Saturday, March 29, 2008

QU researcher traces migration of lions from N Africa to Europe.

Web posted at: 3/29/2008 2:51:51
Source ::: The Peninsula

Dr Nobuyuki Yamaguchi with the skull of a lion.

DOHA • A researcher at Qatar University (QU) has recently contributed to a study which recorded the first genetic evidence that England's first lions hailed from North Africa, where no natural lion population exists today. The lions were part of the Royal Menageries at the Tower of London.

The details of the study has been carried in the latest issue of scientific journal 'Contributions to Zoology' as well as on the Oxford University News Homepage, The Times Online, BBC News and Daily Telegraph, a QU press release said.

Dr Nobuyuki, Assistant Professor of Animal Ecology at Qatar University, was a member of a team of researchers from London's Natural History Museum and Oxford University who through examination of the mitochondrial DNA of well preserved skulls and analysis of the jawbones of the tow lions, revealed that they shared unique genes with the North African Barbary lion.

The link was further strengthened by the comparison of the skulls with Asiatic and North African Barbary lion skulls that are preserved in natural history collections in the UK and Europe.

Radiocarbon dating of the skulls showed them to be from the 13th to 15th centuries, making them the earliest confirmed lion remains in Britain since the extinction of the Pleistocene cave lion.

Commenting on the study, Dr Yamuguchi said:"By conducting researches such as this, I am seeking to improve the quality of my teaching which in turn will have great benefits fro my students at QU in terms of raising their level of interest in the sciences and in research. Good research really helps teaching and more efforts need to be injected in supporting it".


Animal Planet to launch Hindi feed. Team
(28 March 2008 8:10 pm)

MUMBAI : In an attempt to increase its viewership in the country, Animal Planet will launch a parallel 24-hour Hindi feed from April this year.

"We will start a dual Hindi feed. Animal Planet will be able to reach a lot more homes and we can increase our advertising revenues," said Discovery Networks India managing director Deepak Shourie.

Animal Planet is already available in English but there is growing pressure on networks to offer their service in Hindi as well so that they can widen their penetration in mass markets. Discovery and National Geographic already offer a Hindi service to viewers.

The channel also has plans to show some India-centric shows in the months to come. Some of them include Riding the Cobra Express with Jeff Corwin, Tigers of the Sunderbans, Ghost of the Ganges, When Bamboo Flowers, In Search of King Cobras and Chasing Nature.

Will Animal Planet produce locally in India? "We have acquired a lot of programmes related to India, but we haven't produced anything yet. We will probably produce India-centric shows but only when the time is right," said Shourie.

Animal Planet is beefing up its prime time content. The channel has lined up four new shows which will be aired between 8 pm till 12 midnight daily.

Among the new programmes, Safari, which will be aired Monday to Saturday at 8 pm, is dedicated to the entire lifecycle of plants and animals from the Savannah to the Himalayas.

Masters of the Jungle will be aired Monday to Saturday at 9 pm and is dedicated to animal life.

"With programmes from wildlife enthusiasts like David Attenborough and Steve Irwin, the show will reveal facts and dispel myths about the wild," said Shourie.

Everyday of the week at 10 pm, Animal Planet will showcase Animal Planet Week. The show will be based on a new theme each week.

Also daily at 11 pm will be Wild Encounters. As the name suggests, this show will deal with some of the most dangerous and up-close encounters in nature.


New Wildlife Circle for north Gujarat for conservation of lions

Posted online: Monday , March 24, 2008 at 11:58:11
Updated: Monday , March 24, 2008 at 12:20:43

Gandhinagar, March 23

The state's wildlife map is all set to change, now that the state Forest Department is carving out a new wildlife circle for north Gujarat, expanding the Junagadh based Gir Wildlife circle in line with the Greater Gir Project.

Besides helping the department focus on lion conservation in Gir, the creation of the new circle would also create a dedicated staff for the upkeep of the wildlife in the Little Rann of Kutch, Nalsarovar, and the sanctuaries of Banaskantha and Sabarkantha, say officials.

For Greater Gir, some areas in Bhavnagar frequented by lion prides are likely to be declared conservation reserves, while the Girnar forest belt in the foothills of Girnar mountains in Junagadh could be declared a sanctuary.

“Things are being worked out and it may take some time,” says Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Pradeep Khanna.

The new move by the Forest Department comes in the wake of the setting up of a task force in the aftermath of lion poaching incidents in Gir last year. The department had felt that resources in the Gir sanctuary were getting overstretched over an unmanageably large area and that a focused approach, backed adequately with technology, was the need of the hour.

Now the department has carved out north Gujarat as a separate area for better forest management. Eleven new posts, including that of a Conservator of Forests, would be created for upgrading the national parks and sanctuaries in north Gujarat area. These include the Little Rann of Kutch (wild ass sanctuary), Nalsarovar and Thol (bird sanctuaries), and possibly the Jessore (sloth bear) and Balaram Parks.

The step also gains significance in the backdrop of the recent violence between the local tribal population and the police that left two dead and more than a dozen injured in the Sabarkantha area.

As per recommendations of the task force, a provision of Rs 4.61 crore has been made for the use of modern technology for the conservation of wildlife in the sanctuaries. It includes the cost of engaging a consultant for the development of specifications, system requirement study, development of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) database, and control room applications along with hardware and software.

While the ground staff in the Gir sanctuary would be provided with geo-communications handheld field units, a Gir Management Cell would be set up for the implementation of special measures in the lion specific areas of Saurashtra.


Chinkara case: warrant for Aamir.

Haresh Pandya, Hindustan Times
Rajkot, March 29, 2008
First Published: 01:53 IST(29/3/2008)
Last Updated: 02:00 IST(29/3/2008)

A chief judicial magistrate's court of Bhuj on Thursday issued a warrant against producer Aamir Khan, director Ashutosh Gowarikar and three other members of the Lagaan unit for the alleged illegal use of a chinkara (Indian gazelle) in the film and the animal's subsequent mysterious death.

The warrant has been issued following a court complaint by assistant conservator of forests JV Vyas, after Aamir and company failed to respond to the department's notices in the last two years and not appearing before the authorities.

Aamir's first wife Reena Datta, who helped produce Lagaan, cameraman Anil Mehta and executive B Shrinivas Rao have also been slapped a warrant for the same offence and ordered to remain present before the Bhuj court on April 15.

Aamir Khan Production Private Limited had been served a notice, on August 7, 2006, for the alleged illegal use of a chinkara and violation of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 following a complaint by Gir Nature Youth Club. “In his reply, Aamir Khan has said no chinkara was used in the film but it was the result of smart computer technology,” deputy conservator of forests VT Korvadia told HT.


Poachers admit to killing a Chinkara on Holi.

Posted online: Friday , March 28, 2008 at 03:20:18
Updated: Friday , March 28, 2008 at 03:20:18
Junagadh, March 27

The sudden spurt in poaching incidents in the Gir forests has left its wild animals vulnerable once again. About half a dozen poaching incidents have been reported from these forests in the last two months. What is more shocking is the involvement of local poachers.
Four poachers who had been arrested recently, on Wednesday, confessed to having killed a Chinkara.

On March 21, two persons identified as Ravi Bala and Mera Virji, members of the Devipoojak community, had allegedly hunted a Chinkara on the outskirts of Samadhiyala village, that falls under Jashadhar forest range in Gir east forest division . Acting on tip-off, the forest officials had rushed to the spot and found evidence related to poaching like blood spots and blood stained stones .

The officials nabbed Bala and Virji. The accused confessed to their crime during investigation. Two other persons have also been arrested in this regard. The accused have been booked under various provision of the Wildlife (protection) Act 1972, Amendment Act 2003 and 2006. They were produced before the court of the Judicial Magistrate (first class) of Kodinar on Thursday, which had earlier ordered a two-day remand for the accused.

The deputy conservator of forest (Gir east), J S Solanki, said, "Our prime concern is to ensure that they stay behind bars, and do not get bail. They have confessed to having hunted deer during Holi," Solanki said.

Meanwhile carcasses of eight peacocks including six peahens were recovered on Wednesday from a dry river stream on the outskirts of Sukhpur village in Visavadar taluka. Foresters from the Visavadar forest range took the carcasses for a post-mortem examination. The deputy conservator of forest (Gir west) B P Pati said that consumption of poisonous substances caused the death. Officials said that the peacocks could have consumed wheat laced with pesticide.

Pati said, "The actual cause of death would be ascertained only after receiving the FSL report. We have dispatched the viscera to FSL for a detailed clinical examination."



Express news service
Posted online: Tuesday , March 25, 2008 at 12:33:05
Updated: Tuesday , March 25, 2008 at 12:55:44
Ahmedabad, March 24

To implement the Forests Rights Act, the State government has formed 4,403 village committees to verify claims of the forest dwelling tribal population. The committees will forward their recommendations to district level bodies for final scrutiny and preparation of the list of claimants entitled for land titles said the Forest Minister Mangubhai Patel in response to a starred question by Meghraj Congress MLA Mahendrasinh Vaghela.

The Forest Minister said that the state government plans to declare over 17,000 hectares of green cover in the foothills of Girnar Mountain as aReserved Forest, thus providing a protected shelter for the Asiatic Lion outside the Gir Sanctuary. The minister was answering a starred question by Una MLA Kanu Rathod.

The State Urban Development department plans to earn Rs 8 crore per annum through carbon credits trading under the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Minister Nitin Patel said that the department will soon shortlist 10 municipalities that would earn carbon credits by appropriate disposal of urban waste, thus preventing release of methane into the atmosphere.


Monday, March 24, 2008

NRI, foreign company to pump in funds for Gir lions.

