Friday, November 30, 2007

Memories of Lt. Shree P P Raval Saheb (DFO-Wildlife, Gir-West, Sasan)

Lt. Shree Praduman P. Ravalsaheb

I happened to meet Raval Saheb just few weeks before Lion’s Census 2005. Before my first interaction with him, Frankly speaking I had no different opinion about him, that other rough and tough forest officer. Because, even a bit guard in forest department, considers himself not below the rank of DFO!

But Raval Saheb was an exception to it. A simple and sober personality and an idol of simplicity. When I saw him for the first time, it was difficult to believe that the DFO, Sasan Gir was standing before me! But as the conversation went on with him while he was giving instructions to the subordinates over telephone regarding the Census, I was rest assured that he was none other than Raval Saheb!

He was a man of number of sterling qualities at one place. Honest, Hard-working and dashing! Nothing was impossible for him below the sky! Taking part into Lion’s Census 2005 was the rare and memorable period of my life. But he was Raval Saheb, who made it possible for me and for that I am indebted to him!

I realised it later on that Raval Saheb was popular and familiar, not because he was DFO but apart from that, he always stood by the staff and carried them with him. He introduced insurance scheme for his employees and as one of the welfare measures! He also helped the effected persons of Barda Mountain during the drought! He was not simply a bureaucrat but a kind-hearted noble man, which made him beloved Raval Saheb! Local people of Gir also call him Raval Dada or Raval Aata with due respect!

It will be worth to mention here that, despite his sickness, before, during and after the census, his face was always found smiling & heart always filled with love and kindness. I remember one such incident:

One day during the Census Raval Saheb came up directly on the field at Rampari (near Kankai of Gir - one of the most beautiful places of Gir – though entire Gir is very beautiful!) on a fact-finding mission, on one critical issue. As he was badly suffering form kidney and other problems. He had just undergone dialysis at hospital in Junagadh and straightway rushed at Rampari, without taking complete rest! As after dialysis one cannot have the strength to stand property. But this Lion man was moving on the rough roads of the Gir, with whatever stamina available in his body / his lungs and veins were filled with the blood of Gir and Gir Lions (Asiatic Lions), which had absolutely made him mad for the welfare of wildlife.

He had strong desire to conduct the Census of Lions accurately and successfully under his supervision and observation during his tenure. And as such he was not doing all these movements as part of his duty, but he enjoyed it throughout, because his first love was Gir and Asiatic Lions and not his family!

Raval Saheb put Sakkarbaug Zoo, Junagadh on the map of the world, during his service, with tremendous efforts & zeal. He almost put his body and soul behind it. Because at the point of time, number of illegal activities were carried out by notorious elements on the hand, falling between Sakkarbaug Zoo and Girnar Mountain, like mining, preparing liquor, cutting trees, grassing etc. All these activities were going on openly without any check on it. In such a situation Raval Saheb was going on a round of this area on his bajaj scooter. One day, someone annoyed with him, hit his head from the back with a heavy wooden stick. His head was bleeding but reached the hospital alone for treatment in that bleeding condition! This was his daring!

With the same dedication and enthusiasm he developed Indroda Park at Gandhinagar and made it a place worth to see and sit peacefully in presence of Nature and Wildlife! He was moving on his bicycle with one pair of clothes and ‘Kathi no khatlo’ (Traditional bad – char pai) to sleep. Today aged Gardner of Indroda Park is the eyewitness of Raval Saheb’s vision and mission.

During the drought situation in Barda he left his house, without a word to his family and with the cloth’s on his body! He wandered here and there for 15 days, collected donations and arranged for food, medicines, dinking water, clothing etc. for the effected and needy and poor residents of that area. His motto was “Service to mankind is service to God!”

He had also submitted number of case studies paper singly and jointly there are endless such stories moving around Raval Saheb, which if narrated, could not be covered in even next twelve issues of Zoo’s Print!

Subsequent to Census 2005, I had come close to Raval Saheb’s family. His wife Cahndrikaben often told me that Saheb was always longing for someone to come, sit for hours together and talk with him about Gir, Asiatic Lions and Wild Life. While talking of Lions, he was getting new energy in his body, roaring in his voice and light on his face. I also came across such experiences number of times. Hence fore, I had formally decided to go to Junagadh from Rajkot, once or twice a week, to meet Raval Saheb, listen him, ink his ‘jungly’ experiences and publish them for the benefit of wildlife lovers. But hardly I had visited two times then Raval Saheb passed away!

And see I received the ‘coincidence news of Raval Saheb’s sad demise in Aji Zoo at Rajkot, when I was standing before the lioness given by Raval Saheb when he was at Sakkarbaugh Zoo at Junagadh and watching the matting. News flashed on my cell phone and drove straight to Junagadh from there itself to pay homage to such a towering personality. When I reached, his body was laying on the woods of Gir Forest, which I am sure must be of those trees, planted by Raval Saheb! Fire was lit and Raval Saheb travelled for heavenly abode, leaving his family, relatives, friends, staff, wildlife lovers and all present there crying forever. Despite strong desire to condole his wife, I could not gather courage to see Mrs. Chandrikaben, after the funeral.

Life has become poor by the love that has been lost!

I take pride in the sense that for Ms. Sally Walker’s Zoo’s Print, I had opportunity to contact lots of people belonging to various fields of the society who had one or the another story of Raval Saheb, to tell. Though I had hardly came in touch with Raval Saheb for the last one and a half year, I had become instrumental in doing at least something for him, through Zoo’s Print!

-Kamlesh Adhiya
Founder President
Asiatic Lion Protection Society, Rajkot.

