Friday, September 28, 2007

Injured Lion shifted to Sasan! + Died one Leopard, one Asiatic (Gir) Lion and found one Lion Cub.

Injured Lion shifted to Sasan!

Found one injured male Asiatic (Gir) Lion, from Hadala Forest of Sarasiya Range, Dhari Gir (East), DCF Rana Saheb and ACF Solanki Saheb searched, caught into the cage and shifted to Sasan Hospital for treatment.

Source: Gujarati Daily News paper Divya Bhaskar dated 28 Sep. 07, page 3, Rajkot Edition.

In Sakkar Bag Zoo of Junagadh- died one Leopard, one Asiatic (Gir) Lion and found one Lion Cub.

One 7 years old female Asiatic Lioness died, was suffering from critical illness, can only identify the reasons after the post mortem. This Lioness was born in 2001 in Sakkar Bag Zoo only.

Zoo Supritendet Ramesh Katra also said that 17 years old Leopard died, coughed from Jamkhambhaliya.

He also added that one Lion cub found from North Junagadh Mountain’s Jambudi Range by forest staff and taken to the Sakkar Bag Zoo.

Source: Gujarati Daily News paper Divya Bhaskar dated 28 Sep. 07, page 5, Rajkot Edition.

Translated from Gujarati Language.

NGOs, corporates give lions wall cover

28 Sep 2007, 0022 hrs IST,TNN

RAJKOT/AHMEDABAD: Over 8,000 open wells in Gir forest that claimed the lives of 24 Asiatic lions during the past six years, will finally have parapet walls, courtesy corporates and NGOs.

An MoU for this purpose has been signed with Rajkot-based NGO Wild Life Conservation Trust (WLCT) for construction of parapets on 100 wells during the current fiscal, said Bharat Pathak, conservator of forest (Gir). He added that parapets on 1,500 wells will be constructed this fiscal itself.

Corporates, including Reliance, Ambuja Cement, Tatas and Shell, besides leading wildlife conservation NGOs, have evinced interest in the exercise, which is likely to be finished in three years. As per a survey carried out by the forest department, 8,778 open wells are situated in 158 villages surrounding Gir forest, which pose a grave threat to wild animals. Around 700 wells, located in Gir forest range, have already been covered by the forest department. The most vulnerable for wild animals are wells in Kotda, Paniya, Chanchai and Dalkhania villages where construction of parapets on wells will be taken up on a priority basis. During the past six years 47 lions had fallen into the wells.

According to Pathak, apart from WLCT, Reliance Rural Development Trust (RRDT) and Ambuja Cement would also construct parapets on 2,000 wells. Negotiations were on with few other big corporates for the project, he added.

Additional chief conservator of forest Pradeep Khanna said, "We have prepared two plans. The first is where the government would monitor the process of parapet construction and would give a total of Rs 4,000 per well and the remaining would have to be financed by the NGOs and corporates. In the second model, the NGO would give the money to Lion Conservation Society formed by the state government and the government would take up the construction on behalf of these NGOs or the corporates."

When contacted, RRDT chairman Parimal Nathwani, also group president of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), confirmed that the trust would complete parapet work on 1,500 wells in one year’s time.

WLCT executive director Kishor Kotecha said a design of the parapet wall has been prepared and has been approved by the forest department. According to estimates, each wall will cost around Rs 10,000 out of which forest department will give subsidy of Rs 4,000


Saving Asiatic Lions: Open wells in Gir to be covered

Express news service
Posted online: Friday , September 28, 2007 at 12:00:00
Updated: Friday , September 28, 2007 at 01:23:42Print Email To Editor

Rajkot, September 27 In what could be an important step towards conservation of Asiatic Lions, the state forest department and NGO Wild Life Conservation Trust (Rajkot) on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to cover thousands of open wells located at the periphery of Gir Sanctuary. The wells often turn out to be watery graves for wild cats.
According to the forest department, around 8,778 open wells are located within the six-km periphery of the sanctuary. A total of 47 lions have fallen victim to open wells over the past six years. Of these, 24 cases proved fatal. A number of leopards, too, have died in a similar manner.

The total cost of building a parapet on a well has been estimated to be Rs 10,000.

According to the MoU, the forest department would provide a subsidy of Rs 4,000 for erecting parapets on wells. The remaining expense of Rs 6,000 will be borne by WLCT, said president Kishore Kotecha.

Deputy Forest Officer A Atara said very few wells in and around sanctuary areas have parapets. “As many as 24 lions have died after falling into wells over the past six years. Parapets on wells is one of the most urgently required steps to save lions.”

The WLTC aims to cover 101 wells in Kotda, Palia, Chanchi and Dalkhania villages in Paliya beat in Dhari range as part of its first phase of construction work. It began construction of parapets on September 22, and the work is expected to be over by November-end.

Kotecha said WLTC has worked out a new design for parapets wherein RCC plates would be used in place of sandstone. The new design has brought down the construction cost by 50 per cent, he added.

WLCT has also instituted annual awards with cash prize for outstanding work in the field of lion conservation in various categories, including contribution by beat guard, forest officials, schoolchildren, teacher and the best research on Gir Sanctuary or Asiatic Lions.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Total 4 Lion Cubs died in Hadala Bit.

News from Local Gujarait News Paper:

2 Carcasses and 2 dead body found in BHURI BHEKH AREA of Hadala Bit,
Dhari Gir (East) Forest.

i. e. total 4 lion cubs died.

Source: Divya Bhaskar Gujarati Daily News Paper (Rajkot Edition),
Front Page. 22 Sept. 2007

Carcasses of two lion cubs were found near Hadala range of Gir Forest
on Thursday. Sources said they might have died due to illness as
their claws and other parts were foutn intact.

Confirming the death, conservator of forest Bharat Pathak said they
aare waiting for the FSL team, and prima facie the cause of death
seems to be illness, he added.

Moreever, one more carcass of a lion cub was found in the same range,
but it was not confirmed by the forest department officials, who said
that the field staff were yet to located it. TNN

Source: Times of India, Ahmedabad Septmeber 22, 2007 Page 3

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A new arrival - Adult Male Asiatic Lion named VIRAL at Rajkot Aji Zoo.