Expressindia » Story
Hiral Dave
Posted online: Thursday , March 20, 2008 at 02:45:39
Updated: Thursday , March 20, 2008 at 03:07:48

Rajkot, March 19 Their interest for the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary (GWS) is a common thread that links Steve Mandel, president of the California-based Mandel Communication and Raju Thakrara, an NRI businessman in London.
When cases of increased poaching and rising accidental deaths of the Asiatic Lions raised concern among the nature lovers, Mandel and Thakrara decided to spread awareness on the issue.

While Mandel has taken up the task to create more awareness about the last abode of the Asiatic Lions, Thakrar plans to launch annual awards for the people involved in conservation and promotion of the sanctuary.

Mandel, who visited the sanctuary twice this year, plans to start a foundation that will help in generating awareness and raising support for these lions in the US. The body has been named ‘Lions of Gir Foundation’.

Mandel has also donated over Rs 1 lakh to the Rajkot-based Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT), which has been carrying out the work of barricading open wells located in the periphery of the GWS to prevent accidental deaths of lions. “The Lions of Gir Foundation would workin co-ordination with the WCT,” said WCT chairman Kishore Kotecha. He added, “The foundation would raise funds from the US for the conservation and awareness activities to be carried out by the WCT.”

The WCT is the only NGO involved in conservation work at the sanctuary. At present, the trust aims at barricading 9,000 open wells in the area. The NGO will continue to focus on general conservation and awareness programmes with support from the Lions of Gir Foundation, after the completion of the barricading project.

Kotecha said, “I came in contact with Mandel through the Internet. We had camped at GWS for an assessment of the situation. Mandel had proposed the idea of forming a foundation in the US during his last visit in February.”

Meanwhile, Thakrar, who is Kotecha’s acquaintance, has donated Rs 1.5 lakh for the WCT awards to be launched this October.

Thakrar said, “I feel that the GWS is the eighth wonder of the world. We must encourage the people who are working for the conservation of the Asiatic Lions and GWS. Thus, I decided to extend my support to start these awards.” Kotecha said, “So far, there has been little encouragement to the people involved in conservation and protection projects at GWS.”

The WCT awards will have five categories, including one for students who have done extraordinary work in creating awareness, for an educator, two awards for frontline forest staff and one for any remarkable research during the year.


New Wildlife Circle for north Gujarat for conservation of lions.

Posted online: Monday , March 24, 2008 at 11:58:11
Updated: Monday , March 24, 2008 at 12:20:43

Gandhinagar, March 23 The state's wildlife map is all set to change, now that the state Forest Department is carving out a new wildlife circle for north Gujarat, expanding the Junagadh based Gir Wildlife circle in line with the Greater Gir Project.
Besides helping the department focus on lion conservation in Gir, the creation of the new circle would also create a dedicated staff for the upkeep of the wildlife in the Little Rann of Kutch, Nalsarovar, and the sanctuaries of Banaskantha and Sabarkantha, say officials.

For Greater Gir, some areas in Bhavnagar frequented by lion prides are likely to be declared conservation reserves, while the Girnar forest belt in the foothills of Girnar mountains in Junagadh could be declared a sanctuary.

“Things are being worked out and it may take some time,” says Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Pradeep Khanna.

The new move by the Forest Department comes in the wake of the setting up of a task force in the aftermath of lion poaching incidents in Gir last year. The department had felt that resources in the Gir sanctuary were getting overstretched over an unmanageably large area and that a focused approach, backed adequately with technology, was the need of the hour.

Now the department has carved out north Gujarat as a separate area for better forest management. Eleven new posts, including that of a Conservator of Forests, would be created for upgrading the national parks and sanctuaries in north Gujarat area. These include the Little Rann of Kutch (wild ass sanctuary), Nalsarovar and Thol (bird sanctuaries), and possibly the Jessore (sloth bear) and Balaram Parks.

The step also gains significance in the backdrop of the recent violence between the local tribal population and the police that left two dead and more than a dozen injured in the Sabarkantha area.

As per recommendations of the task force, a provision of Rs 4.61 crore has been made for the use of modern technology for the conservation of wildlife in the sanctuaries. It includes the cost of engaging a consultant for the development of specifications, system requirement study, development of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) database, and control room applications along with hardware and software.

While the ground staff in the Gir sanctuary would be provided with geo-communications handheld field units, a Gir Management Cell would be set up for the implementation of special measures in the lion specific areas of Saurashtra.


Lion king falls for a queen.

By David Horne
A new king of the beasts has arrived in west Oxfordshire this Easter.

Raja the lion has come to provide company for lioness Akela, and they're getting on like a house on fire.

The bonding programme is part of the plan by keepers at the Cotswold Wildlife Park, in Burford, who want the two to get together to breed in captivity.

Debbie Ryan, park spokesman, said: "It is always a bit hit and miss whether two animals will hit it off, but they're getting on very well. Akela is a very important blood line and we need to breed from her.

"Raja has won over the keepers too, as he is a real character.

"He really lives up to his name of King of the Beasts."

Raja has arrived from Bristol Zoo Gardens to replace his brother Sabu who died earlier this year at the park.

Akela and Raja are Asiatic lions, a critically endangered species with only about 350 left in the wild.

7:05pm Sunday 23rd March 2008


Cagey lions are just scaredy cats.

By Brady Haran
BBC News
Are the new lions at Twycross Zoo just a couple of scaredy cats?

The lionesses arrived at the Leicestershire zoo on Wednesday, but by Thursday afternoon neither had emerged from their transport crates.

Curator Neil Dorman said: "A lot of people think these cats are big, brave animals that aren't scared of anything.

"But actually big cats can get nervous like anybody."

The two Asiatic lionesses - Kyra and Asha - are both two years old.

They arrived from Edinburgh Zoo as part of Europe's captive breeding programme.

The endangered species is found only in India. There are thought to be about 350 remaining the wild.

A little treat

One woman keeping an eye on the new pair was Twycross Zoo's marketing head, Kim Riley, who was hoping they would appear in time for the busy Easter period.

"It would be brilliant for people to come along and see them... if they peek out," she said.

"At the moment they seem to feel very comfortable inside their boxes."

Mr Dorman was confident the lions would emerge soon.

He would consider using food as an incentive, but lions rarely show interest in food when they are in new surroundings.

"As you can imagine, it is not the easiest thing to get a lion to move if it doesn't want to," he said.

The lionesses replace Twycross's male, Kamal, who recently moved to Bristol Zoo for breeding purposes.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

No plan to develop tourist spots in Saurashtra: Govt .


Gandhinagar: Gujarat government admitted on Monday that it had not prepared a blueprint for developing tourist spots in Saurashtra. In a written answer to a question posed by BJP MLA Pravin Makadia in the state Assembly, tourism minister Jay Narayan Vyas said, “Though as of today no such blueprint has been prepared, the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Ltd (TCGL) is considering to prepare a plan to develop tourist spots.”

The minister said, “The Gujarat Pavitra Yatradham Board will soon be asking the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) University to prepare a detailed plan to develop places of holy worship in Saurashtra, particularly Girnar, Somnath and Dwarka. Besides, the TCGL is thinking of planning out development tourist spots at Junagadh, Dwarka, Somanth, Porbandar, Sasan Gir, Jamnagar, Ahmedpur-Mandvi, Palitana, Veraval and Rajkot.”

The admission comes against the backdrop of tall claims by the Gujarat government over a sharp rise in tourism facilities, especially Saurashtra, where majority of tourists visit. The government had declared 2006 as the Year of Tourism, with all district collectors being asked to identify important tourist sites and prepare plans to develop them. Gujarat’s tourist industry, significantly, lags behind most Indian states despite longest sea shore and major tourist attractions.


Monday, March 17, 2008

World tiger population shrinking fast.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The number of tigers in the world has diminished at an alarming speed in recent years, global conservation group WWF cautioned on Wednesday, blaming poaching for much of the decline.

“We are left with roughly 3,500 tigers all around the world now,” Bivash Pandav, a tiger specialist at the World Wildlife Fund, told AFP, pointing out that “five years back, the estimate was around 5,500 to 6,000.”

In India, which is home to nearly half of the world’s tigers, or 1,400 animals, the number of the big cats has shrunk by 60 percent over the past three to four years, Pandav said during a visit to Sweden.

A century ago, some 40,000 tigers roamed the Indian subcontinent, according to the WWF, which singles out poaching, widespread destruction of the tigers’ natural habitat and human hunting of their prey as the main causes of today’s dire situation.

On the Chinese market, a dead tiger can be worth “tens of thousands of dollars,” according to the WWF, while the United States is the world’s second largest market for tiger products. Despite the daunting challenge of preserving tiger populations, Pandav insisted that “there is definitely hope,” pointing out that big cats “are prolific breeders (and) produce large numbers of offspring.”

To rectify the overall situation however, the animals need access to forests, food and undisturbed habitats, Pandav said, insisting that the main priority was to protect the tigers from poachers and put “pressure on China to stop the farming of tigers.” afp


Campaign to save tigers.

Posted online: Monday , March 17, 2008 at 11:00:29
Updated: Sunday , March 16, 2008 at 11:22:18

Environmentalists have always been raising their concern to save tigers. After the latest tigers census that indicated that the number of tigers are decreasing, environmentalists have geared up to join hands to tackle the situation.
In wake of the situation, NDTV along with Sanctuary Asia Magazines initiated a mass campaign — Save the Tiger. Swathi Thyagrajan, NDTV’s senior special environment correspondent and wildlife documentary filmmaker is leading the campaign.

People gathered in large numbers, across the country to support the campaign, which started a fortnight back to stop the alarming decline in the number of tigers in India.