P P Raval - addtions to memorials

P P Raval - addtions to memorials - in Zoo's Print - volume XXII, Number 12 -December 2007.

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Forest department offers weekend in the wilderness within the city

Nitya Kaushik
Posted online: Thursday , November 29, 2007 at 12:00:00

Mumbai, November 28 A weekend in the wilderness, but within the city—this is what the state forest department has been offering for the past two months as part of its Rs 5-crore five-year scheme to promote eco-tourism at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) in Borivali.
Comfortably-furnished camping cottages and rest houses are available at affordable rates right in the middle of the forest in the eco-tourism zone of Krishnagiri Range.

“The project is more of an educational activity to spread awareness about the wildlife and environment among local tourists," said Dr P N Munde, conservator of forest, SGNP.

Having already converted seven bungalows in the forest into rest houses, the department recently added a camping cottage, complete with four suites, two halls and a dining hall. “It cost us Rs 10 lakh to build that cottage itself, and we have taken special care to give it a rustic feel as well as ensure comfort,” said S R Padwale, range forest officer of Krishnagiri Upvan.

The cottage, he said, had pleasant Mangalore tile roof, a wide verandah and spacious but basic two-bed suites with attached bathrooms. Padwale said the forest department planned to construct two more similar cottages.

Besides, forest officials said 16 more suites for visitors sprinkled in different eco-tourism regions provide completely different scenic experiences.

Considering the national park's convenient location and nearness to the city, Padwale said, the cottages were very affordable-an air-conditioned suite with two beds and attached bathroom costs Rs 750 per night and a non-A/C suite just Rs 500. “Once here, the tourists need not move out of the park for anything. We have cooks who can serve a basic meal at a nominal fee. There is one television in one of our bungalows, and others have dining halls and halls for hanging out,” he said.

While plans are attractive, teething troubles are aplenty too — the most prominent being safety. “The Krishnagiri Range is full of hutments and slum-dwellers know the forest inside out,” a regular visitor to the SGNP said. “How will forest officials ensure that the visitors are not robbed or harmed? Besides, what if there is a wild encounter with a leopard? The SGNP authorities should put in place a 24-hour helpline and provide special phone numbers where visitors can call if there’s an emergency,” he said.

The forest officials, however, maintained that there had been no trouble to date. “Besides, we have forest guards making rounds throughout the night, so there is no chance of any such incident going unnoticed,” Padwale said.

But since the entire system was not in place yet, reservations could be made only at the office of Conservator of Forest, Padwale added.


Musharraf lets in the lions” By Stig Toft Madsen

Yesterday (November 26th) the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidenske ran an article by Sten Jensen called “Musharraf slipper løverne ind” (“Musharraf lets in the lions”) about the triumphant return of Nawaz Sharif. How come Nawaz Sharif is associated with a lion?

Historically, there is a long association between lions and leaders. Men standing tall among fellow men are presumably like male lions proudly lording it over their pack. Therefore, kings are the lions of men.

The last major king to rule Punjab before the advent of the British, Ranjit Singh (1780-1839), was known as Sher-e-Punjab, i.e. the Lion of Punjab. More recently, the sobriquet Sher-e-Kashmir was applied to the Kashmiri politician Sheikh Abdullah. Nawaz Sharif follows this tradition. He is a latterday Ranjit Singh, a contemporary Sher-e-Punjab.

When Ranjit Singh ruled Punjab, there might well have been real lions within his realm However, towards the end of the 19th century, the lion gradually disappeared from South Asia.

The last stronghold of the lion was the Gir forests in the state of Junagadh in present-day Gujarat in western India. The rulers of this state protected the lions. Repeatedly, the ruling Nawabs of Junagadh curbed the hunting instincts of fellow high ranking nobles. Even the requests for hunting permissions from the British masters - always keen for sports – were turned down. Thus, by the time of independence and partition, the Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica) was confined to the Gir forests only.

The Nawabs of Junagadh had often been advised by Hindu diwans or Prime Ministers. However, at the time of the partition, the adviser to the Nawab was Khan Bahadur Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto. It was Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto, who convinced the last Nawab of Junagadh to join Pakistan rather than India. When he left India for Pakistan, the Nawab is said to have “expressed a memorable lament, sotto voce, to no one in particular: ‘Who will protect my lions now?’” (Divyabhanusinh p. 169). In the event, the lions did survive in Gujarat.

Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto was the father of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and grandfather of Benazir Bhutto.

The Persian term sher or shir , writes Divyabhanusinh (p. 97) refers to a lion, but in South Asia the term is often used for a tiger. Though the social organization of tigers and lions differ considerably, the two species are often mentally merged. When Nawaz Sharif arrived in Lahore, television screens carried the image of a woman happily waving a striped tiger toy in honour of the “Lion of Punjab”.

Reference: Divyabhanusinh, The Story of Asia’s Lions, Marg Publications, Mumbai, 2005.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Oppn takes on govt over Forests Rights Act logjam

28 Nov, 2007, 0005 hrs IST, TNN

NEW DELHI: The UPA government's dithering over the notification of The Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights Act) 2006, or the Forest Rights Act, was brought up by members of the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

The matter was raised by CPM MP, Brinda Karat, during Zero hour in connection with questions relating to the security, rights, and implementation of constitutional provisions made for tribals. After talking about the attack on tribals in Guwahati, and specially mentioning the “barbaric incident” of a tribal woman being attacked, stripped, Ms Karat brought up the issue of “fate of the Forest Rights Bill” and said that a large number of tribals were being “evicted” from forests.

She charged the Centre with “subverting the will of Parliament” by not notifying the rules of the Act even a year after it had been unanimously been passed and took objection to one portion of the act — relating to the identification of critical wildlife habitats — being implemented without the rules being brought into effect.