Our Rajkot Zoo have a new guest named 'VIRAL' an Asiatic Lion from

He's adult male lion but Viral, offers a glimmer of hope for his

The male Asiatic Lion, who is being hand-reared by Rajkot Aji Zoo
from Junagadh Sakkarbaug Zoo.

With between 300-350 Asiatic Lions left in the wild, the adult male
will make a big difference to the conservation of his species.

Asiatic Lions can now only be found in India's Gir Forest. With the
number of Asiatic Lions plummeting, Rajko Aji Zoo's Viral will
eventually play a major part in a breeding programme for his species,
ensuring it continues.

"The fact that Viral is a male means he has the potential to play a
really important role in the breeding programme for his species."

This King Viral have 5 Queens at Rajkot Aji Zoo.

Congratulations Maradia Saheb (Zoo Suptd. Aji Zoo, Rajkot - Gujarat.)

Visit to Gujarat - The Jewell of the West by Michael Braganza!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Visit to Gujarat - the Jewell of West and get enchanted with its religious, cultural and historical panorama. The history and cultural tradition of Gujarat dates back the time of the Indus valley civilization established by ruins found at Lothal. The Indian state of Gujarat is situated between 20.6 and 24.42 degrees north latitude and 68.10 and 74.28 degrees east longitude. Located on the western part of the sub-continent of India, the state of Gujarat gets its name from "Gujjar Rashtra", the land of Gujjars, a migrant tribe who passed through Punjab and settled in some parts of western India in the 5th century.

The Jewell of the west, Gujarat is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the sub-continent of India which attract a large gathering of travelers & tourists to the state and offers something for every tourist. The state has the longest sea coastline in the country and famous for its beaches. Some of major beaches of Gujarat are Ahmedpur Mandavi, Beyt Dwarka Beach, Chorwad Beach, Gopnath Beach, and Veraval Beach etc.

Apart from beaches Gujarat is blessed with architectural assets, holy temples & places, hill resorts, wildlife sanctuary, and many places of tourist interest. Together with wide-ranging destinations, the elegant & stylish handicrafts, the yummy foodstuffs, and colourful lifestyle of Gujarati people, enhance to its charm and its charm never fails to attract the attention of tourist.

Gujarat is also famous among tourists for its fascinating diversity of wildlife. Each is related to one another and has its unique environment. The wildlife of Gujarat is habitat of many kinds of animals and also some extremely rare animals. The Gir is the world famous forest. The Asiatic lion is only found in the Gir. During your Gujarat wildlife tours you will visit various wildlife sanctuary and national parks which will surely enchant you with its fascination. Some of the major wildlife of Gujarat is Sasangir National Park, Wild Ass Wildlife Sanctuary, Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary, Marine National Park, Velavadar Blackbuck Sanctuary etc.

Some of the top Gujarat Tours attraction: Sabarmati Ashram / Mahatma Gandhi's Home, Ahmedabad Hathee Singh Jain Temple, Ahmedabad Calico Museum of Textiles, Ahmedabad Jama Masjid, Ahmedabad Dada Hari, Ahmedabad Siddha Shree Dhoramnath Monastery, Bhuj Dhoramnath Temple, Bhuj Champaner-Pavagadh, Vadodara Little Rann of Kutch Rauza, Ahmedabad

To make your Gujarat tour handier, many travel agencies and tour planners of India offer Gujarat tours packages and they also provide valuable information about your Gujarat tours. During your Gujarat tours you will know what the state is famous for and will be familiar with its exotic cultural tradition, attractive handicrafts, and architectural assets and of course its wildlife. What a tourist can ask for, Gujarat tour tries to fulfill every type of his demand. Become a part of Gujarat tour and get enchanted with its everlasting sweet charm. The fascination of Gujarat is in waiting for your arrival.

About the Author
Michael Braganza is an eminent analyst and writer in Travel & Tourism related topics. He has authored many books on tour guide Visit :


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Environment film festival concludes.

New Delhi

Kunal Diwan

NEW DELHI: The environmental film festival ‘Vatavaran 2007’ concluded here on Sunday with Senani Hegde’s ‘Wild Dog Diaries’ bagging the Best Film award. The award carries a cash prize of Rs.1.5 lakh.

Other winners at the biennial festival included ‘Earth Calling – Episode Coorg’ by Rita Banerjee and Shilpi Sharma (Delhi Chief Minister’s Award for the Best Documentary in Environmental Conservation) and ‘Tiger – The Death Chronicles’ by Krishnendu Bose (Wildlife Conservation Category).

The Forum of Environmental Journalists of India and CMS Academy Award for Young Environmental Journalist (Print and Broadcast) went to Amar Jyoti and Bahar Dutt respectively. The Revelation Award was won by ‘Cherub of the Mist’, a beautifully shot documentary on the reclusive red panda by Naresh Bedi.

Suresh Elamon’s ‘Angels in Tigerland’ won the award for Best Cinematography while Umesh Aggarwal’s ‘The Whistle Blowers’ won for Best Editing.

The Special Jury Award was won by Gaurav Jani’s ‘Riding Solo to the Top of the World’. Jury Special Mention Awards were handed out to Kalpana Subramaniam’s Turtle in a Soup’ and Gurmeet Sapal’s ‘Leopard in the Lurch’.


MP Bags Rajiv Gandhi Wildlife Conservation Award.

Posted September 18th, 2007 by TariqueIndia News By Pervez Bari,

Bhopal: The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has conferred Rajiv Gandhi Wildlife Conservation Award to Madhya Pradesh state in individual category for the year 2005.

This was informed by the Madhya Pradesh Minister for Forests Kunwar Vijay Shah here today. The award is given annually in two categories for outstanding contribution to conservation of wildlife to an official/non-official person and institution.

The Minister informed that Government of India has selected Dr. H.S. Negi, a 1988 batch IFS officer who is presently the Director (territorial) of Kanha Tiger Reserve for the individual award for the year 2005.