It culminated in a nationwide signature campaign on March 10. The campaign gained a tremendous support with over 4,80,000 signatures, SMSs and online petitions from major cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Bhubaneshwar, Dehradun, Srinagar, Lucknow, Jaipur, Guwahati, Chandigarh, Bhopal, Patna and Ahmedabad.

Targeted towards children, Swati says the campaign received an overwhelming response from school children across the country.

“These jungles and animals do not belong to us but it the legacy that we will leave for the coming generation,” she says.

She adds a famous quote, we have not do not inherited the earth but we have borrowed it from the future generation. She added, “About 40 schools and more than 50 lakh students have come forward and contributed to the signature campaign.”

Several eminent personalities like Gautam Singhania, chairman & MD, Raymond, Milind Soman, Sheila Dixit, Delhi chief minister, Ajay Jadeja, former Indian cricketer; Tarun Gogoi, Assam chief minister, B C Khanduri, Uttarakhand chief minister, Quizmaster Derek O Brien, film maker Aparna Sen, actor Khushboo and cricket commentator Charu Sharma supported the campaign.

Swati said celebrities like well-known environmentalists and NGOs have backed the campaign. Bollywood stars Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan, John Abraham, Kareena Kapoor, Preity Zinta and Farhan Akhtar, Sporstsmen Rahul Dravid, Rajyavardhan Rathore, environmentalists and conservationists like Bittu Sahgal, editor, Sanctuary Magazine and the Kids for Tiger Group have come out to support this movement.

The participation by celebrities has given an impetus to the campaign. Swati said celebrities are now getting associated with a cause and they realise that their participation can make a difference.

On the solution to the decline in the tiger numbers, National Wildlife Board Member, Valmik Thapar, said, “Like the PM needs Black Cat commandoes for his protection, if the tiger has to live, it needs a protection group for it to make it safe.”

Appreciating the public’s response to the campaign, Bittu Sehgal, editor, Sanctuary Magazine said, “It is really a great occasion where so many people have come forward to sign in favour of this campaign. We actually want to convey the message across to the PM that we want the tiger to be saved across the nation as it is a sense of what India is.”

On being asked that why a campaign only for tigers where there are other endangered species like olive ridley turtles, she says to save tigers one need to save the environment first that includes both flora and fauna.

Tiger being the umbrella species, the campaign will affect the other species too. Swati says the fund allocation to the environment in this budget is a welcome step. “It is encouraging that the government has acknowledged the issue.”

Talking about the challenges she faced during the campaign, she says the biggest challenge was to organise the campaign so that it could be taken to a national level.

Our motive was to pressurise government to take steps to save tigers and in turn our environment. Another challenge was to convince people to physically come forward to take part in the signature campaigns.


Nilgai threat to standing crops generates heat in Assembly.

Express news service
Posted online: Saturday , March 15, 2008 at 11:38:58
Updated: Saturday , March 15, 2008 at 12:00:34
Gandhinagar, March 14

The swelling population of nilgais, which is causing extensive damage to standing crops across Gujarat generated a heated debate in the Assembly on Friday.
Speaker Ashok Bhatt directed the state Forest Minister to convene a special meeting of MLAs to discuss measures to contain this menace at the earliest.

The issue cropped up during the Question Hour when BJP MLAs Ambalal Rohit and Hanubhai Dhorajiya, through separate queries, complained that farmers in the state were suffering extensive damage due to the nilgai menace, and sought to know what steps the government was taking to curb this.

Replying to the questions, Forest Minister Mangubhai Patel told the House that the population of nilgais was increasing at an alarming pace, and that his department had initiated different methods to protect the farmers’ standing crops from the wild herbivores.

He said sarpanchs of as many as 1,545 villages, mainly in Saurashtra/Kutch and north Gujarat had been delegated powers to issue gun licenses to aggrieved farmers to kill the animals.

When the minister said that other methods like capturing and sterilisation of the animals had failed to yield positive results, MLAs from both the Treasury and Opposition benches grew restless and wanted to raise supplementary queries on the issue. This prompted the Speaker to intervene in the matter, saying that the issue needed to be discussed at length for a permanent solution.

“I strongly feel that a special meeting of MLAs cutting across party lines be convened either on Monday or Tuesday to discuss the threat posed by the nilgais to the standing crops. The ministers and officials of the various departments concerned should attend the meeting, invite suggestions from the elected members and find out a solution to this problem,” he said.

Senior Congress MLA Arjun Modhwadia suggested that the ministers and officials of the Home and Revenue departments should also be asked to attend this meeting, as the issue of killing of the animals by license gun holders is also involved.

Later, outside the Assembly, a senior Forest official told The Indian Express that the population of nilgais in Gujarat had shot up from 66,000 in 2002 to 97,000 as per the latest census of 2005, adding that it may have crossed the one-lakh mark by now.

He said the department had also issued gun licences in accordance with the wildlife laws. As per the guidelines, the animal will have to be buried after it is killed, and none of its body parts are to be used for commercial purposes.

He further said the permission to kill the animals had been granted to farmers only in four villages – two in Kutch and one each in Ahmedabad and Anand.

“Even the village sarpanchas who have been delegated these powers are facing a piquant situation in that they face a lot of resistance from the local Jain community when it comes to killing of nilgais,” he said.

It may be recalled that when the government had taken a decision in 2006 allowing farmers to kill the animals, at least two Jain MLAs – Babu Meghji Shah and Bhavin Sheth – had opposed the move, saying that is tantamount to cruelty against the animals, and that killing them cannot be allowed on the pretext of protecting standing crops.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Lion killed at Eselenkei.

Filed under (Meet the lions, lion research fieldwork) by Antony @ 01:44 pm
Another lion dead!

I am sad to bring you news of yet another lion killed. This is the eighth lion killed in a four month period. This happened to the west of our camp almost 50kms, on the neighboring Eselenkei Group Ranch. The lion was completely innocent, no livestock had been killed. The group of two murrans (warriors) and five dogs defied the orders of the elders and saw it fit to go out and killed this immature female lion.

This is the hind leg with the paw removed.

The lioness was in a pride of five lions; a male, another lioness and two young cubs. She was a sub-adult. There is no reason for the killing apparently. A weak reason being given out by the culprits is that the lions had killed a cow a week earlier. But the cow owner had not bothered to go out and kill the lions nor had his three murran sons.

Dried blood from the site; after the lion was killed almost a week ago.

The two murran were taken into custody and are awaiting their case. I will update you on any outcomes once I get them.


How long can this go on…..?

Filed under (lion research fieldwork) by Antony @ 10:24 am

I have really sad news and I’m not sure how to put it. It has not even been ten days since I posted that a lion was killed on Eselenkei….. now two more lions have been killed.

The apparent reason for the killing is that these lions killed two livestock. However, there are contradictory stories about the killings and I am still trying to establish what led to the persecution. We do know there were two female lions speared on the neighboring Olgulului group ranch, which is to the west of our ranch. The lions were actually killed 5km to the east of where we got stuck in the mud in January.

All this killing makes me wonder how many lions will be left in the ecosystem if this rate of slaughtering continues. Something must be done as soon as possible to save the king of the cats.

Below are photographs of the carcasses of the two female lions.

This is the second lion that was speared on OLG but died a day later. You can clearly see how her paws were cut off as trophies.

Our efforts of conserving lions on Mbirikani ranch will be like putting out a raging forest fire using a fire extinguisher if the people on neighboring group ranches don’t begin to see the value in lions and other wildlife. Lions know no boundaries. When they move to other ranches they get killed, hampering our conservation work. We desperately need to expand the Lion Guardians and other conservation efforts to these areas.

help us and share this.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Save the tiger, export it.

Jug Suraiya,TNN

The tiger, living fire of the Indian forest, might soon be snuffed out forever. According to the latest National Tiger Conservation Authority's report there are only 1,411 tigers in the wild in the country. Indeed, the NTCA has added that its study has an error margin, which could bring the estimated tiger population down to less than 1,200. With human encroachments and poaching on the rise, the magnificent lord of the wilderness, rippling like liquid flame through the jungle, could face extinction unless drastic steps are taken.

How do we save the tiger? A number of practical measures have been suggested. Concentrate on areas where the tiger remains the best protected, for example in Corbett National Park, Kanha, Bandhavgarh. Strictly enforce anti-encroachment laws. Provide more sophisticated firearms to forest guards. Involve local communities in tiger preservation projects.

Make poaching a crime equivalent to murder, carrying a life sentence. Reward informants who help in the apprehension and conviction of poachers. Synchronise an international clampdown on the clandestine, but booming, trade in tiger skins and organs, the latter prized - particularly in China - for their supposedly aphrodisiacal qualities.

All these measures could, and should, be adopted. But if the Indian tiger is to be preserved outside of zoos, perhaps its best hope of survival would lie in being exported to a more economically advanced and environmentally conscious country where it can breed in the wild with minimal fear of poaching or diminution of its habitat through human encroachment.

The truth is that we have only too tragically proved that we don't deserve the striped splendour of the tiger, any more than we do our man-made heritage of monuments and ancient artworks, many if not most of which are in a disgraceful state of malign neglect or have been spirited out of the country by smugglers, often aided and abetted by officials whose function it is precisely to prevent such theft.

It's not just the tiger that is dying out. The Gir lion, once the pride of Gujarat, has become a cruel travesty of its former glory. Not only has the lion population shrunk to a little more than a couple of hundred, but the few pitiful survivors, overexposed to unchecked hordes of tourists and sightseers, have virtually been reduced to the status of domestic pets, gratefully accepting vegetarian snacks from shudh shakahari visitors.

Lions, tigers and leopards are not cuddly toys, to be figuratively hugged out of an access of dewy-eyed sentimentalism. Left unmolested in their natural habitat they are marvellously efficient predators, at the pinnacle of the food chain which in its totality ensures the overall health of the environment. This is the ecological and scientific rationale behind preservation: the pug mark as a medical certificate for the habitat as a whole.