“Instead of recognising the rights of adivasis in all forests areas, as mandated by the Act, the Government of India is changing the sequencing the Act by these actions,” she said.

She said that it was “shocking” and “completely violative of Parliamentary procedures” that for one year after the act was passed unanimously by Parliament, the rules had not been notified. “As a result all over the country in many states a large number of Adivasis are being evicted from their homes and lands in the forests,” she said.

The Forest Rights Act, which was passed by Parliament during the Winter session of Parliament past year, has not been notified and its rules not implemented due opposition from a powerful section of the Congress led by the arguments of the wildlife lobby.

This lobby argues that tribals must be evicted from critical wildlife habitats before the Forest Rights Act, which confers land rights on tribals, is brought into effect to protect endangered animals such as tigers. However, another section of the Congress, made up of leaders from states with significant tribal populations and going to the polls in the near future, have asked for the notification of the Act first — that is handing over of land rights to tribals — before getting them to leave ‘inviolate’ zones in forests.

However, so far the government has not moved to notify the act despite the electoral benefit the move could have brought to the Congress in Gujarat which goes to the polls next month.

The issue of non-notification of the rules has been raised by various activist groups including an expert group under the Tribal Affairs Ministry which drafted the legislation.

Talking in Rajya Sabha, Ms Karat said the section of the Act, which pertained to “identification of critical wildlife habitat”, was being implemented and once this had taken place it could lead to “a modification of their rights of Adivasis in a forest leading to their relocation and eviction”. She said that the sequencing of the Act warranted that the land rights of the Tribals was identified first and conferred on them in all areas including in protected areas.

The second part of the Act, she said, called for a case-by-case review of forest dwellers living in protected areas and after that through the formation of an expert committee would lead to the identification of critical wildlife
habitats. “Where necessary Adivasis may be relocated according to certain procedures,” she said.

Ms Karat’s demand for the government to immediately enact the rules and notify them was backed by a number of other members. BJP leader Najma Heptullah said the House Committee on Subordinate Legislation had taken note of the issue and written to the nodal Tribal Affairs Ministry about it. TDP’s R Chandrasekar Reddy raised another issue pertaining to tribals.

He said the Andhra Pradesh government had failed to extend help to the tribals in the state and asked for the Centre to send a medical team to tackle the problem of diarrhoea and fever in parts of the state.

Mr Reddy also ridiculed the state government for its health minister’s suggestion that tribals should produce more children to compensate the death of their children by the current disease.


Scops owl found in state, Europe says impossible.

Express news service
Posted online: Thursday , November 29, 2007 at 12:00:00

Vadodra, November 28 Disproving the findings of two European experts, city-based wildlife activists have finally sighted the breeding site of the Scops owlet in the city. According to ornithologists, this species existed in Gujarat. But European books on the birds of the Indian subcontinent, had rubbished this claim in successive editions in 1998 and 2000.
Ornithologist B M Parasharaya said: “While the Scops owl existed in Gujarat, no one had really recorded its presence. A team of wildlife activists, led by city-based expert Manoj Thakker, have not only found this bird in the state but have now sighted its breeding ground.”

The spot is in Dabhoi on the outskirts of the city.

A few years ago, European ornithologists Krys Cazmierczak and Grimmett Inskipp had declared that India did not have this species, Parasharaya said.

“This bird has been around in Central Gujarat. It was also sighted in Anand by a group of experts few years ago.

Besides this, the Scops owl finds mention in the Bhavnagar royal family records, detailed by the family’s scion Dharmakumarsinhji,” he said.

Parasharaya said these records show the bird was also found in the Gir region. It has been sighted in Rajasthan as well. Manoj Thakker said, “The Scops owlet was sighted on the Dhabhoi Road in the Haribhakti Industrial Estate. However, we took some time to confirm the bird belonged to that genus.”

Scops owls are usually gray, brown, and sometimes red in color.

The bland colours help to camouflage them in the backdrop of tree barks.

Parasharya further said, “Compared to the common Barn owl, these birds are smaller and mostly insectivorous.”


Wilderness Resorts to set up 20 Cicada properties in India by 2011

Monday, November 26, 2007 (19:00 IST)
By Krupa Vora | Bangalore

Bangalore-based Wilderness Resorts Pvt. Ltd., which owns a property called 'Cicada Kabini', is planning to add 20 more wildlife resorts under the Cicada brand at key national parks in India by 2011. The expansion project will take place in two phases. The first phase will see eight resorts coming up in South India with an investment of Rs 50 crore by next year-end. The company is already constructing three more properties in Karnataka - a 25-room resort at Bandipur, 20-room resort at Chikmaglur and a property at Nagarhole that will have about 10 tents - which are expected to become operational by June, 2008. Also, one property each will come up at Periyar and Wayyand in Kerala and at Mudhamali and Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu.

As far as the second phase is concerned, the company will look at acquiring properties in the vicnity of the Corbett National Park, Uttaranchal; the Kanha and Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh; the Gir Forest, Gujarat, the Sunderbans, West Bengal and the Kaziranga Forest in Assam among other wildlife regions. "The idea is to bring eco-tourism chains that cater to wildlife tourism into the picture in India," said Tiger Ramesh, CEO, Wilderness Resorts Pvt. Ltd.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Land of a thousand contrasts.

Fri, November 23 2007
By Sanjeeb Baruah

Rainforests, sand dunes, mangroves, temperate coniferous forests... few countries in the world can match India’s astonishing geographical diversity. All harbouring some of the biggest concentrations of endangered wildlife on earth.

