Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tiger sanctuary has residents growling

Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison

Bill Rathburn, former Dallas police chief, has five tigers at his home near Mineola. A friend from New Jersey has bought land next door and plans to build a tiger sanctuary.

Tigers are a buzzword in Mineola.

Big cats are the talk at downtown businesses like Kitchen's, the landmark hardware store and deli.

Striped felines are the subject of reader letters published in the weekly Mineola Monitor.

Alarm bells began sounding several months ago after a New Jersey multimillionaire recently featured in The New York Times purchased 140 acres outside town and revealed plans to create a habitat for tigers on his land, which adjoins property owned by several residents and is near two housing subdivisions.

The neighbors' greatest fear?

"Tigers eating my grandkids and great-grandkids," Frank Trent, 73, said.

Retiree Diane Pitkin moved to this area five years ago to enjoy nature's beauty and the tranquility of rural life.

"We can't outrun a tiger," Pitkin said, voicing safety concerns for herself, her husband and their herd of 60 goats.

Another neighbor, Gary Bright, is worried, too.

"What if a tiger escapes? They do, even at zoos," Bright said. "What would be the cost?"

'Not neighborly'
Paul Parmar of Colts Neck, N.J., now owns a parcel of picturesque land less than one mile east of the city limits.

The 37-year-old global entrepreneur and head of a private equity fund reportedly paid $1.3 million for the property off Farm Road 1801.

After Trent learned of Parmar's plans to put tigers near him, he fired off a descriptive letter to the local newspaper. "Think eight-hundred pound pit bull with PMS," he wrote. "If you see one [tiger] on your property and shoot him, he will most likely kill you anyway as they are practically bullet proof."

Trent said he and more than 300 others signed petitions opposing the big-cat compound. They were delivered to the county judge and sheriff.

"The Bible states that, 'We should do our neighbor no harm as he lives by him for his safety,' " one petition read. "It is not neighborly to purchase land in an existing inhabited neighborhood for the purpose of raising dangerous animals without so much as discussing it with all those likely to be adversely affected by the act."

Trent said God and the law are on his side. According to a 2001 county order, a person may not own, keep or have custody over nondomestic animals such as big cats, gorillas, or bears unless the animals lived in Wood County before Jan. 1, 2002.

'Very safe habitat'
Tigers are not a rarity in Texas. The state has 1,341, according to the American Tiger Registry.

"Texas has more tigers now than India," said Brian Werner, co-founder of the Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge, a Tyler-area sanctuary for abused, neglected and unwanted tigers and other big cats.

More than 20 tigers are housed at the International Exotic Animal Sanctuary near Boyd, 35 miles north of Fort Worth.

Bill Rathburn, a former Dallas police chief and a friend of Parmar, has kept big cats on his land outside Mineola for many years.

He said no one has complained about his five pet tigers, which are housed in large wire cages covering 20,000 square feet.

Raja, a 14-year-old Siberian tiger, is the oldest and largest. The others are Shahzada, Rani, Kumar and Berani.

"They're monstrous," City Council member E.F. "Bo" Whitus said. He spread his arms wide in a gesture of measurement. "I can't describe how big they are."

County Judge Bryan Jeanes said the law is clear -- no more big cats in the county.

"The county intends to enforce the order," Jeanes said. "Mr. Parmar has not contacted us or yet made any application."

Parmar, who was born in India, said he still hopes to one day build a 35-acre tiger habitat on his property. He described the estimated $24 million project as a "high-class version" of the Tiger Creek refuge.

"My idea is to create a very safe habitat for maybe five to seven tigers," Parmar said. "I may put a bed and breakfast there where people can stay and see the tigers. They are magnificent animals. Very few people see them up close. The entire focus is on safety and human education. I would have a professional company run it."

'A big business'
Parmar laughed at how wild gossip has put some people on edge.

"This has nothing to do with me being some crazy guy with 200 pet tigers running around behind a barbed-wire fence."

Parmer said it will be at least one year before he completes design plans and presents his concept to the county for consideration.

"This can be a big business. It could bring business to Mineola," Parmar said. "We're not planning to do anything illegal."

Rathburn, who supports the venture, said: "Whatever Paul does he will do first-class. It'll be a showplace, I'm sure."

Others feel Wood County already has five tigers too many.

"We've got a real nice zoo in Tyler," said Jim Nicholson, whose property adjoins Parmar's spread. "They've got tigers. Even a white one. I'll buy him [Parmar] a membership and buy Rathburn one, too. They can see all the tigers they want."

DAVID CASSTEVENS, 817-390-7436

The hunter becomes the hunted

By Op Rana (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-04-30 07:29

As a child, I always used to think the tiger was a killer. It could kill any animal, even humans, with ease. Later, much later, I was to discover how wrong I was. By that time, three tiger sub-species had already been lost.

Blame my ignorance on grandma's (for me grandpa's) tales. But the tales never encouraged us to kill the tiger. Instead, they taught us to respect it for its power, alertness and ferocity. Tragically, these very qualities have spelt the tiger's doom. The Caspian, Javan and Bali tigers are no more because of human encroachments into their habitats and the high price their skin and body parts fetched. There was a time in India during British rule when dozens (or even more) tigers used to be killed on a single hunting (sic) expedition.