Already we have laid waste to much of the big cats' natural domain: far short of the government target of bringing 33 per cent of the total land area under tree cover, currently only 20.6 per cent of the country is forested, of which some 8 per cent is 'open' (degraded) forest. In the past two years, a 728-sq-km aggregate area of forest has been chopped down. We seem to be unable, or unwilling, or both, to save our forests. How do we then dare to presume that we can, or even want to, save the tiger? It's like saying we want to save the child even as we busy ourselves destroying the physical and emotional landscape of childhood.

Do we really want to save the tiger, other than as a zoological curio, a museum exhibit? Then export it en masse to less savagely exploitative climes. Else a future Blake could well write of us in scornful bewilderment:

Tiger! Tiger! dying light/ In the forest of our blight,/ What immoral land of lies/ Could unframe thy wondrous symmetries?


Ministry of Environment and Forests

17:28 IST

The Ministry of Environment and Forests proposes to take up plantation over 6 million hectares of degraded forests of the country in two Phases by utilizing the money collected under Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA). This has been known as “Green India Programme”. The money collected under CAMPA besides being used to partly finance the Green India Programme would be mainly used for site specific schemes approved for taking up compensatory afforestation, artificial regeneration (plantation), natural assisted regeneration, forest management, protection, infrastructure development, wildlife protection and management. These activities besides greening the country would also help in mitigating the adverse effects of climate change.

The State Government of Rajasthan has informed that Prosopis Juliflora had not been planted in Rajasthan during the last 10 years except on few refractory sites where other species would not come up. While Prosopis Juliflora is acting as an impenetrable barrier to biotic interference thereby contributing towards conservation of bio-diversity, there are a few areas where it has become menace to plants and wildlife. Therefore, its eradication in such areas has been taken up.Under the proposed Green India Progragramme the implementation would be done through the mechanism of Joint Forest Management using the Forest Development Agencies (FDAs).

This information was given by the Minister of State for Environment and Forests Shri S. Regupathy, in a written reply to a question by shri. lalit kishore chaturvedianddr. gyan prakash pilania in the Rajya Sabha today.

Keeping wildlife in the wild.

Animal protection and conservation reaches new heights in Sacramento

By Jennifer Davidson

When Joy and George Adamson successfully released Elsa, the orphaned lion cub they raised and rehabilitated, back into Kenya’s wild savannah in 1959, they could not have imagined the impact their extraordinary efforts would have on the future of wildlife conservation.

Seven years later, British husband-and-wife actors Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna brought the Adamsons’ story to the big screen in Born Free. The Academy Award-winning film changed public perception of lions from man-eaters to creatures with personalities and character like those of our domesticated companions.

The making of the film changed the lives of the actors, too. Over the course of a year, they lived and filmed on the wildlife-rich slopes of Mount Kenya, working closely with the film’s lion stars to replicate the extraordinary relationship between the Adamsons and Elsa, capturing the couple’s passion to set Elsa free. The experience would transform Travers and McKenna into two of the world’s most influential animal activists.

In 1984, the untimely death of a young, solitary African elephant at the London Zoo moved Travers, McKenna and their son, Will, to found the organization Zoo Check, which became the Born Free Foundation in the United Kingdom in 1994. Now in 2008, the organization’s determination to keep wildlife in the wild comes to Sacramento.

Nestled among a quiet residential neighborhood on S Street, the Animal Protection Institute has provided four decades of authoritative leadership lobbying for improved protection for animals, particularly the treatment of circus animals and exotic pets. As forward-thinking organizations do, API and Born Free USA began working together on wildlife conservation issues and merged in November 2007.

The merger created a powerhouse organization for global wildlife conservation by combining API’s political savvy with Born Free’s access to international leaders and “rock stars” of the wildlife conservation movement—among them, Dr. Cynthia Moss, leading elephant conservationist in Africa; Dr. Richard Leakey, world-famous conservationist and anthropologist; and Valmik Thapar, one of India’s most famous conservationists and tiger experts.

Striking the right balance between animal welfare and global wildlife conservation efforts will remain a primary focus of Born Free USA, explained CEO Will Travers. He outlined many of the organization’s successful programs: In 2002, virtually every marine-turtle nest along much of the Tanzania’s coastline was raided for eggs, until East African marine biologist Catherine Muir began the Marine Turtle and Dugong Research and Habitat Protection Program. Today, her efforts protect up to 94 percent of the nests along 400 miles of shoreline and have helped 80,000 turtle hatchlings survive and swim free. Born Free provides key funding for this program, which annually costs roughly the same as a snazzy Lexus.

One day, Travers and his friend Ian Redmond—a renowned primatologist who worked with the late Dian Fossey in Rwanda and introduced Sir David Attenborough of Planet Earth to mountain gorillas—considered how to help stem the inexorable slide of the great apes toward extinction. Redmond asked the deputy executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme if he would provide the platform for great-ape conservation on the world stage. He agreed, and with the help of Born Free, the Great Ape Survival Project quickly became a UN initiative, resulting in millions of dollars in funding.

Most recently, Travers returned from South Africa, where Born Free relocated a pair of leopards from the Monaco Zoo into its Big Cat Rescue Centre at the Shamwari Wildlife Reserve. Prince Albert of Monaco offered the pair to Born Free so the leopards could live their lives as they were meant to.

“My job is to convince people that a healthy natural world is a world with room for wildlife in it. Born Free gives every compassionate citizen the chance to make a difference,” said Travers in his signature British accent, peppered with his no-nonsense approach.

“Time is short,” he continued. “We cannot afford to wait. I believe that, as Dr. King said, ‘There is the fierce urgency of now.’ So I invite those who wish to stand up and make a positive difference to the world we hold in trust to contact me. Let’s find a way to change animals’ lives for good.”

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Forester dies of cardiac arrest while dousing blaze in Gir east

Express India
Ahmedabad Newsline, India

Posted online: Thursday , March 13, 2008 at 12:01:18
Updated: Thursday , March 13, 2008 at 12:22:42

Junagadh, March 12 In a bizarre incident, a forest department employee died following a massive cardiac arrest while on a fire fighting mission in the Gir forest area. He was among the more than 100 forest employees who were trying to control a blaze in the Thorala and Kantala area in Tulshishyam range of the Gir east forest division.
Forest beat guards on duty in the area first noticed the fire, after which senior forest officials, including Conservator of Forests (wildlife) Bharat Pathak, Deputy Conservator of Forests (Gir east) J S Solanki rushed to the spot.

A forest official said the fire was brought under control after more than 12 hours. He said the fire caused extensive damage to nearly 85 hectares of forestland, but no damage to livestock was reported from anywhere.

Deputy conservator of forests (Gir east), J S Solanki said, "The forest fire seems to be the handiwork of some hooligans. We have already registered an FIR against unknown persons. An inquiry has also been initiated in the issue."

Solanki also ruled out the possibility of any injuries sustained by the animals, due to the fire. He said, "Wild animals are safe. The fire did not affect the big trees. The fire destroyed grass cover in 80 to 85 hectares," he said.

He added, "DK Vasoya, who suffered died due to the heart attack was immediately rushed to a government hospital in Khambha, where the doctor on duty declared him brought dead. All possible help and compensation will be given to the next of the kin of the deceased employee," Solanki added.


Ministry of Environment and Forests
18:2 IST
PIB Press Releases

Lions and tigers have been accorded highest statutory protection, considering their endangered status, and have been placed under the Schedule I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, since its enactment.

Central Assistance is provided to States under the Centrally Sponsored Schemes of “Project Tiger” and “Development of National Parks & Sanctuaries”, for protection and conservation of wild animals including lions and tigers. Other initiatives taken by the Government of India for conservation of wild animals are given at Annexure-I.


The steps taken by the Government to protect wild animals, including lion and tiger, are as below:-

Legal steps

1. Amendment of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 for providing enabling provisions for constitution of the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Tiger and Other Endangered Species Crime Control Bureau. The punishment in cases of offence within a tiger reserve has been enhanced. The Act also provides for forfeiture of any equipment, vehicle or weapon that has been used for committing any wild life offence.

Administrative steps

2. Strengthening of antipoaching activities, including special strategy for monsoon patrolling, by providing funding support to Tiger Reserve States, as proposed by them, for deployment of antipoaching squads involving ex-army personnel / home guards, apart from workforce comprising of local people, in addition to strengthening of communication / wireless facilities.

3. 100% Central Assistance provided to 17 Tiger Reserves as an additionality for deployment of Tiger Protection Force, comprising of ex-army personnel and local workforce.

4. Constitution of the National Tiger Conservation Authority with effect from 4.09.2006, for strengthening tiger conservation by, interalia, ensuring normative standards in tiger reserve management, preparation of reserve specific tiger conservation plan, laying down annual / audit report before Parliament, constituting State level Steering Committees under the Chairmanship of Chief Ministers and establishment of Tiger Conservation Foundation.

5. Constitution of a multidisciplinary Tiger and Other Endangered Species Crime Control Bureau (Wildlife Crime Control Bureau) with effect from 6.6.2007 comprising of officers from Police, Forest, Customs and other enforcement agencies to effectively control illegal trade in wildlife.

6. Approval accorded for declaring eight new Tiger Reserves.

7. The revised Project Tiger guidelines have been issued to States for strengthening tiger conservation, which apart from ongoing activities, interalia, include funding support to States for enhanced village relocation/rehabilitation package for people living in core or critical tiger habitats (from Rs. 1 lakh/family to Rs. 10 lakhs/family), rehabilitation/resettlement of communities involved in traditional hunting, mainstreaming livelihood and wildlife concerns in forests outside tiger reserves and fostering corridor conservation through restorative strategy to arrest habitat fragmentation.

