Friday, January 30, 2015

Three Gujarat lions to be gifted to Czech zoo.

AHMEDABAD: The pride of Gujarat will soon roar in a zoo in Czech Republic. The Gujarat Government has approved the proposal to give the lions to the Czech government. But the lions to be gifted will not be taken from the Gir forest but from Sakarbaugh Zoo in Junagadh.

Sources in the state government said that the Czech government had sought some lions from the central government for its zoo. The Centre sent the file to the Gujarat government because, under the Wildlife Protection Act, the permission of the Chief Wildlife Warden is required. Officials said the state's Chief Wildlife Warden, in consultation with the additional chief secretary, forest and environment PK Taneja and chief minister Anandiben Patel, has approved the proposal. The lions are likely to be sent after the Vibrant Gujarat Summit, probably in the first week of February, said officials.

The state government has decided to give one lion, one lioness and a cub to the Czech government from the Sakarbaugh Zoo. Officials said that according to the protocol, the lions will be sent by a special flight and then transported in a cage which will be covered from all sides with a black cloth. This will have to be done to prevent the animals from realizing that it was being moved as this can irritate the big cats.
The officials said that a special list of do's and don'ts, prepared by the forest department, mentions the age, height, weight, the food habits and even the behavior of the lions in the zoo. In many cases, since they are being transported to a foreign country, a small history of the animal — how it was caught from the wild or born in the zoo — is also given. The officer said that the caretaker of the Sakarbaugh will also accompany the lion to the Czech Republic and will stay there and feed the animal.

Open well claims lioness's life.

RAJKOT: In yet another incident of unnatural death of lions, a four-year-old lioness died after falling into an open well in Govindpar village in Amreli's Dhari taluka on Saturday morning.

The farm owner, Dulabhai Ranpariya, spotted a lioness and a wild boar floating in the 11-meter deep well. He informed the forest department that rushed a rescue team in the farm and fished out the lioness' body. The boar was alive when brought out.

Forest officials suspects that lioness might have been chasing the boar and fell into the well.
Sources said that at least 13 lions have died unnatural deaths since January 2014. The causes vary from electrocution, road accident, rail accidents and falling into open wells.

According to lion census 2010, there were 411 Asiatic lions in Gir forests and its nearby areas. However, in last five years, over 264 lions have died, many of them met with unnatural deaths.

Meet Gina, Gira and Gita - Helsinki Zoo’s new lion cubs.

News |

Helsinki’s Korkeasaari Zoo has decided on names for its new trio of lion cubs born to endangered Asiatic lions. In December zookeepers reached out to the public to find suitable names that would reflect their Indian origins and came up with Gina, Gira and Gita.

Korkeasaaren leijonanpennut saivat intialaiset nimet.
Korkeasaaren leijonanpennut saivat intialaiset nimet. Image: Korkeasaari/ Mari Lehmonen
The Asiatic lion triplets have been blissfully unaware of their status as nameless zoo residents. However when zoo officials at Korkeasaari invited the general public help find appropriate names for the cubs, they received a flood of suggestions – some 7,500.
The names that their keepers eventually selected were elegant, short and duly reminiscent of their Indian background – the first Asiatic lions were came to Helsinki in 1992 as gifts of the Indian government.
The names selected for the three mischievous kittens are Gina, a derivative of Gir, a national park in India and another home of the endangered species; Gina, which means “powerful woman”; and Gita, or “a song”.
Altogether zookeepers received 200 proposals for the name Gina, while Gira and Gita were less popular choices with scores of votes.
With or without names, the trio of pups are becoming increasingly confident exploring their surroundings – albeit under the watchful eyes of their parents. However the chilly winter weather has seen them spending a great deal of time in the warmth of their inner enclosures.
The ancestors of these sprightly pups were among nine majestic lions donated to European zoos. Currently about 100 animals live in captivity in Europe. Their numbers in the wild currently stand at about 350.

Asiatic lions' census in May.