The award is being given to Dr. Negi for his significant contribution to wildlife conservation as Deputy Director under Kanha Tiger Reserve, Buffer Zone and Deputy Director Kanha National Park. Dr. Negi very discreetly and courageously resolved the issue of opposition to opening of a buffer zone forest division of Kanha National Park. He convinced the target villages about the importance of the buffer zone forest division and motivated them to be partner in wildlife conservation. The comparatively less bio-pressure and peace in Kanha National Park is a tribute to his efforts.

Subsequently, different strategies were implemented under the leadership of Dr. Negi for effective protection and conservation of wildlife and wildlife areas. He exhibited exemplary sagacity and activeness in developing the Fen wildlife sanctuary as a satellite micro corp and ecological gallery arrival of wild animals. During his tenure as Director, Kanha National Park came to be known for efficient technical management, which included protection of Barahasingha, which is in crisis of extinction.

It may be mentioned here that earlier Dr. Negi had received the Pata Award of the World Nature Foundation in year 2000 and World Gold Medal by Madhya Pradesh Government in year 2001 for his outstanding services. (


Poaching of crocodile confirmed in Junagadh!

Poaching of crocodile confirmed in Junagadh

Junagadh, Gujarat, Sep 16 : The state forest department today confirmed poaching of a crocodile in an incident reported two months ago at Chuladi village of Malia-Haria taluka of Junagadh district.

''On 25 July, carcass of a crocodile was found on the bank of the river in Chuladi. We sent the dead body to the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) in Gandhinagar,'' District Officer Officer S K Baleja told UNI.

''The FSL report released recently confirmed that the crocodile was clubbed to death in poaching,'' said Mr Baleja, adding that the forest department is investigating the case.

--- UNI


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Pride of the zoo!

12:00p.m. 15 September 2007
| Nicole Richardson

They are cute and cuddly. And the latest additions to Australia Zoo at Beerwah are causing quite a fuss.

Charlie, the male cub in a pride of three eight-week-old Bengal tiger cubs, was named from the get-go.

The two girls’ naming rights will be auctioned to raise money to further the zoo’s tiger conservation projects.

And although the cubs are only two months old, Australia Zoo big cat supervisor Giles Clark said they would help to deliver the message of tiger conservation awareness.

“They’re going to have a very important role within the facility,” he said.

“Not only helping to raise and create awareness about the problem regarding tiger conservation, but they’re also going to be integral in helping to raise resources to support our partners and our programs that we support overseas.”

And their irresistible charm is too must to resist.

“They’re truly one of the world’s most charismatic animals,” Mr Clark said.

“They’re the only striped member of the cat family, hence why they’re so distinctive.

“Just last year, in fact, Animal Planet did a worldwide survey of what was the world’s most popular animal and tigers came out on top.

“I think everyone can relate to the cats because there are so many domestic cats and if you don’t have a cat, you had a cat when you were a child.

“There are so many similar behaviours and characteristics – they capture people’s hearts.”

The cubs will remain at the zoo for their entire lives, and will be introduced to the five older tigers in the Tiger Temple within the next few weeks.

They will be on show from Saturday, with viewings from 11am to 1.45pm each day.

To make a bid to name one of the beautiful girls, visit from Saturday.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Birth of lion cub is boost to species.

Tejas the lion cub.

By Staff reporter

HE'S just a few days old but Tejas, the tiny lion cub, offers a glimmer of hope for his species.

The male Asiatic Lion, who is being hand-reared by Chester Zoo's carnivore team, was born to mum Asha after a three and half month pregnancy.

With between 300-350 Asiatic Lions left in the wild, the little male will make a big difference to the conservation of his species.

Asiatic Lions can now only be found in India's Gir Forest and 17 lions have been killed there in the last five months. With the number of Asiatic Lions plummeting, Chester's new cub will eventually play a major part in a breeding programme for his species, ensuring it continues.

Tejas – who is being fed a special formulated cat milk every three hours and whose name is Indian for sharpness – was one of two born to mum Asha. However, the other male cub was not strong enough to survive, weighing less than his 1.2 kilo sibling.

Mike Jordan, the zoo's curator of higher vertebrates, said: "Asiatic Lions face some real threats in the wild and the fact that 17 lions alone have died in the last few months, eight from poaching, shows just how critical the situation is.

"That's why this young cub's birth is so important. The fact that Tejas is a male means he has the potential to play a really important role in the breeding programme for his species.

"We were sad to lose the other cub. However, the surviving cub is going from strength to strength."


Tiny Tejas' key role! (Cute Lion Cub!)

12/ 9/2007

THIS cute-looking lion cub might only be small, but he could be the key to helping his species survive.

He is called Tejas and he has been lapping milk from a bottle since he was born at Chester Zoo just a few days ago.

Tejas is one of only 350 Asiatic lions left anywhere in the world.

And keepers hope he will one day join a breeding programme that will help his species to survive for generations to come.

Mike Jordan, a curator at the zoo, said: "Asiatic lions face some real threats in the wild. The fact that 17 lions alone have died in the last few months, eight of them from poaching, shows just how critical the situation is for the Asiatic lion.

"That's why this young cub's birth is so important. The fact that Tejas is male means he has the potential to play a really important role in the breeding programme for his species."

Asiatic lions once ranged from South Asia to the Mediterranean, but are now only found wild in India. They live in the Gir Forest, in Gujarat, and there are only about 350 left.

Poachers hunt them for their claws, they are poisoned for attacking livestock and they are also threatened by floods, fires and epidemics.


Some drown in wells or are electrocuted by crude electric fences erected by farmers.

Some 17 lions have been killed in the Gir Forest over the past five months. Efforts are underway to establish a second lion population in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

Tejas, whose name is Indian for "sharpness", is being fed especially-formulated cat milk every three hours and is being hand-reared by the zoo's carnivore team.

His mum, Asha, also gave birth to another cub, but he was not strong enough to survive.