8. A scientific methodology for estimating tiger (including copredators, prey animals and assessment of habitat status) has been evolved and mainstreamed. The findings of this estimation/assessment are bench marks for future tiger conservation strategy.

9. Around 31111 of critical/core tiger habitat identified in 17 States.

10. Memorandum of Understanding developed for better/concerted implementation of conservation inputs through tiger reserve States.

Financial steps

11. Financial and technical help is provided to the States under various Centrally Sponsored Schemes, viz. Project Tiger and Development of National Parks and Sanctuaries for enhancing the capacity and infrastructure of the States for providing effective protection to wild animals.

International Cooperation

12. India has a Memorandum of Understanding with Nepal on controlling trans-boundary illegal trade in wildlife and conservation, apart from a protocol on tiger conservation with China.

13. A Global Tiger Forum of Tiger Range Countries has been created for addressing international issues related to tiger conservation.

14. During the 14th meeting of the Conference of Parties to CITES, which was held from 3rd to 15th June, 2007 at The Hague, India introduced a resolution along with China, Nepal and the Russian Federation, with directions to Parties with operations breeding tigers on a commercial scale, for restricting such captive populations to a level supportive only to conserving wild tigers. The resolution was adopted as a decision with minor amendments. Further, India made an intervention appealing to China to phase out tiger farming, and eliminate stockpiles of Asian big cats body parts and derivatives. The importance of continuing the ban on trade of body parts of tigers was emphasized.

This information was given by the Minister of State for Environment and Forests Shri S.Regupathy, in a written reply to a question by Shri Hiten Barman in the Lok Sabha today.

Fire destroys part of Gir sanctuary.

13 Mar 2008, 0102 hrs IST,TNN

RAJKOT: A fire, ignited by some miscreants, has destroyed large swathes of vegetation in Gir sanctuary. The fire broke out on Tuesday morning between Ghantula hill and Hanuman Gala in the Tulshishyam range, destroying around 85 hectares of the sanctuary. Around 30 per cent of the 349 lions in Gir live in this area.

Although no lion was affected, a beat guard, BT Vasoya, died of a heart attack while fighting the fire. It took the officials 24 hours to control the flames.

Senior forest officials said it was unlikely that such a huge fire could have been caused by accident. District forest officer (DFO), Gir east, JS Solanki said, "Normally, a forest fire is caused by a short-circuit in an electric line passing through or by friction between branches of two dry trees. However, this was a ground fire and someone has ignited it."

Solanki added that lions cover at least 50 km in a day and move to a safer place as soon as a fire breaks out. "We have also not found any carcass in the affected area," he said. Forest department has registered an offence against unknown persons under the Indian Forest Act.

Officials in Gandinagar said small forest fires are good for Gir. In the absence of any major fires in the past couple of years, vegetation has become thick in Gir. The lion needs large open fields, which a fire often provides by clearing the vegetation.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Forest team awaits tiger report.

The Telegraph, Culcutta, India.


Imphal, March 11: The Manipur forest department is awaiting the results of a test to confirm reports that a Royal Bengal tiger was sighted near a village in Manipur’s Tamenglong district.

The villagers had informed forest officials about an animal similar to a Royal Bengal tiger attacking domestic animals at Bhalok and nearby villages.

A team of forest officials visited Bhalok village and its adjoining areas in Tamenglong and found some footprints of “large cats”.

The imprints were sent to the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to confirm if the pugmarks belonged to a Royal Bengal tiger.

“There are reports of the presence of large cats around the village and its adjoining areas in Tamenglong district. Some domestic animals were reported missing from that area. Whether they were killed by a tiger or some other large cats like leopards is being ascertained,” forest minister Th. Devendra Singh said in the state Assembly today.

He said the results of the examination at WII, Dehradun, were awaited.

The forest department was also trying to confirm whether the animals were inhabiting the district or had recently migrated there.

Devendra Singh said the state forest department was planning to undertake a tiger census in association with the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the WII.

“The state government will think of declaring Bhalok and its adjoining areas as a tiger reserve after considering the results of the examination of the footprints and the tiger census. The state forest department is also in the process of setting up of a tiger conservation authority,” he said.

The minister added that forest department officials in the district had been alerted and awareness campaigns were conducted to prevent attacks on domestic animals.

He informed the members that the state government had declared an area of 115.8 square km in Bunning village in Tamei sub-division of Tamenglong as wildlife sanctuary on September 8, 1997. However, the final notification was pending as rights of any person over the land were yet to be settled, he said.

Awangbou Newmai, Independent MLA from the district, said the villagers had killed at least 10 tigers after they started attacking domestic animals.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Forest dept responsible for destruction of forests, says book on tribals

Syed Khalique Ahmed
Posted online: Wednesday, March 05, 2008 at 11:42:39
Updated: Wednesday, March 05, 2008 at 12:03:12

Ahmedabad, March 4 Making a strong case for allotment of forestland to adivasis, a book titled ‘Adivasis and Forest: United in Struggle, Marching for Justice’ authored by Rajpipla-based tribal activist Fr. Xavier Manjooran has held the Forest department responsible for the destruction of forests.
Dedicated to the two tribals killed in the February 13 police firing in the Vijaynagar forest range, the 108-page book says tribals have always protected the forest as they consider trees as their mother.

“Tribals can never destroy the forests,” said the author, who has been actively involved in the struggle for tribal rights for decades and is the chief architect of the Adivasi Mahasabha in Gujarat. Going into the details of the rights and justice for adivasis, Fr. Manjooran says the tribals have been agitating since the time of the British rule against the injustice done to them by different laws and the forest department. While the laws did injustice to adivasis by alienating them from forests, the laws and forest department paved the way for destruction of forest.

“In the name of 'scientific development' of the forest, the British prepared the ground to loot the precious timber from forests in India,” he says, adding that Indian forests were reduced from 40 per cent to 19 per cent after British began the process of ‘scientific development’.

“Though enormous fund was allocated and draconian laws were brought for forest conservation, it only added to the oppression and plight of adivasis with no development or increase in forest cover,” says Fr. Manjooran.

According to the book, with 23 per cent of land under its control, the forest department is the biggest landholder in the country. However, 60 per cent of this land is denuded and without trees. Quoting statistics from the department, the book says the total forestland “encroached” is 0.9 per cent accounting for about 12.5 lakh hectares of the total forest cover.

“This encroachment includes not only what the adivasis cultivate but also illegal occupation of forest land by forest mafias under the benign protection of forest department,” claims the book. “After the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 was enacted and later after the Supreme Court had taken the forest under its special care, the total amount of land given away officially by the forest department in the name of development is more than 11.33 lakh hectares,” it adds,

“Yet, the book says, the forest department, the ‘tigerwalas' and the so-called elite media go on blaming the poor adivasis for the destruction of forest.”

He writes that an official circular from the Union Ministry of Forest and Environment dated May 3, 2002 to chief secretaries of all the states united the tribals. The circular had ordered eviction of all adivasis who do not have fine-receipt issued by the department to show that they had been cultivating the land before 1980.

As it meant eviction of one crore adivasis without any compensation, a nationwide agitation started against this order, thus giving birth to a national network called ‘Campaign for Survival and dignity’ (CSD).

According to the book, it was the united agitation and lobbying that forced the Central government to pass the Scheduled Tribes and the Other Forest Dwellers (Protection of Land Rights) Act in 2006 and was notified for implementation on January 2008.

Man-eater leopard in Dangs district captured.

Express news service
Posted online: Tuesday , March 11, 2008 at 12:15:25
Updated: Tuesday , March 11, 2008 at 12:36:37

Gandhinagar, March 10 A man-eater leopard in the Dangs district, which had reportedly killed six people in the past three months has been captured. The female leopard was captured on March 5 from Susarda village.
The capture of the big cat was announced in the House on Monday, in a calling attention motion filed by Jitubhai Chaudhary.

The panther had killed three persons in December, two in February and one person only recently at the Sakar Patal range in the district.

Forest officials had launched a search operation for the leopard. Forest department teams and local residents had traced the animal’s route and placed cages at strategic locations in a bid to snare it.

Forest department officials had also directed villagers not to venture out alone, and bury residues of non-vegetarian food away from their homes.

The recent spurt in leopard attacks had also prompted the state forest department to arrange for more cages at villages and to launch a special campaign with the help of trekkers from Gir, eventually leading to the capture of the big cat.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

India asks developed nations to help sustain forest cover.

Financial Express
Posted online: Friday , March 07, 2008 at 2247 hrs IST

New Delhi, Mar 7 India on Friday said developed nations should provide resources to maintain the existing forest cover, keeping in mind the fact that deforestation is taking place at an alarming rate of 13 million hectares per year globally.

In the absence of financial incentives, Union environment minister Namo Narain Meena said, there was every likelihood of developing nations getting swayed by more profitable options of land use, thus unleashing huge amounts of carbon stocked in the forests.

The minister was speaking after inaugurating a two-day international workshop on “developing methodology for assessment of enhancement of forest carbon stocks due to conservation”. “The conservation in India and other countries has been achieved, and is being sustained at huge costs,” he said. Enlisting various steps taken by India to increase the productivity of forests, the minister said so far more than one hundred thousand joint forest management (JFM) committees have covered about 22 million hectares of forest area, with about 22 million participating members.

Bollywood, cricket stars join 'Save The Tiger' campaign.

Calcutta News.Net
Friday 7th March, 2008 (IANS)

Bollywood stars Kajol, Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan and Preity Zinta have come forward to support the 'Save The Tiger' campaign that was launched two weeks ago.