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 20, 2015 - 14:57
Asiatic lions' census in May
Vadodara: Asiatic lion census held once every five years by the Gujarat government will be conducted at Gir sanctuary from May 2 to 5, a senior official said on Tuesday.
"The lion census is conducted every five years. The last census was conducted at Gir in 2010 when nearly 411 lions were counted. The census had covered Girnar hills, coastal areas, Bhavnagar and other parts outside the 1,412 sq km sanctuary," Deputy Conservator of Forest Sandeep Kumar told PTI over phone today.
"The census at Gir will be done from May 2 to 5 this year in a more scientific manner," he said.
In the past, the counting was based on pug marks. Now, the forest department will be using GPS system and counting will take place on the direct sighting of group of lions.
Several persons will be deployed for the exercise after providing them proper training in this regard, he said.
The land area in which the lions are found has more than doubled in the last several years, according to forest department officials.
During the 2010 census, the felines were spread over 10,000 sq km area but an analysis done a year back revealed that the big cats now have sway over 22,000 sq kms, which covers most of the districts located in Saurashtra region including Gir, Junagadh, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar, Saurashtra, Veraval and Kutch.
Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is the sole home of the Asiatic lions and is considered to be one of the most important protected areas in Asia.
In wake of fear for the extinction of Asiatic lions from Gir national park, the Supreme Court had in April 2013 ruled that some lions in the Gir forest be shifted to Kuno wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh.

Virus that killed Etawah lions came from dogs.

Virus that killed Etawah lions came from dogs.

Deadline to shift Gir lions over long back, PCCF reminds MoEF.

BHOPAL: Madhya Pradesh forest department has shot yet another letter to Union ministry of environment and forest reminding it that deadline set by Supreme Court for translocation of lions from Gir in Gujarat to Kuno in Madhya Pradesh's Sheopur district, has ended long back.

The letter was sent by state's principal conservator of forest (PCCF) and chief wildlife warden Narendra Kumar to additional director general of forests (wildlife) MoEF, Vinod Ranjan on December 30.

"Nothing has happened in the last six months in this matter. We have not been allotted any funds for the translocation. Prey base density of the extension area of the Kuno has also been studied meanwhile by the scientists of the WII as decided by the expert committee and its report must have been submitted to the GoI, MOEF as directed," the letter (copy in TOI's possession) reads.

Narendra Kumar wrote, "I had submitted in the last meeting of the expert committee to fix a timeframe for implementation of the action plan otherwise it would not take off. Once again I request you to take an early action in this regard because the deadline of 6 months decided by the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India has passed long back."

This is reportedly the fourth reminder.

Reacting to a story published in ToI on December 5 that zoo-bred lions might roar in Kuno, Narendra Kumar said letters to Hyderabad zoo for a pair of lions was written by Van Vihar director for shifting them to zoos and not to Kuno.

"The zoo director has written to several zoos which was a routine letter but not a separate attempt by the state government to get zoo-bred lions for Kuno," Narendra Kumar wrote.

Wildlife and RTI activist Ajay Dubey who has moved a contempt petition against Gujarat government for dillydallying the shifting of tigers, told TOI that he would move an application before the court for urgent hearing on his petition.

Love for lions.

Updated: January 2, 2015 19:00 IST
Dr. Ravi Chellam. Photo: S. James
The Hindu
Dr. Ravi Chellam. Photo: S. James

Conservation biologist Dr. Ravi Chellam talks about his experiences at Gir and the proposed translocation of some lions to Kuno Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh.

‘Has a lion ever tried to attack you?’ questions a curious little boy. “About two dozen times,” answers Dr. Ravi Chellam, lion expert, while addressing a meeting of the Voices of the Wild (VOW). “If a lion wags its tail, it should be taken as a warning. They also give a low growl sometimes.” The world’s last population of Asiatic lions in Gir, Gujarat, are close to Ravi’s heart and his subject of study for the last 30 years. But Gir is no more their only refuge, he says, as over 100 of them have spilled over and found homes in the patches of forests surrounding the sanctuary.
Ravi is an authority on the behavioural patterns, lifestyle and habitat of the Asiatic lions. He has radio-collared, monitored and studied them in close proximity. “Lions are the only social cats. They live in small or medium prides, typically headed by a large female lion,” explains Ravi. “The males are loners or sometimes form two-member coalitions and patrol their territory regularly. Fierce fights and grave injuries are common,” he says showing photographs.
Though Gir is rich and self-sustained, Ravi suggests translocation of some lions to avoid over-concentration in a single place. Gir at present is home to 400 lions. After legal tangles spanning 20 years, the translocation project was finally cleared by the Supreme Court last August.
Ravi cautions against a possible outbreak of canine distemper and an increased probability of man-animal conflict if action is not taken soon. “The current situation at Gir is like having too many eggs in a single basket. If the basket breaks, we will lose everything,” he says. “There are roads, rail-lines and buses that pass through Gir and the lions move in and out constantly and are in contact with humans more than before.”
Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh has been identified as the most viable place for introducing lions. Though Kuno acts as the buffer zone for the Tigers of Ranthambore, Ravi believes it would hardly affect the lions. “Tigers and lions have co-existed before. Translocation is like a life-insurance we buy for the lions of Gir, so that in case of calamities we will still have a separate population of lions unaffected,” he asserts. Kuno has many features similar to Gir – like burgeoning prey population of chital, sambar and wild buffaloes, a deciduous landscape of grasslands expanding over 1,500 sq.kms and ample water resource from the Chambal river.
According to studies carried out by Ravi and other researchers, the dietary composition of the Gir lions has changed phenomenally over the years. “In the 70’s, it was found that over 75 per cent of the lions’ diet comprised livestock. Whereas, in 1993, a study revealed that wild prey formed more than 70 percent of the food the lions ate,” observes Ravi. He says removing livestock from Gir is not a good idea, as cows and buffaloes still form over 30 per cent of the lions’ diet.
“The native tribal people have always had a better understanding of wildlife than people like us,” says Ravi. “Most instances of man-animal conflict involve outsiders and not the tribals. In India, it is difficult to cut off human interaction with the wild.”
In the case of Gir, the Maldhari tribals who are primarily cattle-herders live in harmony with the lions. Their livestock is a prey base for the beast. “Moving them out will not help the lions much. Instead, unnecessary intrusion from outside should be kept under check.”