Mike will now travel to India in November to help set up a meeting between conservationists and the Indian government over the crisis facing Asiatic lions.

He added: "It goes without saying that we were sad to lose the other cub. However, Tejas is going from strength to strength and will be weaned at about eight weeks of age."


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

India: cat stories in Kipling country

India: cat stories in Kipling country
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 07/09/2007Page 1 of 3

One slow train ride takes Robert Cowan from the tigers of Madhya Pradesh to the lions of Gujarat.

"Mal, mal," the mahout commands again, with more kicks. Against its better judgement, the elephant edges forward a foot. The tiger puts its ears back. Another foot... its eyes narrow.

Just one of the two dozen tiger sightings that Robert Cowan had in Kanha, Madhya Pradesh
We're now less than 10 feet away, and thanks to the slope and the size of the elephant, my head and the tiger's are exactly level. Eyeball to eyeball, but only one of us is armed, or rather fearsomely teethed.

The elephant nudges forward a few more inches, but it's too much for the tiger. It opens its huge jaws and lets us know, with a spine-chilling snarl, that the consequences of not backing off immediately could be pretty nasty. For us.

The elephant wisely decides that retreat is the sensible option, but not before I notice that this old cat has lost one of its fangs. In times past, this handicap might have been enough to turn a tiger into a man-eater. Would it again? Judging by the evil gleam in the eye locked on to mine, quite possibly.

We are deep in the sal and bamboo forests of Kanha, in what is, in tourist terminology, part of Kipling country in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh: the hills where The Jungle Book was set. Kanha has two advantages over some of its better known rivals.

The biggest, of course, is the abundance of tigers. An Indian government survey earlier this year reported that, with 90 tigers, it is one of only two reserves in India that still has a sustainable population.

Puzzlingly, the most recent tiger census, by the Wildlife Institute of India, estimates that the whole of Madhya Pradesh has just 45 tigers left. Yet in two days in the park we had a dozen sightings, though no way of telling how many individuals we saw.

Can the numbers have fallen so sharply in a few months, especially when my guide, Pradeep, boasted that Kanha hadn't lost an animal to poachers for more than a decade?

You can see why. Besides the constant patrols of the park rangers (tribals recruited not only for their knowledge of the hills but also to give them a financial stake in the preservation of the park's chief asset), an extensive scientific study monitors the tigers night and day across the reserve, through the use of radio collars and tracking devices.

The rangers also use the radio collars to locate the lie-up positions of a tiger or two after the night's hunting is over.

Elephants are brought up at dawn so that visitors can get close to the tigers. In four drives, two at dawn, two at dusk, I must have had a dozen sightings. In the evenings, I saw tigers stalking purposefully through the long grass.

In the chill of early morning, there was the gap-toothed oldster on the rock, others lying up under trees, and - pure magic - a young adult male sitting in a stream, a look of utter contentment on his face, oblivious to our intrusion.

Such a large tiger population, of course, requires an abundant supply of food, and the hills teem with different species of prey: chital, sambhar, barking deer, nilgai, the very rare barasingha, or swamp deer, which Kanha saved from extinction.

And other predators, too. As we drove back from watching the tiger on the rock, a large pack of dhole, the fox-red Indian wild dog, kept pace with the Jeep, bounding among the trees on the side of the track, keeping in contact with their peculiar whistling calls.

Kanha's second great advantage is that one train journey (and a couple of taxi rides) links it to that other largely ignored treasure of natural India, the lion reserve at Sasan Gir, way out on the west coast of Gujarat.

The Jabalpur-Veraval Express is a ponderous beast, taking 30 hours to cover the 1,500 miles between the two parks, but it is the only train in the world that lets the keen nature watcher view the two biggest cats back to back in the wild.

The Asiatic lion used to range all over western Asia, right up to the borders of Greece. Slightly smaller than the African lion, with a more pronounced bobble at the end of its tail and a distinctive skin fold down the belly, it is now extinct apart from the 360 or so left in the deciduous forests of the Gir hills.

The jungle is less broken here than at Kanha, there are precious few meadows or clearings, so spotting the wildlife is more difficult. Shapes are seen through the trees, and it takes intense scrutiny before the shape materialises into a definable creature.

The first drive, as far as lion are concerned, draws a blank. There was a she-leopard with a cub, numerous different types of deer and birds, a jackal and a four-horned antelope... so a blank with considerable bonuses.

The next morning expectations are low: fog hangs heavy on the park, even the peacocks seem dismally grey in the dawn mist. But no more than half a mile into the reserve the Jeep turns a corner and there sitting nonchalantly on the track in front of us is a lioness.

She seems as curious about us as we are about her. She gets up and ambles towards us. The driver puts the Jeep into reverse and we go back a few yards. She keeps coming, we keep reversing. From the mist shrouding the trees another shape appears. A second lioness joins the first in the track, identical in height and markings: presumably her twin sister.

Both are now coming towards us, not so much ambling any more as marching with menaces. The driver switches off the engine and the two lionesses come to a halt 20 or so yards away.

They stop, yawn, lie down, lick each other, do all those displacement things that cats do, but all the time watching us keenly. Then one is off back into the trees. As we discover a minute or two later, it is a pincer movement: soundlessly, she emerges on to the track a few yards behind us. Both eye us intently.

Is the one in front licking her lips? Are they sizing us up for breakfast? The guide is reassuring. Lions never attack anyone in a Jeep, he says softly. But the driver switches on the ignition anyway... Just as things get tense, the sound of tyres on gravel comes from down the road and another Jeep appears around the corner.

The lioness in front, her disappointment showing, ambles past and joins her sister behind us. Together they disappear into the trees. We sit silent for a few minutes waiting to see if they will re-emerge, but in the distance there's the alarm call of a barking deer, and it's clear that the pair now have other matters on their minds.

We drive on, a mile or so down the track catching a glimpse through the trees of a shaggy male drinking at a water hole. Sadly, the sound of the Jeep reversing for a better view is enough to chase him off.