Often known as the cradle of civilizations, India is home to 16 percent of the world’s population. What few people know is that 411 species of mammals, 1,232 birds, 456 reptiles, 219 amphibians, 2,546 fish, 83,436 kinds of invertebrates and over 50,000 plant species also call this subcontinent home.

The country is the last refuge for a number of highly endangered and threatened species such as the Asiatic lion, lion tailed macaque, pygmy hog, hispid hare and the Gangetic river dolphin.

It is also host to two of the world’s 25 biodiversity hotspots, the Himalayas and the Western Ghats, 16 of the world’s most important wetlands as defined by the RAMSAR convention, including the renowned saltwater Chilika lake in eastern Orissa, and five natural world heritage sites in the UNESCO list -- Keoladeo National Park, Kaziranga National Park, Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, Sundarbans National Park and the Nanda Devi National Park

While five of the most magnificent parks in India, are covered under the UNESCO list, other sanctuaries are famed as well for their wildlife and glimpses into jungle life.

The Jim Corbett National Park, the oldest park in the country, just a six-hour drive from the national capital New Delhi, is famed for its Bengal tiger and Asiatic elephant. The 520 sq km park, which forms the northwestern limit of the Asian elephant’s current range, is home to 112 tigers, the highest density of the wild cat in the world.

The data was compiled by the Wildlife Institute of India with the help of satellite imagery, camera trapping and recording pugmarks. Corbett’s famed Dikhala grasslands offer unparalleled elephant viewing and tiger sightings.

The grasslands of western India are as famous for their hunting animals as they are for their grazing herds.

The Indian cheetah is now extinct in its range but the other big cats - lions and leopards still prowl the plains.

The Gir Sanctuary in western Gujarat state with its thorny scrub forests and grasslands was once a favourite hunting preserve.

The last Asiatic lions still eke out a precarious existence in their thorny scrubland kingdom in Saurashtra, where some 350 odd still exist.

In the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, over 70 percent of the nearly 1,300 species of Indian birds are to be found.

The Manas National Park, designated a World Heritage site in 1985, in the eastern state of Assam is situated on the foothills of the Himalayas and named after the mighty Manas River.

Not far from Manas is the Kaziranga National Park with its elephant grasslands and tropical deciduous forests, situated on the banks of the mighty River Brahmaputra. Also a World Heritage site in Assam, Manas’ swamps and tall thickets of elephant grass make it an ideal home for the greater one horned rhinoceros - and also tells a remarkable tale of the comeback of the endangered animal.

From five rhinos a century ago, the 430 sq km park today boasts of nearly 70 percent of the world’s estimated 2,700 such herbivorous beasts.

There are many others, Sariska in Rajasthan, the Bandhavgarh park in Madhya Pradesh and Periyar in southern Kerala being just some of them.

Like everywhere else, efforts are on in India to conserve its wild world threatened by the demands of development, disasters and destruction.

Wildlife conservation NGOs and the government have been working at different levels to conserve India’s vanishing wildernesses. The Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), for instance, got together with the Assam Forest Department to set up the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) in Kaziranga in 2002.

"Each year, CWRC handles nearly 200 cases of animals which are injured, distressed or abandoned in various circumstances and would have died if left alone in the wild," said Dr. Anjan Talukdar, the wildlife veterinarian at the centre.

In February this year, six elephant calves reared at the centre were set free in Manas National Park, making it the first ever attempt in the country to release hand-raised elephant calves back to the wild.

"Besides elephants and other mammals, reptiles, amphibians and avian species are also rehabilitated and hand-raised in the centre," said Talukdar.

The judiciary has also stepped in to save India’s wildlife.

The interest in conservation has led the Supreme Court to pass a number of significant orders and judgments to save the endangered wildlife.

The Supreme Court, for instance, asked the Jammu and Kashmir government to ban the sale and the manufacture of shahtoosh shawls and stole, made from the wool of the endangered Tibetan antelope chiru.

Hope lies where there is a will and effort to make a change.

There was hope for wildlife when children across the world contributed the $1 million, which formed the seed trust for Project Tiger, launched in 1973 by India to save the tiger from extinction.— IANS

And there is hope when the apex court adds muscle to the fledgling conservation movement in India.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Rampant encroachment of forests worries Gujarat

Ahmedabad (PTI): As the UPA government mulls a Forest Rights Act, Gujarat's forest department is overtly worried over rampant encroachment of prime woodland in tribal belts of the state.

"According to official records, an alarming 24,000 hectares of forest land have been encroached upon," a senior forest official told PTI, requesting anonymity.

"Most of these are fresh encroachments which have taken place after the UPA government decided to bring in the Forest Rights Act and give rights to tribal families living in reserve forests, sanctuaries and national parks," the official said.

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill was passed in the winter session of Parliament and received the President's assent on December 29, 2006. However, it is yet to be notified.

"Most of these encroachments took place in the tribal belts in Narmada, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Panchmahal, Dahod, Banaskantha and Sabarkantha districts.

"The district of Narmada is among the worst affected," he said.

"Once the Forest Act comes into force, it will be a major disaster for woodland in Gujarat," the official said.


Leopard kills three-year-old at Talala (Gir Forest)

Sibte Hussaqin Bukhari
Posted online: Monday , November 19, 2007 at 12:00:00
Updated: Monday , November 19, 2007 at 02:26:11 Print Email To Editor Post Comments

Junagadh, November 18 A leopard killed a three-year boy of a migrant labourer some 20 kilometres away from Talala town here. The incident occurred in a sugarcane farm located on the outskirts of Bhimdeval village. Later, the leopard was caught and brought to the animal rescue centre at Sasan Gir Forest headquarters.
The leopard attacked three-year-old Tejas (3), while he was sleeping by his mother’s side in a makeshift tent in a sugarcane field. The leopard snatched the boy from his mother and disappeared within moments in the nearby fields.