Aimed at stopping the alarming decline in the number of tigers in the country, TV channel NDTV and Sanctuary Asia Magazine have joined hands to collect one million signatures to represent the voice of the people and convey it to the government.

These signatures will be presented to the central and state governments, demanding that they take stringent steps towards saving the national animal.

A brigade of stars that includes Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan, John Abraham, Kajol, Kareena Kapoor, Preity Zinta and Farhan Akhtar is supporting the movement.

Other celebrities like cricketer Rahul Dravid, Rajyavardhan Rathore, environmentalists and conservationists like Bittu Sahgal, editor of Sanctuary Magazine and the Kids for Tiger Group are also backing the campaign.

The latest census by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) earlier this month revealed that there were only an estimated 1,411 tigers left in the wild in India today, less than half the number found in the 2002 census.

People from all walks of life will March 9 gather at India Gate in Delhi between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. to sign a petition to save the tiger, a statement by NDTV said.

The channel is also conducting SMS polls and online petitions to reach out to as many people as possible.

The campaign urges Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to hold an emergency meeting of the National Board for Wildlife to consider the threat to the tiger and chief ministers of every state to establish a protection force for tigers.

It also asks for upgradation of forest guards to the level of police officials with better compensation, and setting up of an improved intelligence network that is critical to crack poaching.

Gujarat to focus on adventure tourism.

Anupama Sushil - New Delhi

Gujarat tourism will now focus on developing and promoting adventure tourism. Emphasising this is the state's tourism minister Jainarayan Vyas who says, "We have a number of tourism products from deserts to beaches and a lot of scope for water sports, rock climbing, paragliding, wildlife sanctuaries, history, infrastructure for medical tourism and sites for religious tourism. To create infrastructure for all this, we have invited investment from NRI Gujaratis.

The state has also formed an NRG foundation that will facilitate investment. Vyas added that the state tourism policy will be in tandem with the national tourism policy.

Elaborating further, Atul Karwal, director general, Sports Authority of Gujarat, said that there is increasing awareness about the adventure sports in India today. "Gujarat has a lot of scope for three adventure activities of water sports, paragliding and roller skating. At Dharampur the main aim now is to establish a centre for water sports on the Narmada dam canal. Water sports will be conducted in the dam reservoir itself. This reservoir is situated between Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar. Once the place is set, the centre will be handed over to a private operator and a team to handle the centre. This centre is a joint venture between Gujarat government and Sports Authority of Gujarat."

The water tank will have rover boats, scooter boats, jet boats offering canoeing and kayaking. Diving is also being proposed. The facility will be ready before next year January. "For developing aero-sports we are looking at Mehsana airstrip. We also see a possibility of submarine tourism which is possible at Dwarka. The National Institute of Oceanology can conduct trips to see Bet Dwarka 'the underwater city of Dwarka," he said, adding that these ventures will open many employment opportunities.

Venu Menon animal awards presented

The Hindu
Staff Reporter

For making a difference to the lives of animals by kindness, courage

NEW DELHI: The 10th Venu Menon National Animal Awards were presented to six individuals, two organisations and one community at a function here on Tuesday for making a difference to the lives of animals by acts of kindness and extraordinary courage.

Fred O’Regan, president of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), delivered the 10th Venu Menon Memorial Lecture on the occasion.

Vivek Menon, a member of Animal Allies Foundation and Executive Director of Wildlife Trust of India, said: “In ten years the awards ceremony has grown to be a national event of great importance among animal welfare and wildlife fraternity. This is the best tribute to Venu Menon’s memory that the foundation can hope for.”

The Venu Menon National Animal Awards commemorates excellence in animal welfare and was started in 1999.

The awards were set up by the Venu Menon Animal Allies Foundation and seek to commemorate his beliefs and keep his concerns alive. The awards are a way of recognising and rewarding those who have made caring for animals a way of life for themselves. The Tibetan Community has won the Venu Menon Lifetime Achievement Award for coming out strongly against wildlife crime and its pro-wildlife approach.

Animal activist and Secretary of the Pugmarks Society for Conservation of Natural Heritage in West Bengal, Urmila Ganguly, was awarded the Venu Menon Animal Allies Award for her contribution towards conservation and welfare of wildlife.

Shree Vardhman Jeevdaya Kendra (Gujarat) bagged the IFAW Special Organisation Award. A charitable trust, the organisation has rescued animals for over 15 years by providing medical care, running shelters and spreading awareness among people. Tribal Trackers Eco-Development Committee (Kerala) was awarded the David Shepherd Wildlife Award for being involved in curbing sandalwood smuggling . Abdul Qayuoom Khan, a wildlife guard in Bunyar, bagged the IFAW-WTI Van Rakshak Award. Bijay Kumar Sharma bagged the IFAW-WTI Endangered Species Award, while Tuhina Kahali and Saumya Uttam were awarded the IFAW Animal Action Award. Baban Prabhakar Shakhalikar won the Jury’s Special Award.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Afforestation panel may finally get green signal.

Ravish TiwariPosted online: Thursday, March 06, 2008 at 2353 hrs

NEW DELHI, March 5: Six years after a Supreme Court order, the Centre is finally ready to set up a Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) for promoting activities related to the UPA’s flagship afforestation scheme —Green India — which envisages re-greening up to 6 million hectared in 10 years.

The Cabinet, which is scheduled to meet on Friday, is likely to consider a proposal by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) seeking creation of the CAMPA which will be in charge of the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF).

The matter has been pending since 2002, when the Supreme Court ordered that project developers who divert forest land should pay money towards a special fund which would be utilised by a new centralised agency for forest conservation.
Accordingly, CAMPA will be entrusted with the responsibility of utilising over Rs 5,000 crore, collected from project developers who diverted forest land for other use, for undertaking afforestation programmes.

Following the government’s announcement of loan waivers for farmers, the Cabinet is also likely to consider a proposal to provide funds to public sector banks, co-operative credit structures, regional rural banks, and NABARD to operationalise credit to farmers at 7 per cent interest during the year.

The Cabinet is also likely to consider a proposal to establish a regional rural bank in Puducherry.

Another proposal likely to be discussed is central assistance for long-term reconstruction of infrastructure destroyed by natural calamities during 2005 to Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.

The Cabinet may also take up a proposal from the Department of Space for an agreement between ISRO and Russia’s Federal Space Agency on cooperation in the field of joint moon exploration.

81 lions dead in last 2 yrs....!!!

28 Feb 2008, 1712 hrs IST,PTI

NEW DELHI: A total of 81 lions have died across the country from January 2006 to 2008, with nine of them becoming victims of poaching, Rajya Sabha was informed on Thursday.

Fifty two lions died a natural death, 1 because of an accident and 6 due to electrocution while 13 fell in a well and 9 lions died because of poaching in Gir protected area and surrounding habitats of Gujarat.

Out of th 6 lions electrocuted, five of them died in Permpara village, outside the Gir Protected Areas in October 2007.

Investigation shows that a farmer had laid electrified wire fencing his agriculture land to prevent crop damage from wild herbivores, Minister of State for Environment and Forests S Regupathy said.

Answering a separate question on declining population of endangered animals including lions, tigers and elephants, Regupathy said fluctuation in the wildlife population is a natural phenomenon.

As per the information available there are no reports to indicate a continuous sharp decline in the population of endangered species, he said.

The minister said, "census of gharials are conducted on a regular basis and is not done for the first time."

Pug marks hide the truth.


A conference organized by the Union environment ministry on February 12 in the national capital came out with the Tiger Census 2008 and the State of India’s Forests Report 2005. Both came out with dismal figures: a little more than 1,400 tigers are left in the county; and over 725 sq km of forests have vanished between 2002 and 2004. Add to that forestland diverted between 2004 and 2007—over 2,750 sq km according to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests’ data.

The common questions conservationists and wildlife experts are asking are: where did the forests vanish; where did the tigers go?

The tiger census 2008, among other things, highlighted the following:

1,410 tigers are left in the wild
No tigers outside protected areas
Habitat degradation, poaching and a reduced prey base are the problem areas
The census, carried out jointly by the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, is being considered the “first scientific assessment” because it used the camera trap method.

Wildlife experts say it cannot be compared to the 2001 tiger census. The census was carried out using the pug mark method. It had estimated the number of tigers at 3642; around 1,500 tigers within protected areas and the rest outside such areas. The prime minister-appointed Tiger Task Force in its report in 2005, had called the census unscientific and said that it had overestimated the tiger population (see table: Number game).

“We had said long ago that tigers are restricted to protected areas,” says K Ullas Karanth, director, Centre for Wildlife Studies, Bangalore.

• Key players in the clearance process

Rajesh Gopal, member secretary, National Tiger Conservation Authority, agrees. “The tiger remains threatened within tiger reserves and protected areas,” he says.

The current survey classified tiger habitats into six regions. Each region had a group of tiger reserves under it. The Central Indian Landcape which includes Kanha, Pench and other reserves, has the potential for sustaining long-term population of tigers, the report said.

“Providing connectivity among individual tiger habitats through wildlife corridors and creating inviolate areas and buffer zones surrounding tiger reserves will add to conservation of tigers and other wildlife,” says Gopal.

The report revealed that tigers and their prey are often poached in reserves where Naxals have a strong presence: such as the Indravati reserve in Chhattisgarh and Palamau in Jharkhand. The report said it was important to involve local communities in tiger conservation, especially in buffer and corridor areas. According to Karanth, certain areas have higher population of tigers because prey is available in plenty there. Corbett, for instance, which has 174 tigers. Hence the priority should be to protect the prey and the tiger population by creating inviolate areas; the rest of the measures can follow.