Sasan Gir, until this year, had been one of the more notable success stories in big-cat conservation in India. The lion population, which hit a low of just over 20 animals in the early 20th century, had been increasing steadily and the state government was looking at the possibility of creating a second reserve in Gujarat.

The bad news - catastrophic even - for these last remaining Asiatic lions is that their existence seems to have just come to the attention of the poachers who supply bones to the illegal Chinese medicine trade.

The poachers, having stripped bare some tiger reserves and reduced the total population in the wild to as few as 1,300 animals if the latest census is to be believed, have realised that lion and tiger bones are almost indistinguishable. Between February and May this year, eight of Sasan Gir's lions were snared and killed.

At a stately average speed of just 50 miles an hour, the long ride on the Jabalpur-Veraval Express is a bottom-numbing experience, but the thrill of seeing lions and tigers at either end makes it entirely worthwhile. Better not leave booking your ticket too long, though...

On the hunt for big cats

I travelled independently, with the arrangements, including all the train bookings, made through the astonishingly efficient S D Enterprises of Wembley in north London (103 Wembley Park Drive, Wembley, 020 8903 3411).

At Kanha, I was booked into the Krishna Jungle Resort. The company’s driver met me at the nearest station, Jabalpur, and took me to breakfast at a sister hotel in town – with, thankfully, a room to get washed and changed in – before the three-hour drive into the hills.

The camp itself is a couple of miles outside the tiger reserve, the rooms in a series of sparse but comfortable lodges based around courtyards.

There’s a swimming pool and a dining room (but no bar, though alcohol is available), and the price of £70 for a double room includes all meals and two safaris per night stayed.

At Sasan Gir I stayed in the tented Lion Safari Camp. If only someone had been there to meet me at Junagadh, the nearest station to the reserve . . . First, I had to find a taxi (there were only autorickshaws at the station), then an interpreter to tell the taxi driver where to go.

But the camp itself was very pleasant: the tents large and comfortable with a separate bathroom attached at the rear. Again all meals were included in the price of £93 a night, but the safaris had to be paid for separately. Two dawn safaris came to almost £50. Gujarat is a dry state, so there was no bar.

A 21-day, go anywhere first-class Indirail travel pass costs £113.


Saturday, September 8, 2007

OPINION - Do Asiatic Lions Still Roar in Gir?

September 07, 2007
Harold Bergsma
It is hard to believe we did this! We pitched a tent in an isolated area of a game reserve in lion country. I was awakened by the terrifying sound of a lion roaring. I was sure it was in the tent with us. There are few things as awe inspiring, or should I say exciting as hearing a lion roar in the wild. It is an instant adrenaline high. The hair stood up on the back of my neck.

Another time I was strolling along on a visit to the Lahore Zoo and stood bored and feeling sad for the scraggly, thin, lethargic 'Asiatic' lion there. He must have picked up on my intense stare and started to roar. In seconds I was surrounded by kids and their families all looking wide-eyed. I could understand how lady lions would be impressed.

The Maldharis who live in the Gir Forest in small gatherings called, 'ness' listen to the roars of the majestic Asiatic Lion almost on a daily basis. The lions regularly eat their cattle too. Perhaps they are used to the roars. It's a jungle out there! But the Maldharis don't want to leave the Gir reserve which they consider home, a place to graze their cattle. Dionne Bunsha's article, "A kingdom too small" presents an excellent review of the present, sad condition of the Asiatic Lion, the last remnant of a once large and widely distributed sub-species. Truly, their kingdom is too small, and the kings are too few, now some three hundred individuals. But it was not always this way. Once upon a time, the Asiatic lion really was the lion king.

The Asian Lion roamed a vast territory ranging from Greece through the Middle East and part of North Africa all the way down to India. This lion has been the focus of literature, the inspiration of religious texts, the model for motifs of entire kingdoms and the inspiration of poets and religious leaders in the middle east, south east Asia and even China. I often wondered where the Chinese got the model for their strange lions, you remember, the ones that stand guarding gates; stone lions poised menacingly at leading restaurants. The male Chinese lion is represented by a stylized lion with a ball under its foot; the female lion with a lion cub under her foot. Legend has it that the female's nipples are on her feet. How in the world did Chinese artists come to depict the lion that way? The answer of course; the Indian or Asiatic lion. Buddhists regard the lion as a protector of truth, a defender against evil. But, the Chinese had no lions of their own, you say. Correct, but the Silk Road, and the advance of Buddhism carried the images from India where the real lion roamed. The King of Parthia, in 87 AD gave China a gift of lions as China had none of its own.

In Indian art history lions are shown supporting Buddha's throne. Those lions are more realistic than the Chinese depiction of lions. On India's Republic Day the streets of the capital are filled with lion images. TheAshoka pillar, a symbol of the state of India, is surmounted by four lions with manes crouching back to back.

The word Singh, derived from the Sanskrit simha is a name that rings out in Indian history. It rings a note of recognition in other parts of the world. In fact the word was on CNN yesterday. Bearded men with turbans were being stopped in American airports and being requested to remove their turbans. It is hard to pat down certain areas. (I wondered about the Kachk, Kara or Kirpan that are traditionally worn by many, which are made of metal?) Many variations of the name meaning lion appear. Singh! Sinhagiri, (lion of the rock) Sinh, Simha, or in Gujarati, sawaj. I knew one other name for the Asian lion as I grew up and I think it is the best one by far, babbar sher; it has a princely ring to it that Rajas liked; Bir Narsing Kunwar (Nepal 1816), and later Shumsher Jang-Bahadur Rana. Kipling put the Tiger and the Leopard in the minds of his readers, worldwide, with the names of two other cool cats, Bagheera and Sher Khan. The Persians would smile, knowing that the name originated with them, shir. But the Persians did not have a monopoly on giving the lion a name. The Greek, leon sounds familiar, as does the Roman leo. The Lion King shamelessly picked up on it all and made a killing.

The Asiatic leo was the emotional experience of folks living around the Mediterranean and the Middle East throughout recorded history. What images are conjured up when you hear the words 'Lion of Judah' or 'Daniel in the Lions' Den' 'Richard the Lion-Hearted' or 'Bishan Bedi, lion-hearted cricketer'? How many great Indian leaders carried the name Singh?