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The urban jungle.

By: | December 14, 2014 1:27 am

Singapore is not just a place to go wild in while shopping. You can also just go wild. Literally

PICTURE THIS. It’s 9 pm and pitch dark. You turn the bend in the road and come upon the most magnificent sight in the world. A full-grown lion standing on a rock, a pose straight out of Lion King. No other animal in the wild provides the viewer with that mixture of awe and reverence. This one is an Asiatic Lion, surrounded by a jungle, where artfully-placed spotlights accentuate his imperious majesty. He may be the king of the jungle, but, in this case, it is an urban jungle. We are in the heart of Singapore, or at least its lung, a green zone in one corner of the city, where Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) operates the Night Safari, a tour that embraces some 2,500 nocturnal creatures. Most people who visit Singapore prefer to go wild in the malls lining Orchard Road, but amid all that soaring concrete and glass, it’s almost surreal to come upon such a large expanse of jungle and such a vast collection of animals, many endangered. The WRS follows the modern trend of displaying animals in naturalist, ‘open’ enclosures with hidden barriers and moats, and not cages or bars. Which is why the lion also generates a twinge of fear. It seems barely 20 ft away, and the first thought is that in a single leap, it can reach where you are standing, and 9 pm must be dinnertime. Draw closer and you notice the hidden moat and the fencing cloaked in greenery and bushes. You also notice the sign, ‘Sponsored by State Bank of India’!
The WRS was given land and funded initially by the Singapore government, but is now a private limited company, so it needs to manage its finances and one way is to get inmates sponsored. “We are self-funded, so we need to find partners, organisations and institutions, who share our vision to protect local and global biodiversity,” says Shaiful Rizal, senior executive, corporate communications. The WRS is the holding company of the Night Safari, the adjoining Singapore Zoo, the Jurong Bird Park and the River Safari. It takes a couple of days to cover all four attractions, but the Night Safari is a must-do, and not just for wildlife enthusiasts. For one, it is the world’s first safari park for nocturnal animals and is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Unlike traditional nocturnal houses, which reverse the day-night cycle of animals so they will be active by day, the Night Safari is an open-air zoo set in a humid tropical forest that only opens at night. Roaming around in the dark adds to an authentic outdoor wildlife experience. Every enclosure is spotlit to resemble moonlight and the 35 hectares of secondary forest is home to over 130 animal species, of which 38% are endangered, including the clouded leopard. You can walk, but not unless you are superfit and certainly not if you are with kids, for whom it is truly a wide-eyed adventure. A majority of the 1.1 million annual visitors make use of the electric-powered tram that takes you through the seven geographical regions, from the Himalayan foothills to the jungles of south-east Asia. Here, the lion may be the king, but there are also Malayan tigers and tapirs, elephants, hippos, rhinos, crocodiles and other big cats, all in enclosures designed to match their natural habitats, while there are no barriers between the tamer animals and visitors. Like the Wallaby Trail, which recreates the Australian Outback complete with free-ranging wallabies in their walk-through habitat, or the Leopard Trail, which is more popular. Cattle grids prevent hoofed animals from moving from one habitat to another, but the real attraction is being so close to the animals, and yet at a safe distance. In fact, the greater danger comes from the excitable crowds with their extendable selfie rods. As befitting a private enterprise, there are souvenir shops and F&B outlets so you can enjoy a Bongo Burger before you head out or check in at the Zebra Cafe in the middle of the forest to have a drink or a snack. If you prefer, you can even order a gourmet dinner on board the tram. Feasting your eyes on wildlife while feasting will be a unique experience for most.