Number game
Scientific census puts tigers at 1,410

Note: NA-Not Assessed
Source:; Tiger Census 2008

The vanishing act
The State of India’s Forest 2005, revealed by the Forest Survey of India, highlighted:

728 sq km of net loss of forests during 2002-04 (0.11 per cent of India’s total forest cover)

Madhya Pradesh lost 132 sq km of forests (The state has 11 per cent of country’s total forest cover); Gujarat lost 99 sq km
Nagaland lost 296 sq km of forests; Manipur, 173 sq km (North-eastern states account for over 25 per cent of forest cover)

Compared to the 2003 assessment there is a loss of 635 sq km of forest cover in 188 tribal districts (The 2003 assessment is the forest survey carried out for the period 2000-2001; the 188 tribal districts constitute about 60 per cent of the total forest cover)

124 hill districts suffered a loss of forest cover of over 250 sq km compared to the 2003 assessment

Between 1997 and 2002, the total forest cover inside tiger reserves and outer surrounds decreased by 94 sq km and 124 sq km (outer surrounds include a strip of about 10 km outside tiger reserves)

To where?
Forests have always been an important source of livelihood for tribal communities. “Forests in tribal areas have suffered most due to mining activities and construction of dams,” says Kanchi Kohli, member of Kalpvriksh Environmental Action Group. Since the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, came into existence, about 1,116 sq km of forestland have been diverted for mining between 1981 and 2007 (see table: Who benefits?)

Who benefits?
Forestland diverted to various sectors

Source: Union Ministry of Environment and Forests

The other fallout is that it will affect tigers as well because a lot of tiger habitats are inSchedule v areas. “The maximum loss of dense forest cover has also occured in districts where tigers and tribals share space. The tiger habitat is under threat. People will lose their livelihoods,” notes the Tiger Task Force report.

The forest survey report says Andaman and Nicobar islands lost more than 175 sq km of their forest to the 2004 tsunami. In other states, especially Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the loss was primarily because of submergence from dam construction . About 1,191 sq km of moderately dense forest was converted to non-forest. Similarly, about 61 sq km of very dense forest and more than 3,300 sq km of open forest was converted to non-forest. The Union environment ministry has allowed diversion of 11,400 sq km since 1980 (see box: Key players in the clearance process). Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Arunachal Pradesh have seen the highest diversion.

Critics say the loss of forest cover would be much higher if plantation and other afforestation programmes were not taken into account. Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Manipur and Andaman and Nicobar Islands witnessed huge forest loss during the assessment period under very dense forest category (with canopy cover of more than 70 per cent). The moderately dense forests, with canopy cover from 40-70 per cent lost over 1,400 sq km. The loss was offset, to an extent, by increase in forest cover in the open forest category—canopy cover from 10-40 per cent. The increase was primarily due to plantations. But, plantations do not ensure ecological viability; monoculture plantations are usually commercially targeted and are of little ecological value, say experts.

“If the trend continues, more and more quality forests will get wiped out. The government has tried to show reduced losses through plantation and afforestation activities, which is not comparable to natural forests,” says Kohli. Experts also say that states had not utilized funds for undertaking compensatory afforestation in lieu of diversion of forest area for non forest use. Even the plantations raised by forest departments under compensatory afforestation cannot be compared to natural forests, they add.

Forest rights activists allege when it comes to industries, the government has huge areas to divert but it overlooks the rights of forest communities. Until 2002, no land was diverted for conversion to revenue villages. In only nine cases, post 2002, forest areas were converted to revenue. “When it comes to giving rights to forest communities, they do not find priority in the moef,” says environmentalist Madhu Sarin. “Huge areas are lying with forest departments which are without forest cover and people have been cultivating on those land for centuries, but the government is never keen on diverting such land to give forest communities ownerships; on the other hand huge areas with good quality forest cover has been diverted for mining and other industrial projects,” Sarin adds.

The Forest Survey of India usually does not analyse forest cover based on their legal status or ownership. In the present assessment, however, it did analyse the changes in recorded forests in three states and one union territory. The report revealed a substantial portion (on an average more than 35 per cent) of forest cover recorded from the states lies outside recorded forest area. For example in Andhra Pradesh, only about 60 per cent of the forest area is under recorded forest cover. “If they have so much area devoid of forests they have better reasons to give it to forest communities,” said Sarin.

Monday, March 3, 2008

High alert around Gir range on poaching anniversary.

Posted online: Friday , February 29, 2008 at 11:53:32
Updated: Friday , February 29, 2008 at 12:13:33

Junagadh, February 28

The forest department has geared up to check incidents of poaching in and around the Gir Forest. As the first anniversary of the infamous Gir poaching incidents approaches, a high alert has been sounded across the range against a possible repeat of the last year’s acts.

According to BP Pati, deputy conservator of forest (Gir west), “A high alert has been sounded in and around the Gir forest. Apart from regular check post, three more permanent checkposts have been erected on three different strategically important points.”

It was on March 3, 2007 that the carcasses of three lions were found in the forest. The lions were killed by poachers in the Babaria range falling under Gir West Forest division. And it was just the beginning of a string of daredevil poaching acts that rocked the range during the previous year.

In an open defiance to security clamped by the state government, poachers repeated their dastardly act 26 days later. On March 29, three more lions were killed in the same area of the forest sending the forest department into a tizzy. And before the department could chalk out any action plan to check such incidents, two more lions were killed on April 12 — this time in the revenue area, on the outskirts of Bhandariya village near Jesar town in Bhavnagar. With this third major poaching incident in nearly a month and a half, the very existence of the last surviving group of Asiatic lions looked in danger.

An stung forest department was really clueless about the whole affair even as Chief Minister Narendra Modi air-dashed to Sasan — the prime hub of lions — to take stock of the situation. Call it a result if a relentless effort or sheer chance, the day the chief minister visited Sasan, the Junagadh police nabbed 21 alleged poachers, including seven women, allegedly responsible for the Gir incidents. Later, the Bhavanagar police also arrested 17 people, including seven women, while they were planning their escape. All of them belonged to the Parghi tribes from Madhya Pradesh’s Katni district. Poaching is their main occupation. All of them are still in custody and their bail pleas have been repeatedly rejected — first by the trial court and then on January, 2008 by the Gujarat High Court.

When contacted, conservator of forest (wildlife) Bharat Pathak said, “Intensified patrolling and checking of migrant labourers working in agriculture fields in the area surrounding the forest is going on round the clock.” He added that in a bid to keep a close watch on any suspicious movement in the revenue area adjoining the forest, some 200 villagers had been pressed into service after being appointed as ‘friends of wildlife’.

“Soon, 100 more people would be added to this group. A series of village meetings have been organised as a part of people’s awareness programme and village heads have been asked to keep extra vigil in their respective area,” he said.

JS Solanki, deputy conservator of the forest (Gir East), said: “We will not allow the repetition of the last year’s incident. Random checking at any place surrounding the Gir Forest is going on. Besides, we have also been effectively using mobile checkposts in our strategy.”


Targeting tribes

in Sabarkantha

The conflict over forest rights in many States claims its first tribal victim in Gujarat. Text and photographs

IN the empty courtyard of Sajabhai Bodat’s hut, there is nothing but a white, plastic chair propped against a mud wall in faded green. The chair holds a framed photograph of Sajabhai, who was recently killed by a police bullet. On the cow dung lined floor under the chair are two steel urns that hold his ashes. Sajabhai’s family is in mourning, still trying to figure out why he was killed and is afraid to speak up.

Early on the morning of February 13, the police stormed into Sajabhai’s house and arrested him, says his brother Lakshibhai. “At around 4 p.m., the local Member of Parliament Madhusudan Mistry came to the village [Vajepur in Sabarkantha district] and asked his son Suresh to come to the hospital to identify his body. There was a bullet in his chest,” says Lakshibhai.

Sajabhai’s death has stirred up a controversy in Vijaynagar taluk, a forest area in northern Gujarat, close to the border with Rajasthan. The police claim that they did not arrest Sajabhai. “He was part of a huge armed crowd of Adivasis who stormed into our Dholwani Range Forest Office at Antarsumba Ashram soon after we arrested six people for uprooting more than 600 saplings from our plantation and trying to occupy the land illegally,” says M.J. Parmar, the District Forest Officer (DFO). “Since we could not control the mob, and they had already injured eight of our staff, the police had to fire to disperse the crowd. Unfortunately, Sajabhai was killed in the firing. He was not arrested, even though he was on the list of people we wanted to arrest,” says Parmar. But Sajabhai’s relatives say that he was killed in police custody.

This is just one of the many inconsistencies this correspondent encountered while trying to unravel what led to the police firing and the deaths of two Adivasis. Besides Sajabhai, a schoolteacher who was in the bazaar near the range office was also killed by a stray bullet.

Sajabhai is perhaps the first casualty of the murky conflicts intensifying across the country soon after the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act was notified in January 2008, giving Adivasis and forest-dwelling communities rights over the land that they had been occupying before December 13, 2005 (Cover Story, Frontline, February 29).

Clashes between Adivasis and Forest Departments are erupting as the latter are reluctant to let go of land under their control and political groups and vested interests are behind tribal people’s attempts to stake their claim over land. Adivasis can claim land rights under the Act by filing an application with the Gram Sabha, which will decide whether the claim is genuine. State governments are yet to implement the Act.

In Vajepur and nearby villages, Adivasis were accused of forcefully taking over plantation land belonging to the Forest Department. “On February 5, a huge crowd occupied our plantation in Vajepur and destroyed 640 saplings in seven hectares [one hectare is 2.5 acres]. They also cut 81 trees in the reserve forest in Abhapur in Polo [forest area in Sabarkantha]. They constructed a hut to claim that they were already settled there,” says Parmar.