During this scuffle, the boy’s mother was awakened and resisted the leopard, but in vain.

Later, the victim’s father and other labourer families from nearby sugarcane fields started searching for the boy.

In the morning, labourers found some bloodspots in a nearby field. Forest officials from the Talala range forest office rushed to the spot and began a search operation, and recovered the boy’s body from the nearby field. The leopard had crushed the boy’s head and left part of the body. The boy’s remains were dispatched to the Talala community health centre for post mortem.

According to sources, the labourer family had migrated here some 20 days ago from Maharashtra’s Jalgaon district. The family were a resident of Dungerpatira village of Yaval taluka.

Officials further said this was the second such incident of a leopard killing a boy. Earlier in August, a 12-year-boy was killed at Aamodra Village in Una Taluka.

When contacted, deputy conservator of forest (Gir west) BP Pati confirmed the incident and said: “After the dead body was recovered, we laid four traps in the surrounding sugarcane fields and exactly at the same place from where the body was recovered. Later in the late evening, the leopard was trapped in a cage.”

The caged leopard has now been shifted to the animal rescue centre at Sasan Gir forest quarter, where it would now spend its remaining life in captivity.

Pati said the leopard possibly mistook the boy for a goat or any other animal.

“The incident occurred in the dark. Makeshift tent in which the labourer family was sleeping had no light and no door.

“More then 150 leopards have been sheltering in revenue area out side the Gir forest, in sugarcane fields particularly in three taluka namely Una, Talala and Kodinar,” he said.

He further said the victim’s family would be paid a compensation of Rs 1 lakh as per the government’s existing guidelines.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Charismatic cat - KUMARAN SATHASIVAM.

Charismatic cat

THE GIR LION: H.S. Singh; pub. by Pugmark Qmulus Consortium, 406, ‘Kaivanna’ Opp. Saffron Tower, Ambawadi, Panchvati, Ahmedabad-380006. Rs. 2000.

There must scarcely be a soul who has seen a lion in the wild and truthfully claim to be unmoved by the experience. For want of a better expression, the overused term “majestic appearance” suggests itself in describing this most impressive of animals. The largest of the cats, the lion, ranged historically over a large geographical extent including Africa, Europe and a good part of Asia. Considering how widespread the lion was and the awe it inspires in the beho lder, it is hardly surprising that it features as extensively as it does in art, sculpture, coins and literature.

Dwindling numbers

The extraordinary personality of the lion and its depiction in cultural artefacts, however, has not stood in the way of its decimation by humans. In the 19th century, lions were to be found in India in modern day Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. But the second half of that century saw a tremendous decline in their number everywhere in the country, and it disappeared from one region after another. By 1880 there was “increased concern for the falling numbers of the beast.” Occupation of the lion’s habitat by humans and hunting appear to have been the main reasons. Eventually, the lion was left only in the Gir forest of Gujarat, where according to one estimate it numbered no more than 19 in 1900. And there the Asiatic lion has maintained a tenuous foothold into the present century. Its existence there appears to be taken for granted, the precariousness of its position forgotten. It is hopefully an indication of a revived interest in the Indian lion, therefore, that at least three books have been brought out in the last two years dealing with the theme of this animal and its only abode today.

User friendly

The Gir Lion covers a wide range of topics, including the lineage of the lion and its historical distribution, its biology, conservation measures taken in the Gir forest and outside it, and the human and other issues involved in translocating lions to a new home. The main theme is supported with a number of anecdotes, a chapter giving a background of the big cats and an informative reference section. Altogether, the book is an absolute wealth of information.

The overall user friendly nature of the book deserves mention. The production is tasteful, and the book is liberally but appropriately illustrated with photographs. The generous use of colour, photographs, drawings and sidebars ensures that the eye experiences little strain.

Reference lists have been provided at the end of each chapter, providing collectively a good bibliography for the serious student. In the text, though, the sources of information are primarily cited using superscript numbers, there are a number of citations in which the name-and-date style is followed. Nevertheless, there is little ambiguity on account of this.

The thoroughness of the research and the clear expression of ideas make the book a useful review. The author’s personal familiarity and involvement with the subject add value to the work. During his years as the Conservator of Forests, Junagadh, he had a unique opportunity to study the lion and to address the issues involved in protecting it. The chapter “Interesting Observations” in particular provides fascinating tales and insights gained by the author. The authority of knowledge obtained through personal observations and participation is tangible in most discussions in the book.

The overall effect of the book is somewhat tarnished by numerous instances of incorrect usage of language, which could have been eliminated easily. In summary, this is a useful and readable book on a charismatic animal above whom hangs the sword of Damocles.


Thursday, November 8, 2007

Tremor-struck villagers now have wild animals for company

Sibte Hussaqin Bukhari
Posted online: Thursday , November 08, 2007 at 12:00:00
Updated: Thursday , November 08, 2007 at 01:58:47

Junagadh, November 7 A day after the tremors everything seems displaced in the three worst affected villages of Hiranvel, Chitrawad and Haripur in Talala taluka of Junagadh district. About 6,300 villagers have been forced to move out in the open, and what they fear more than the quakes now, are the wild animals. All these villages are located on the periphery of Gir forest where lions and leopards venturing out into the open are a common feature.
"All the houses have developed major cracks. One more jerk, and they'll collapse. We have no other option us but to sleep in the open. We have learnt to cohabit with wild animals, but sleeping in the open is fraught with danger," said Imtiyaz Majgul, a Sidi tribal man and a resident of Chitrawad village.

