madurai girls share some amazing moments they experienced in the company of Asiatic lions at the Gir National Park

Thirteen-year-old Nethra Aravind and 12-year-old Saro Jayashree Badri show a picture of a lion, with his blood-stained mouth gaping wide revealing his teeth. You may expect them to comment on the fearful experience of encountering the wild beast, instead Nethra and Saro comment on the lighting and the composition of the photo. “The lion had just had his breakfast,” explains Saro. A few photography workshops and a recent trip to the Gir National Park have taught them the value of nature and wildlife. “This was my first trip to a forest and I absolutely enjoyed it,” says a thrilled Nethra. “I never thought I would fall so much in love with the lions. I miss them,” says Saro.
The kids were accompanied by journalist-cum-wildlife photographer Kamal Sahai from Delhi who runs an informal children’s group in Delhi called ‘Teens for Tigers’. He held a couple of photography workshops in Madurai. Wildlife enthusiast from Madurai, Nandini Murali also accompanied them. “The week-long trip has transformed the children completely. They have started to love the forest, the trees, the animals and the birds,” says Nandini.
Speaking of the Teens for Tiger group, Nandini says she wants to replicate the same in Madurai. “The workshop was an eye-opener. The children learnt basic techniques and also developed a sense of the art,” says Nandini. The ‘Teens for Tiger’ group has been going into the tiger reserve of Ranthambore and shooting picture of tigers for the past four years. “They also come up with table-top calendars with the photos. It’s a great way to sensitise the younger generation towards our forest wealth. We have started a children’s group called ‘Voices of the wild’, that will take up similar activities,” says Nandini. Their next trip has been planned to the Yala National Park in Sri Lanka in December.
Both Saro and Nethra are grateful they were allowed to go on the safari to Gir. “The first day, we couldn’t spot a lion and we were disappointed,” says Saro. “But the second safari threw a surprise as this full-grown lion came walking towards our jeep and passing close to the vehicle. We held our breath in fright and excitement.” Saro’s dad lent her his prized camera for the trip.
“The forest taught us to be observant, perseverant, patient and confident,” says Nethra. “We also learnt how the lions live as packs in harmony, how they hunt and eat and so on.”
Nandini refers to child advocacy expert Richard Louv’s Last child in the woods. “In the book he says that we live in a nature-deficit society and that our children should be saved from the disorder,” points out Nandini. “The only way out is to expose them to the beauty of nature at a younger age.”