If a daytime safari is more suitable, Singapore Zoo is around the corner. Skip breakfast in the hotel and opt for the Jungle Breakfast at the zoo’s Ah Meng restaurant, where in one corner of this 26-hectare rainforest, you can wolf down your eggs and toast while a bunch of orangutans slide down from the trees within touching distance, close enough for you to feed them. You can also opt to stroke a python—quite safe actually. The zoo gets 1.7 million visitors annually so it’s a popular attraction for tourists, largely because of the open concept. Star attractions are the Asian elephants, the playful baboons, the reptile garden, with the deadly-looking Komodo dragon and a variety of snakes and giant tortoises, polar bears, kangaroos you can actually get up close and personal with, the free-ranging orangutans and their acrobats and the Cat Country section, where the big cats roam free, including a white tiger, lions and leopards. An insider tip is to try and be there when it’s feeding time, and all the animals emerge from their caves and natural cover. There are professional trainers and guides everywhere so you won’t get lost and they will even help you feed animals like the white rhino and giraffes. There are 2,800 animals and it can be quite exhausting, but there are trams and buggies available and restaurants and cafes inside the zoo as well, so you won’t go hungry, or thirsty. Those thirsting for knowledge about wildlife, mainly kids, have access to a Wildlife Learning Centre and a visit to the on-site Healthcare Centre, where animals are treated, operated on and where the babies are born.
Easily the most immersive WRS experience is at the Jurong Bird Park, Asia’s largest, which has over 5,000 birds across 400 species. Like the others, there are huge free-flight aviaries, which recreate the natural habitat of birds from all over the world. The most spectacular is the Lory Loft, featuring 15 species of this colourful bird, native to Australia. There are suspended bridges here, where you can walk holding out saucers of seeds and the birds will be literally eating out of your hand. Penguins and pelicans are among the most popular, the latter visible in the world’s first underwater viewing gallery, where you can see them swooping down to catch fish at the feeding time. Even more applause-inspiring is to catch predators like falcons and hawks swooping down on their prey at the High Flyers Show at the Pools Amphitheatre or learn the art of falconry at the Kings of the Skies show at Hawk Walk. Buggy rides are the way to go here as well, and the driver/guide will offer a running commentary on species and special attractions.
For a grand finale, check out the latest WRS attraction, the River Safari, which opened last October. It houses 6,000 freshwater, river-dwelling animals, land and aquatic, one of the largest collections in the world. It, too, is designed to recreate freshwater habitats from the most iconic rivers of the world, from the Amazon to the Nile, the Mississippi and the Mekong, as well as the Ganges. River Safari is a misnomer since 85% of the park’s inhabitants can be viewed on foot, in aquariums and walk-through exhibits. The star is the Mekong giant catfish, which can grow up to 3 m in length and nearly 300 kg in weight. Even larger is the giant freshwater stingray, the world’s largest and heaviest freshwater fish, up to 5 m in length and 600 kg in weight, once thought to be extinct. Equally giant-sized is the Amazon Flooded Forest, which has the world’s largest freshwater aquarium, housing some incredible-looking fish, including the legendary Manatee and the Arapaima. The true rockstars in the giant stakes at Jurong, however, are at the Yangtze River section: Kai Kai and Jia Jia, a pair of giant pandas who can be seen at the Giant Panda Forest, simulating their natural habitat. This temperature-controlled area is also home to the more playful red panda and the striking-looking golden pheasant. There’s even a panda-themed restaurant, Mama Panda Kitchen, to end your wildlife tour at. It’s well worth a visit, if only to taste the famous ‘Panda Paus’, a sweet bun, which comes shaped like the face of a panda with chocolate chips for eyes. Even the coffee here arrives with a panda artfully sketched on top. For wildlife lovers, the WRS tour is absolutely sensational, and a pleasant change from the crocodile skins and furs to be found in the luxury aquariums on Orchard Road.