When contacted, District Collector Ashwini Kumar said, "There is no need to panic. The administration is monitoring the situation and has taken adequate action."

"Out of all the villages, Hiranvel is the worst affected with over a dozen houses damaged beyond repair. Fifty other houses have suffered major damages. All the 65 families here have been provided with individual tents, while in Chitrawad and Haripur villages, peoples have been provided temporary shelter in groups."

When contacted, Talala taluka Mamalatdar Amee Doshi said, "Out of the 950 people in Hiranvel village, 250 have taken shelter in tents provided by the administration, while others have moved over to their relatives in nearby villages," she said.

According to Talala taluka Development Official R J Vyas, a damage survey has been initiated in the affected villages for which 10 teams have been pressed into service since morning. The primary report is expected within the next two days."

"According to our primary survey, about 210 houses have suffered major to minor damages in the five villages. Sixty houses in Hiranvel, 50 in Haripur, 60 in Chitrawad, 25 in Sangodra, and 15 in Bhalchhel village have developed cracks after Tuesday's tremors," Vyas said.

Since Tuesday morning, more then 130 aftershocks have been reported from Talala taluka.


Quake gives festive city jitters

7 Nov 2007, 0049 hrs IST,TNN
AHMEDABAD/RAJKOT: The festive mood took a beating on Monday with two temblors, measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale shaking up Junagadh at 5.58 am and 3.08 pm, the second of which rocked Amdavadis too. The epicentre was in Khakhrawada village of Talala taluka in Junagadh district. The temblors also shook up Saurashtra and Surat.

Panic spread in certain areas of Ahmedabad in the afternoon after people who watched windows rattle, vessels fall off the shelves and the ground rumble beneath their feet, realised it was a tremor.

Heavy rainfall activating the fractured Deccan basalt rocks in Saurashtra was the main reason behind the two temblors in Talala taluka. Sources in the Institute of Seismological Research (ISR), Gandhinagar, said, “Nearly 80 per cent of Saurashtra is covered by Deccan basalt rock. This was the main reason for the past tremors too.”
Reports from Junagadh said a 78-year-old woman died due to head injuries and three others sustained minor injuries in Hiranvel village of Talala taluka where nearly 50 houses were damaged. The huts in three other villages — Sasan, Amrutvel and Chitrad —too have suffered cracks.

While 5.1 magnitude was reported by United States Geological Survey (USGS) Eathquake Hazards Program, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) mentioned the earthquakes were of 4.9 and 4.8 magnitude, respectively.

People in Veraval, Rajkot, Bagasara, Amreli, Maliya, Sasan Gir area, Gondal, Jetpur and Visavadar reported tremors. Also people living in Surat and Ahmedabad too felt the tremors in the afternoon.

Chief conservator of forest (Sasan Gir) Bharat Pathak, who is at present in Rajasthan, told TOI over phone that he had inquired about the wildlife in Gir and no untoward incident has been reported from there as per the preliminary reports.


Quakes rock Gujarat

Special Correspondent
AHMEDABAD: A series of earthquakes, with their epicentre at Sasan Gir, the administrative headquarters of the Gir forest, rocked several parts of Gujarat on Tuesday.

Houses collapse

According to information reaching here, the first tremor, of magnitude 4.8, was felt in the Gir region at 5.57 a.m. About 30 houses collapsed in Hiranvel, Haripura, Chitrawada and other villages in the forest area.

A 70-year-old woman died in a wall collapse at Hiranvel while seven others were injured.


At least 20 after-shocks were felt in several parts of the State, including Ahmedabad. One had a magnitude of 4.9. The people in most cities and towns in the Saurashtra region came out of their houses but no loss of lives and property were reported. A relief camp has been opened at Sasan, a government spokesman said.


Junagadh quake: GSDMA swings into relief action

Express news service
Posted online: Wednesday, November 07, 2007 at 12:00:00
Updated: Wednesday, November 07, 2007 at 02:37:44Print Email To Editor

Gandhinagar, November 6 THE Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA) supported by the Institute of Seismological Research (ISR) has swung into action following reports of the earthquake measuring 5.0 on Richter scale that rocked some villages in Junagadh district on Tuesday, claiming the life of an old woman, causing injuries to four persons and damages to several houses in the area.
In a swift response to the quake, the GSDMA has rushed relief teams to the affected villages where temporary shelters are being set up for the quake victims. The Hiranvel village in Talala taluka is reported to be the worst-hit, where about 50 houses have collapsed, causing the death of a 78-year-old woman due to the head injury and minor injuries to four other persons in the village.

GSDMA CEO Rajesh Kishore told this newspaper here this evening that the Forest Department’s buildings in Sasan, Amrutvel and Chitravad villages located within the Gir lion sanctuary had also developed cracks due to the impact of the earthquake. Teams of the Roads and Building, Heatlh and Revenue Departments are also being rushed to the affected villages to help the local authorities.

Kishore said the epicentre of the quake was recorded at the Khakrawada village in Talala taluka of Junagadh district. The first quake measuring 4.7 on the Richter scale was reported at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, and later another measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale at 3.10 p.m. “The lineament or the satellite images showing the linear topographic features of south Saurashtra region is not clear yet, as also there are no fault lines identified still,” he said.

The GSDMA official said the pressure built up the underline rock and soil structure due to rising of ground water table following heavy rains in the region in the last monsoon could be one of the main reasons for the earthquake. During the current year, there was no major tremors reported in this area, barring some low intensity shocks numbering around 20 reported in October last.