It becomes an emotional journey to read of the historical distribution of the Asiatic Lion, 'last know lion killed in Tunisia in 1891' 'last known lion in Turkey killed in 1870' 'last know in Iran in 1942' last know lion in Pakistan killed near Kot Beji in Sind province in 1810' 'fifty lions were killed in the district of Delhi between1856-58'! Twenty five years later Blanford (1891) wrote that in India the lion is on the verge of extinction'. During the British Raj, the gora sahibs would engage in shikar, wonderful events hosted by local potentates with the lion in their name, the trophy in their mind. But not only did the Brits kill thousands of animal, so did many Maharajas. Mahesh Rangarajan, a well known historian of ecological change, documents amazing exploits of Indian rulers. One in particular, a certain Sadul Singh, Maharajkumar of Bikaner (1936) kept a Diary for over a quarter of a century recording all his shoots. "Nearly 50,000 head of animals and a further 46,000 game birds fell to his gun. Among these were 33 tigers... and a lone Asiatic lion." (See India's Wildlife History, Mahesh Ranagarajan, Permanent Black, p 160, Rs 250) Hapless animals would be slaughtered and the proud hunters would have their photo taken sitting behind the poor dead lion, or tiger. I have a wonderful old book, still available on, The Last Empire (1855-1911) by Ainslie Embre, in which there is a picture of a bored looking King Edward and a Raja posing behind a tiger. Such pictures were all the rage for those who served in India, as were carpets made of skins of animals, especially lion rugs that had a mounted skull with mouth wide open. As a child I loved to lie on the rug and reach over and put my fingers into the gaping maw and feel the teeth. Honestly.

Soon there were few lions left. Some attempts were made to breed the Asian Lion with the African Lion, to give it a genetic boost, so to speak. It was a bad mistake. Very soon it was discovered that the offspring developed all sorts of problems, including insanity. During one period about 200 of these Asiatic lions were sent to various zoos in different parts of the world as a program to insure the survival of the sub-species. "In the mid 1980s it was found that some Asian lions exported to the USA from the Trivandrum Zoo India, were Asian/African hybrids. Paul Joslin, former assistant director of Chicago's Brookfield Zoo had noticed that many "Asian " lions in US zoos lacked the telltale belly fold. He also noticed an increase in infant mortality which is indicative of inbreeding depression." There is a detailed description of the 'analysis of mitochondrial DNA which showed, that in fact these were hybrids. So the preservation efforts ended in having to sterilize all the breeding males. They will live out their sterile existence and their majestic once sexy roars will now be not much more than an impotent whimpers.

At the present time in Indian zoos, there may be dozens of 'retired' lions who have not been euthanized because of India's official prohibition about killing such animals. There are two categories for euthanasia, active and passive. The passive variety allows animals. Monkeys, dogs, cats and cattle are ignored, get by, survive on their own and eventually die off, or disease decimates a population. But the sterilized and inferior retired lions are a privileged group who enjoy a decent, sterile, segregated life with ample food until their death do us part. Humans, however, can be cruel to each other, kill off each other, kill off unwanted female children, but official policy prohibits such, and hopefully attempts to establish an environment for all life which is one of respect and preservation will prevail. Hopefully there are not many rajas or vast land owners around who still enjoy the shikar and kill off large numbers of game animals.

Now these magnificent lions are confined to a small area, the Gir Forest in Gujarat, some three hundred of them or fewer. Their future hangs in the balance; their fate rests in the hands of scientists and conservationists who seek to preserve them. It is not an easy task. The Asiatic lion in the Gir Forest now enjoys heightened world awareness. The extinction of this fine carnivore would be a world tragedy. This sub-species once roamed widely but was the victim of a number of factors that led to its being protected in a tiny area. What killed off the lions?

1. Human population explosions, increased farming, the cutting of trees and slaughter of game species was a major factor in the rapid decline of these lions. If people and carnivores compete for the same resources, guess who wins.

2. Trophy hunting systematically caused the demise of regional populations of lions. "Fifty lions in the Delhi area!"

3. Superstition and ill founded belief that lion body parts have magical properties resulted in animals being collected for sale to male Chinese people who wanted increased potency and sexual stamina. Lions are sexy creatures that mate as many as thirty times a day so it figures; if you eat certain parts ... It could be called imitative magic.

4. Climate change brings about habitat change, deforestation, desertification, lack of water supplies, all of which kills off the animals.

5. Parasites and insect pests can kill off entire prides of lions. From time to time there is a scourge of biting flies that torment lions so intensely that they have little appetite for game.

6. Anthrax, rabies and other diseases can wipe out animals.

7. Human pollution of environments with drugs, (remember the vultures) toxic wastes which pollute the water, the land and food sources kill off predators.

8. Sub-species and cross species breeding programs can create genetic monsters, infertility and non-viable populations of lions. In-breeding weakens the gene pool.

It is amazing with all that going against them that there are a few Asiatic lions left in the Gir. International conservation bodies and the Indian government are setting up a variety of approaches to preserve, protect and enhance the survival of this lion. It may be working; there may be hope. Lions are leaving the preserve and expanding their own territory. A few have even been reported on distant beaches far from their Gir Forest reserve. Their will to survive, to search for new territory, to establish new colonies are encouraging signs.

There is a sparkling new book about all of this written by an expert with a name to match - The Story of Asia's Lions, by Divyabhanusinh; Marg Publications, Mumbai, 2005. If you don't make it to the Gir Forest, you can imagine the roars as you read his wonderful book. The Asiatic lion still roars and people get goose pimples.

Harold Bergsma has published widely in professional journals, and novels. In 2007, One Way To Pakistan was published and in April of 2007 was awarded the Indie Excellence Award for Multicultural Fiction.


Thursday, September 6, 2007

He advocates wildlife rights!