“Only a few families from Vajepur were involved. The entire village did not support them because this is a common property where they graze cattle, collect grass and minor forest produce like mahua and medicinal herbs,” says the DFO. “Around 500 to 600 people from outside, armed with axes and bows and arrows, occupied the plantation. Over several days we tried to convince them not to chop down the trees but they threatened us.”

“There is a lot of politics involved,” adds Parmar. “Members of the All India Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMCEF) were behind this. They have been organising meetings in the area, telling tribal people to claim their rights over the forest. Madhusudan Mistry has been holding such meetings too. He had one at Vijaynagar on February 3, and people occupied this land on February 5.” The Forest Department filed a case against key local leaders and arrested six of them on the morning of February 13. But Sajabhai’s family has a different story to tell. “Where is the plantation they are talking about? Go and look. There wasn’t a single sapling there. It existed only on paper. We used to grow maize there for 30 years before they fenced it off for a plantation,” says Lakshibhai.

When this correspondent reached the site, there were no saplings, and no sign of them being pulled out of the mud. There were square pits filled with dry leaves and a few burnt stumps of khakhra and ratanjyot trees that were cut. There was a frame of a hut being built on the site. Govind Parmar, president of the BAMCEF’s Gujarat unit, refused to comment, while Madhusudan Mistry dismissed allegations against him as politically motivated. “I have been fighting for Adivasi rights since 1986. The Chief Conservator of Forests wants to silence me so that the tribal people don’t demand land. If I am responsible, why haven’t they arrested me?” says Mistry.

“If the Forest Department feels that people have cut down trees, it should punish them according to the law. It does not have the right to kill people,” says Babubhai Damore, a local activist and member of the National Scheduled Area and Scheduled Tribes Committee. “For the first time, Parliament has passed a law to protect the rights of the tribal people who have been living in the forests for generations. There are 67,000 claims of people living in the forest even before 1980 pending with the Gujarat government, but it has not sent these to the Central government to be processed.”

“For the past few months the Gujarat Forest Department has been issuing press notes with no factual basis, stating that the Forest Rights Act is encouraging encroachments into the forest. They have been trying to spread this propaganda,” says Amrish Mehta from the Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties. “In Vijaynagar, people started erecting huts because they were anxious that they may not get the land that they have been cultivating for 30 years. However, if the BAMCEF or others had informed Adivasis correctly, they would have known that they can get the rights to their land under the Act even if they were dispossessed of it; so they have no need to worry,” says Mehta.

The Forest Rights Act is criticised by wildlife activists on the grounds that it will hasten the destruction of forests. Vijaynagar and Polo have the best virgin forests in northern Gujarat. But even forest officials such as Parmar admit that these forests are in a good condition because people have access to them and preserve them. Several other forests controlled by the Forest Department are not as healthy.

Since the Forest Rights Act has come into force, the Forest Department has been aggressively trying to deny people their rights and political groups have been trying to stir up trouble. But it is local Adivasis who face the consequences. What Sajabhai’s family has lost cannot be replaced by a photograph on a chair.

New partner for at risk lioness

A zoo has brought in a new lion for an endangered lioness, because her old mate has a low sperm count and cannot father any more cubs.

Moti, 14, Bristol Zoo's Asiatic lioness, already has three offspring by her former mate Chandra, 14.

But staff wanted her to be a mother again and have brought in Kamal, a 13-year-old from Twycross Zoo.

They hope the pair will bond, because there are just 350 Asiatic lions left in the wild.

The species can only be found in the wild in the Gir Forest Sanctuary in northern India.

Chandra has now moved to Cotswold Wildlife Park to comfort a female lion whose partner died in November.

Bristol Zoo's senior curator of animals, John Partridge, said: "Asiatic lions are critically endangered, so it is great news to have a new male lion and Kamal is a very handsome-looking creature."

Why this lion's cubs would be the pride of zooFeb 25 2008

By Steve Evans

THIS handsome chap, the pride of a Warwickshire zoo, is poised to set off on an amorous mission to help preserve the future of one of the world's most endangered species.

His name is Kamal, a rare Asiatic lion, and he has been chosen to spearhead a breeding programme which staff at Twycross Zoo hope will be a roaring success.

Kamal will be leaving his enclosure off the A444 near Nuneaton in the next few days to woo Moti, a lioness at Bristol Zoo and Gardens.

It is hoped that Bristol Zoo will soon hear the patter of many tiny paws.

Asiatic lions are critically endangered and are part of an internationally co-ordinated conservation breeding programme.

Junagadh- the city of legends

Sunday, 02.24.2008, 09:58pm (GMT-7)
An ancient fortified city rich in myth and legend, Junagadh lies at the foot of Girnar Hill and takes its name from the 'Old Fort' which circles the medieval town. The Girnar Hills stands from 2500 years BC having a legend of the rimes of the emperor Ashoka (250 BC) whose fourteen rock edicts can be seen cut into a great rock outside the city.

Junagadh breathes history. These edicts, set up by Ashoka, the Great Indian emperor, date back 2200 years. Within this ancient fort of Uparkot, the architectural marvels of Hindu Chudasma rulers and Muslim Mohmud Beghda coexist in perfect harmony. The majestic Mohabatkhan Maqbara, a memorial to Junagadh's Babi Ruler and the Veritable Darbar Hall Museum show that Junagadh continued to make history untill as recently as 100 years ago.

History: An impressive fort, Uperkot, located on a plateau in the middle of town, was originally built by the Mauryan Chandragupta in 319 B.C.E.. It was covered over for 300 years, then rediscovered in 976 C.E. It was besieged 16 times over an 800-year period. One unsuccessful siege lasted twelve years.An inscription with fourteen Edicts of Ashoka is found on a large boulder within 2 km of Uperkot Fort.

The inscriptions carry Brahmi script in Pali language and date back to 250 B.C.E. On the same rock are inscriptions in Sanskrit added around 150 C.E. by Mahakshatrap Rudradaman I, the Saka (Scythian) ruler of Malwa, a member of the Western Kshatrapas dynasty. Another dates from about 450 C.E. by Skandagupta, the last Gupta emperor. Old rock-cut Buddhist "caves" in this area, dating from well before 500 C.E., have stone carvings and floral work. There are also the Khapra Kodia Caves north of the fort, and the Babupyana Caves south of the fort.

The Maitraka dynasty ruled Gujarat in western India from 475 to 767 C.E. The founder of the dynasty, general Bhatarka, a military governor of Saurashtra peninsula under the Gupta empire, established himself as the independent ruler of Gujarat approximately in the last quarter of the 5th century. However, James Tod states Maitraka rule ended as early as 524 C.E.

Mughal rule: Zaid Khan Babi, who had owed allegiance to the Sultan of Ahmedabad, founded the state of Junagadh by expelling the then Mughal governor and declaring his independence in the 18th century (1748 C.E.). He assumed the name Zaid Khan when he came to power in Junagadh. The Babi Nawabs of Junagadh went on to conquer large territories in southern Saurashtra. It was rising of Babi dynasty. His descendants ruled over the state for the next two centuries, first as tributaries of Baroda, and later under the suzerainty of the British. Nawab of babi dynasty.

British rule: The British East India Company took control of the state in 1818, but the Saurashtra area never came under the direct control of the British. Rather, it was divided into over one hundred princely states right up to Independence. The present old town, developed during Chhatri of Lord Swaminarayan's Charanavind at JunagadhOn the land presented by Jinabhai (Hemantsingh) Darbar of Panchala, Lord Swaminarayan got constructed a huge temple at Junagadh by Sant Brahmanand Swami and installed Radha, Ramandev, Ranchhodji, Trikamji and Siddheshwar Mahadev with Parvati Devi in Vikram Samvat year 1884 on the second day of the dark half of the month of Vaishakh (Vad 2), on Friday, May 1, 1828 A.D.

Places to Visit
Uparkot Fort: Famous in by gone times for its virtual inaccessibility, the Upar Kot or Upper Fort is girdled by a wall that is, in some places, over 20m high. An ornate entrance gateway leads to the ruins. A mosque still stands in a state of preservation. A Nilamtope (canon) was acquired by the Nawab of Junagadh from a Turkish Sultan. There are also two stepwells, Jama Masjid and Buddhist caves in the fort premises.

Chorwad Beach: 66 Kms. from Junagadh and 23 Kms. from the fishing centre of Veraval, Chorwad is a delightful resort on the sunny coast of Gujarat. And an excellent road connects it to Junagadh, Girnar, the Gir Forest Sanctuary and the famous temple of Somnath.

Sasan Gir Forest & Sanctuary: It is situated 65 Kms. from Junagadh via Keshod (where there is an aiport). It is connected both by Rail as well as Road. Sasan Gir Sanctuary provides refuge to that rare species-the Asiatic Lion. The sanctuary covers an area of 500 sq. miles of dry, open scrubland where the lions roam freely. They can be seen on guided jeep tours through the jungles.

Ahmadpur Mandvi: Close by the sea, with an option to entertaining oneself lazing on the beach, swimming or enjoying water sports facilities, Ahmedapur Mandvi is one of the finest beaches of the country.

Damodar: A sacred tank marks the ascent to the Girnar temples.

Ashoka's Rock Edicts:On the way to Girnar, fourteen rock edicts of the Emperor Ashoka can be seen inscribed on a great boulder. The inscription carry Brahmi script in Pali language and dates back to 263 B.C. On the same rock are inscriptions in Sanskrit.

How to get there ?
Air: Nearest Airport is Keshod 40 km.. Daily flight from Bombay to Keshod.

Rail: 395 km. from Ahmedabad, meter gauge line.

Road: 400 km. from Ahmedabad via Rajkot, Junagadh and Mendarda, 43 km. from Veraval and 65 km. from Junagadh Via Mendarda.