When contacted, Director of ISR B K Rastogi said a team of seismologists attached to the Institute was being dispatched to the affected villages to assess the situation arising out of the quake. A network of digital seismo meters is already in place in the entire Saurashtra and Kutch region, with two such devices already installed in Junagadh district. “We are closely monitoring the situation there,” he said, adding that people need not panic due to the quake in this area.


Quakes rock Junagadh, one killed, over 200 houses damaged

Sibte Hussaqin Bukhari
Posted online: Wednesday, November 07, 2007 at 12:00:00
Updated: Wednesday, November 07, 2007 at 01:53:25Print Email To Editor

Junagadh, November 6 Two tremors of 4.5 and 4.9 on the Richter scale rocked Junagadh district at 5.57 am, and then again at 3.08 pm on Tuesday, leading to the loss of one life and damage to about 200 houses. Panic spread in the district even as power supply was disrupted and telecommunication lines were jammed for several hours. According to Indian Meteorological department the epicentre of both these tremors was in the Sasan Gir forest.
A woman in Hiranwel village of Talala taluka died after she was buried under the debris of her house. With over 200 houses being damaged in the three villages of Hiranwel, Chitrawad and Haripur in Talala taluka ,over a dozen people are reported to have received minor injures.

Medical Officer at Talala Community Health Centre Jagatsinh Anadkat has confirmed the death of one woman in the quake. "An old woman was fatally wounded after she was buried under the debris of her house. We have also administered first aid to about dozen injured people," he said.

Junagadh District Collector Aswini Kumar said the epicenter of the second tremor was at Khakharvel village, some 5 km from Sasan Gir. He has dispatched six teams to the villages for a damage survey.

Deputy Sarpanch of Chitrawad village, Ismailbhai Makrani said, "Though two families of the Siddhi tribe were buried under the debris, most members had a narrow escape. A father-son duo has, however, been seriously injured. Dozens of houses in the village have been badly damaged while half-a-dozen houses have been razed to the ground. Villagers now refuse to stay inside their houses."

Apart from Talala taluka, tremors were also reported from the other talukas of Junagadh district.

Districts other than Junagadh that experienced tremors were Porbandar, Amreli and Rajkot .While there were reports of damage to some houses in Porbandar and Amreli districts, no casualty has been reported as of yet. People in Rajkot rushed out of their houses as tremors shook the city. "We were on the first floor when we experienced some movements. Though it was only for a few seconds, but it appeared to be very strong," said Jaykumar Pandya, a resident of Alka Society on15-feet Ring Road in Rajkot.


Monday, November 5, 2007

15 months after lion’s death, 1 held.

Posted online: Friday , November 02, 2007 at 12:00:00
Updated: Friday , November 02, 2007 at 02:52:53Print Email To Editor

Junagadh, November 1 Fifteen months after a lion’s carcass was tied with a big stone and thrown into Vrijmi dam near Dhari in Amreli district, forest officials have arrested one person in the case. The lion had died after coming in contact with an electrified fence and the person responsible for it had thrown its carcass in an attempt to destroy the evidence.
On October 19 this year, five lions were electrocuted on the outskirts of Prempara village near Dhari under Gir East Forest Division.

The court has permitted the Forest Department to subject the accused to narco analysis to ascertain the truth.

According to details, the carcass of a lion was found floating in the waters of Vrijmi dam on the outskirts of Amrapur (Gir) village in Malia-Hatine taluka of Junagadh district in July last year. Though officials suspected foul play in the incident, they could not ascertain the exact reason behind the death,

In the 15 months of investigations in the case, officials said there are at least six people — all family members of Amrapur’s woman sarpanch—¿ involved in the crime.

Range Forest Officer (Malia-Hatina) L V Chavda said while one person had been arrested, they were looking for the other five.

According to Chavda, the accused have been identified as Daya Lakhman, Manji Lakha, his brothers Rava and Dhiru, and two sons Sanjay and Bhikha.

Only Daya Lakhman has been arrested and booked under Rule 9 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

While Lakhman confessed to the crime, he also revealed the names of the other accused.

According to sources, the accused persons are family members of sarpanch Kanchanben, who is the wife of prime accused Manji Lakha. Manji is also an elected member of Malia-Hatina taluka panchayat. “Five accused are still at large, but we will nab them within a day or two,” Chavda added.


Lion’s death: Seven more arrested.

Sibte Hussaqin Bukhari
Posted online: Monday , November 05, 2007 at 12:00:00
Updated: Monday , November 05, 2007 at 02:03:35Print Email To Editor

Junagadh, November 4 Forest officials have arrested seven more persons in connection with the death of a lion by electrocution in July 2006. The officials had arrested one person on November 1 and were looking for the other accused.
The accused had tied the carcass of the lion with a big stone and thrown it into Vrijmi dam on the outskirts of Amarapur (Gir) village near Malia-Hatina town in Junagadh district in July 2002. The seven were arrested on Sunday on the basis of the deatils revealed by Daya Lakshman arrested earlier.

Range Forest Officer (Malia-Hatina) L V Chavda said, "The seven accused will be produced before the court of judicial magistrate on Monday. All the accused have confessed to their crime and told us about their roles in the electrocution of the lion and the subsequent throwing of the carcass into the dam water.'' He said that the statements of the accused had been registered and that they would seek 15-day remand for them.

The seven accused are Manji Lakha, his brothers Ravji and Dhiru, sons Bhikha and Sanjay, and two others_ Bharat Daya and Kishor Kala. Manji is the husband of Amarapur sarpanch Kanchanben and he is also the BJP's elected member of Malia-Hatina taluka panchayat.