Karnataka - Bangalore
Staff Reporter

— Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Mahindra Singh Kachhawa

BANGALORE: “Salman Khan will face the consequence of poaching wild animals.” These are the words of Mahendra Singh Kachhawa, Special Public Prosecutor in the five cases registered against the actor.

“We have solid evidence against the actor,” said the advocate for Rajasthan, whose services are hired by investigating agencies throughout the country in relation to wildlife crime.

Of the five cases dealt by Mr. Kachhawa, two have ended up in conviction. This includes the present case wherein the actor was convicted for poaching two chinkaras at the Ujiyala Bhakhar near Ghoda Farm in 1998. The Rajasthan High Court granted him bail on Friday.

Mr. Kachhawa was in the city on Friday in connection with the investigation by the State police into the possible involvement of Hakkipikki tribes in poaching lions in Gir Sanctuary. He is the prosecutor in the case involving notorious wildlife trader Sansarchad in which one of the accused, E.P. Singh, hails from Channagiri taluk of Davangere district.


Protection of animals, more so the wild, has been a passion for Mr. Kachhawa, who hails from Choutka Barwara, which is near Ranathambore National Park. He has a doctorate in wildlife studies.

He was moved to take up the cause of animals after seeing a rabbit being shot by a driver in 1990. “I cannot forget the sight of rabbit which looked at me as if it was crying for help.”


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Corpus fund to protect Asiatic Lions.

Manas Dasgupta

Gujarat move to counter poaching

GANDHINAGAR: The Gujarat Government has created a corpus fund for the protection of the Asiatic Lions at its only abode — the Gir sanctuary in Junagadh district of the Saurashtra region in the state.

Stunned by the recent series of incidents of poaching of the Gir lions, the State Government has initiated the measure particularly to blunt the criticism of the animal lovers who want a part of the lion population to be shifted to Madhya Pradesh for the safety of the species threatened with extinction.

According to an official spokesman of the State Government, the corpus fund has been initiated with an initial allocation of Rs. five lakh per annum to provide rewards to the local population to encourage them to cooperate with the government machinery, or fight against the illegal poachers to save the animal.

The spokesman admitted that the amount allocated was inadequate for the huge sanctuary covering over a 1,400 square kilometre area, but said the funds could be readjusted as and when necessary.

According to the reward scheme, an amount of Rs. three lakh would be paid from the fund to the next of kin of anyone killed while trying to catch a poacher or save a lion.

An equivalent compensation would also be paid to kin of an informant killed by a poacher.

In case of injury, the reward would be Rs. 50,000 or more depending on the extent of injury to be determined by the concerned civil surgeon and Rs. two lakh to an informant if it led to the arrest of any illegal poacher.

The fund would be kept at the disposal of the State Chief Conservator of Forests to ensure prompt disbursement.

During the recent months, incidents of poaching of at least eight lions were confirmed by the official machinery besides the loss of about a dozen other lions claimed to have died accidentally or due to natural causes.

The government had often suspected involvement of some local people in about 300 odd villages dotting the sanctuary periphery, in the illegal poaching.

It was believed that the illegal poaching could never be stopped without the active involvement of the local people.

In the last census conducted two years ago, the population of the Asiatic Lions in the Gir sanctuary was placed at 359.


Long live the Tiger!

Monday September 3 2007 09:44 IST
S Guru Srikanth

TIRUPATI: How to save endangered species? Save the top most on the biological pyramid and to a large extent endangered species will be saved as well the disappearing forests, is the solution given by the honchos of the Forest Department.

Conservation of ‘flagship’ species like tiger, Asiatic lion gets the immediate attention of people and politicians and it is politicians who have clout with policy makers to get the things done, says K Chandrasekara Pillai, Curator of Sri Venkateswara Zoological Park here, who recently returned from Jersey (UK) after attending a special training programme on ‘Endangered Species Recovery’ at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Speaking to this website's newspaper he explained that to a large extent, this policy had paid rich dividends.

“Project Tiger is a prime example of the success of the policy. Tiger is on the top of the biological pyramid and for it to survive, a large base of herbivore animals is necessary and for the existence of herbivores, ample vegetation is required. So when we are conserving the top of the food chain, we are in reality conserving the entire food chain,” he explained.

According to him, the Project Tiger was taken up in early 70s and at that time the tiger population in the country was 1,827 and in Andhra Pradesh it was a mere 35. Thanks to the Project Tiger, in which Srisailam Nagarajuna Sagar area was declared a Tiger Reserve in 1982, by the end of 2002, the tiger population in the State went up to 192, out of the total 3,642 tigers in the country.

“The main achievements of the Project Tiger was excellent recovery of natural habitats and consequent increase in tiger population and indirect conservation of entire eco-system. Similarly, Project Elephant in which Koundanya forest area of Chittoor district was a part and Project Crocodile have also become a huge success. Still there is a lot that needs to be done for conserving endangered species, which may not be affected by conserving the top of the food chain,” he says.

According to him, along with Tiger, Asiatic lion, wild buffalo, swamp deers, barking deers, mouse deers, primitive primates like loris, torstus, lion tailed macaque, pygmy hog of Assam, host of amphibians of evergreen forests of western ghats have found place in ‘International Red Data Book’, which has the information pertaining to critically endangered species in the world.

In Tirumala forests, we have four endemic animal species – slender loris, golden gecko, giant squirrel and flying squirrel – which are found nowhere else.

“To conserve those species, we have not created any special projects, but declared the entire region as SV National Park, thus bringing them under a security net,” Pillai said and added that any wildlife can survive only when people are made aware of their value in the large scheme of the nature.


Two of poaching syndicate held for Gir killings

Ahmedabad, Sept. 4 (PTI): Investigators hunting for those who killed several Asiatic lions in Gir forest earlier this year have received a shot in the arm with the arrest of two persons in Madhya Pradesh belonging to a "pan-national poaching syndicate".

The Gujarat CID team entrusted with the case has scoured five states and found the poachers stalked their quarry on foot for days, but has not managed to recover any bones, nails or pelts of the vanishing felines - they fear these may have already been smuggled out of the country.