In connection with the October 19 incident in which the carasses of five lions were recovered from the outskirts of Prempara village near Dhari in Amreli district, the four accused have been sent on judicial custody. The Judicial Magistrate (First Class) court of Dhari had rejected their bail application.

Later, on Friday, two of the accused _Ravji Hirani and Bhala Parmar_ approached the court at Rajula but this court also rejected their bail application. In the Rajula court, another application requesting a stay on the Dhari court order on narca-analysis for the prime accused is pending.

Deputy Conservator of Forest (Gir East) J S Solanki said, "Now, prime accused Durlabhji Vadodaria has approached Rajula court and demanded a stay on his narco-analysis. Hearing for the same has been fixed on November 6.''

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) has said that they will hold agitation against forest department from November 9 highlighting the issue of deaths of lions and also undue harassment of farmers by officials. The BKS units at Dhari, Khambha, and Talala have already submitted memorandums to range forest offices in this connection.

The memorandum reads: "The forest department has failed to provide adequate safety and security to the lions. We demand that 15-feet high walls be built surrounding the entire Gir forest." The memorandum also alleged that forest officials were wrongfully harassing the farmers in connection with death of lions.


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Lioness carcass found in Junagadh.

Times News Network

Rajkot: A carcass of a 10-year-old lioness was found near Jalandhar grassland in Maliya Hatina taluka of Junagadh district on Wednesday evening, according to official sources in state forest department. The sources said that the big cat died due to illness. Pus was found inside the neck during the postmortem. Farmers in the nearby sugarcan field had also seen the liness roaming around the crops, said a forest official.

The toll of lion death in and around Gir forest has already crossed 30 in the year 2007. There have been 16 unnatural deaths of the big cats including eight cases of the infamous poaching by a gang from Madhya Pradesh in March-April. Six became victims of elecrocution recently, one drowned in a n open well while another died in a road accident.

Such incidents have raised many eyebrows over the safety of endangered Asiatic Lions in the Gir Forest.

Even NGOs working for the protection of wildlife have shown concern ove the existence of lins in the area.

Source: The Times of India, Ahmedabad, Thurday, November 1, 2007 Page 3.

Roaming lion killed in Limpopo.

October 24, 2007, 20:30

Limpopo communal farmers have killed another lioness in the Giyani area, this time near Gawula village. Farmers' spokesperson Sevha Chauke says the lion was snared and trapped in the village kraal.

Chauke says it was apparently returning to finish off the carcass of a calf which it had killed the previous night.

At least seven lions have been killed so far since a group of the predators escaped from the northern Kruger National Park in the past few months.

The lions are believed to have killed around 50 cattle in the Gawula, Mahlathi and Muyexe villages since August.


Lion murder case goes to Appeal Court

Scott-Crossley has asked the Appeal Court to assess the credibility of witnesses

August 20, 2007, 07:30

The case of convicted killer, Mark Scott-Crossley, sentenced to life imprisonment for throwing a farm worker into a lion enclosure, comes before the Appeal Court in Bloemfontein today.

Scott-Crossley was sentenced in the Phalaborwa Circuit Court in Limpopo in September 2005 for the murder of Nelson Chisale. His defence argued that Chisale was already dead when he was thrown to the lions.

Scott-Crossley has asked the Appeal Court to assess the credibility of witnesses and to look at alleged irregularities during the trial.


Squads to identify electrified Gir fences

Posted online: Thursday , November 01, 2007 at 12:00:00
Updated: Thursday , November 01, 2007 at 02:00:26Print Email To Editor

Gandhinagar, October 31 Even as the Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Gujarat Government on a petition seeking steps taken in Gir forest to check largescale poaching and to fence open wells to save Asiatic lions, the state Forest department and Paschim Gujarat Vij Company have launched a joint operation to identify electrified fences being erected by farmers in this region.

With the financial support of some prominent corporate houses, the Forest department and other agencies have also intensified the work on constructing parapets around farm wells located in areas outside the Gir sanctuary to prevent the recurring incidents of Asiatic lions falling in open wells.

“The Supreme Court has issued a notice to the government, but we are yet to receive it. We have already asked our government lawyer Hemantika Vahi in Delhi to send a copy of the notice. As soon as the government obtains a copy of the notice, we will file our response to it,” said Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) Pradeep Khanna.

Responding to a petition filed in the SC following a recent incident in which three lions and two cubs were electrocuted in the Gir Sanctuary (East) division, the apex court has sought responses from the Centre as well as the Gujarat Government on what measures they were taking to save Asiatic lions from extinction.


Supreme Court issues notice on death of lions.

J. Venkatesan

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Centre and the Gujarat Government for a direction to investigate the cause of death of lions in Gir forest in Gujarat and to submit a report to the court.

A Bench of the Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice R.V. Raveendran issued the notice on a Public Interest Litigation petition filed by Elephant G. Rajendran alleging that the lion population in Gir forest had dwindled over the year due to poaching and lack of adequate steps to protect them. The Bench appreciated the efforts of the petitioner (who himself argued) for espousing the cause of animals and sought reply from the Centre and Gujarat government on the petitioner’s allegations.

In his PIL, Mr. Rajendran said that as per the 2000 census there were 359 lions in Gir forest but the lion population had gradually dwindled. He said that in March three Asiatic lions were killed and the claws, skull and bones were removed by the poachers. This heinous incident had occurred 500 metres away from the Forest Office. It was stated that the bones were sold to China where they were used for preparing medicines. He alleged that the poachers had not been apprehended and no case had been registered.

He said that if effective steps were not taken then there was a possibility of further decrease of the lion population in the country. He sought a CBI probe into the killings and a direction to the respondents to take effective steps to protect the lions.