"The arrests were made with the help of Madhya Pradesh police in Khandwa district last week as we were on the trail of certain suspects who have a criminal history of poaching protected and endangered animals," a senior member of the team said.

Eight lions were killed and their body parts stolen from Gir in Junagarh district,
the last abode of the majestic big cats, in March-April and the probe has taken the investigators on the trail of a gang in Karnataka reportedly from the Hakki-Pikki hunting and gathering tribe.

He said a "major pan-national poaching syndicate" has been busted of which Gujarat Police arrested 17 men and 13 women, mostly from Katni district of MP. Over 50 children who were with the tribals in Gir during the poaching incidents have also been detained since the probe began.

"The modus operandi of the gang that operated in Gir is very similar to the way the Hakki-Pikki go around hunting in the forests of Karnataka," the official, who had a detailed interaction with Karnataka Police on the issue, said.

The official said the poachers waited in the jungles for many days and tracked lions and other animals on foot. They then laid traps in trenches and also used sharp objects like crudely-made spears to kill the trapped and helpless animals.

The Gujarat government has announced a Rs 2 lakh cash reward to anyone who gives information to the authorities about poachers lurking in the jungles.

It also recently announced setting up of a corpus fund for lion conservation, a government official said.

Offering another incentive so that people get personally involved in ridding the forest of poachers, the government said it will give Rs 1 lakh compensation to anybody injured while trying to prevent poaching.

Gir Wildlife Sanctuary is spread over a 1412.42 sq. km. area.

As per the census conducted by state government in 2005, the number of lions in the sanctuary was 359.


Saturday, September 1, 2007

Jodhpur struggles to curb poaching

31 Aug 2007, 0258 hrs IST,Avijit Ghosh,TNN

JODHPUR: Under staffed and under equipped, the forest department of Jodhpur district is struggling to curb poaching. Senior wildlife officials admit that the department is short of investigating officers. Official statistics show investigations are still pending in six wildlife cases filed in 1991-92.

Statistics also show that since 2001-02 to July 2007, of the 227 wildlife cases filed, 122 minor cases were disposed of by the department. But of the remaining 105 cases, only 22 made it to the courts. Seventy-four cases are still under investigation and nine were abandoned for lack of evidence.

Significantly, of the 22 cases that reached the court, only one has been decided so far. High court lawyer Anil Kaviraj explains the delay. "Wildlife cases hardly get any kind of priority," he says. And B R Bhadoo, DFO, wildlife wing, Jodhpur admits, "The conviction rate is extremely low."

According to forest department statistics, since 2000-01, there is a marginal decline in the number of wildlife cases in these parts. That year, the number of cases registered reached an all-time high- 61. But, barring 2001-02 and 2005-06, when 46 and 51 cases respectively were registered, the number has hovered below 40. In 2006-07, it stood at 31.

Jodhpur's forest department's wildlife wing is now tackling the manpower shortage on the ground. Next month, they plan to recruit 20 ex-servicemen as forest guards. But the shortage of officers and vehicles remains. "We are often busy catching poachers. Methodical investigation of a case takes a lot of time which we don't have," says Bhadoo. Sometime back, Rajasthan forest minister Laxmi Narayan Dave had spoken of setting up an anti-poaching cell. Bhadoo admits that the wildlife department is hugely aided by Bishnois in their anti-poaching work. "Poachers kill chinkaras, blackbucks, deer, wolf, monitor lizards. Bishnois provide us with information on their whereabouts. It is an ecological community that shows how humans can co-exist with wildlife," he says.

On Wednesday, Rampal Bhavad of Bishnoi Tiger Force donated a Bolero to the Jodhpur forest department for better monitoring of the area.


Two more arrested for Gir lion killings.

Sibte Husain Bukhari

Junagadh, August 31: Two more men have been arrested for their involvement in the killing of eight lions in Gir forest. They have been remanded in ten days police custody by the Palitana town court in Bhavnagar district. Lions were slaughtered and their bones, skull and claws dispatched to some unknown destination, in which the international syndicate is believed to have played a major role. Three separate incidents of killing of eight lions occurred during March and April this year, which rocked the entire region.

Arrests had been made on August 24, however, the police preferred to remain tightlipped over the issue as they believed that divulging details could hamper the probe process.

The accused have been identified as Anand Minter Parghi and Hirakha Parghi. Both have been arrested from Balada village of Chhanera taluka in Khandwa district in Madhya Pradesh. According to Bhavnagar police sources, a midnight search operation was carried out at Balada village in which 50 police personnel along with a Madhya Pradesh police party, scanned the entire area. Search operations aimed at nabbing the accused, commenced at around 2 am and lasted for 6 hours, which ended at 8 in the morning. Balada village is geographically surrounded by water of dams on three sides. The operations were carried out when torrential rains were lashing the area, the police said. The duo was nabbed by the police during the search operation, however, the main kingpin , Minter Aadivasi managed to escape under the cover of darkness.

Anand and Hirakha are close aides of Minter and in fact are son and son-in-law respectively. During their interrogation, both have admitted to their role in the killing of the lions. The Madhya Pradesh police’s tribal gang had killed 6 lions in Babaria range of Gir forest, and two lions at Bhandaria village in Bhavnagar district. It is believed that the duo had provided some vital information about Minter. Both were produced before Palitana town court that passed orders for 10 days police remand.

Meanwhile, a total 17 men and 13 women — all tribals, have been arrested in this connection by Junagadh and Bhavnagar police. Apart from this, atotal 55 children have been detained so far. According to Junagadh district jail superintendent D J Vanakar, 10 men, 9 women undertrials and 18 children below the age of 7 have been lodged in Junagadh jail. According to Bhavnagar jail officials, 7 men and 4 women undertrials have been put behind bars in Bhavnagar jail. While 39 children have been been given shelter at the juvenile home in Bhavnagar.

According to police sources, tribal gangs have a specific modus operandi. They are always accompanied by women and dozens of children and never stay at one place for long. The men flee from the scene of crime when they know that the police are at an arm’s length. The women and children are left to fend on their own.