Of the five surviving sub-species (some experts consider the Sumatran tiger an altogether different species, though) the South China tiger is the most critically endangered. It is a pity because many an expert considers it to be the progenitor of all surviving tigers. It is a pity also because China is the only country where four of the sub-species (the South China, Amur, Indian or Bengal, and the Indo-Chinese tigers) can still be found in the wild.

In India, the tiger is the carrier of the mother goddess, Amba. (Another form of Amba, the goddess of power Durga, rides a lion.) People living in and around the world's largest delta, the Sunderbans, in India and Bangladesh, never call the tiger by its name. They refer to it by other names, bon bibi (goddess of forests), for instance. Such is the awe the king of the Asian jungles inspires that irrespective of their religion most of the people worship it.

China, like India, is deep into the evolution of tiger imagery. It has well recorded images of the big cat from the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC), when people believed it was a powerful ghostly messenger between the human and the spiritual worlds. People in the later dynasties, including the Zhou (1046-256 BC), began visualizing and depicting the tiger more realistically. Ancient sculptures project the tiger as having strong muscular shoulders and limbs with long paws, and a powerful head decorated with deadly fangs. Later-day artists must have been more fearful of the tiger because of the overpowering effect of the tales handed down from previous generations. That might have prompted them to place tiger figures on tombs to keep evil spirits away and protect the souls of the dead. Paintings of tigers asleep among Buddhist monks symbolized the religion's power to tame the mystical forces of nature. In modern times, by the 20th century, Chinese artists had begun using the tiger as a national symbol.

All this should have made China and India a safe haven for the tiger. To be fair, the two are among a few countries where the tiger still roams the wild. But then the tiger faces the greatest threat in these two very countries. Call it irony, if you will.

Of all the animals on the world's endangered list, perhaps the tiger is most threatened by humans, for every part of its body is highly prized in the black market. The Chinese government banned the sale of tiger parts and their use in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) 15 years ago. But those in the trade say China has 5,000 captive tigers to meet the demand for TCM. Last year, there was even talk of legalizing the trade in captive tiger parts. "It will be a waste if the resources of dead tigers are not used for TCM," said a senior wildlife official.

Captive breeding is projected as tiger conservation too. But a captive tiger will never be part of nature. It will never occupy its place on the top of the food chain. And inbreeding will make the big cat vulnerable to a host of diseases. Ecology will be disturbed, creating even greater problems for our climate-change shattered world.

On the one hand, Save China's Tigers is working with the Wildlife Research Center of the State Forestry Administration and the Chinese Tigers South Africa Trust to reintroduce tigers into the wild. On the other, we are talking of saving the tiger through captive breeding. If that is not ironical, what is?


(China Daily 04/30/2008 page8)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

LUNCH WITH BS: Valmik Thapar

T for Tiger, T For Thapar
Anjuli Bhargava / New Delhi April 29, 2008

After spending 33 years of his life following the tale of the tiger and its fight for survival, Valmik Thapar is far from convinced it will happen.

By the time I arrive, I find Valmik Thapar already seated in Tamura, the small but authentic Japanese eatery on the second floor in the Friends Colony Community Centre market, the location of which only Thapar seems to know. I have called him to ask for directions (after several others looked at me blankly) and been told off quite curtly, "You should have found it by now. I have been waiting and I told you I have to leave early", writes Anjuli Bhargava.

Is it just my imagination or has spending so much time in the wild led to an uncanny resemblance between wildlife and tiger expert Thapar and his favourite companion? Of course, no man can really look like a tiger but aren't the characteristics somewhat alike? As I ponder this and gush into some introduction of Lunch with BS, I mention Land of the Tiger, which I had heard was one of his best documentary films.

"It's not mine," he thunders. "I was only the presenter. It was a BBC film," he adds, quite disgusted at my ignorance. Maybe the resemblance is less striking than I first thought. Despite my two blunders, I remain uneaten.

We quickly order (fried prawns and some kind of noodle soup for him, and a plate of stir-fried vegetables for me) and get down to business. I have caught him between two trips to Ranthambhore where, in 1975, Thapar's love affair with the tiger began while shooting a film, Deep in the jungles of Rajasthan. He's just been there for ten days during his son's school vacation — a trip that will result in his 15th book on tigers, Ten Days in Ranthambhore — and is leaving for another short weekend trip there.

His trip was special for three reasons. It was his first trip with his five-and-a-half-year-old son, he says, in a visible softening of his otherwise gruff exterior. He managed to catch up, for eight hours every day over the 10-day period, with Macchli, a 15- or 16-year-old female tiger whose life he's been closely entwined with. He saw her fifth litter (he says she's thrown 12 cubs to maturity), which was just readying to leave her. And it was special because after many years of visiting the national parks in India, he spotted a tiny glimmer of hope.

Just two years ago, Thapar had declared that "the tiger had been placed in its coffin." But today Ranthambhore, in his view, is a prime example of what can be done, if someone puts their minds to it. "Tigers everywhere you look," he says estatically. He says the credit for this goes entirely to chief minister Vasundhara Raje. She hired 200 ex-army men to increase protection, she put in place good rangers and took a personal interest in the problems facing the park.

But Ranthambhore has a tiny population of 30 tigers. For the bigger and wilder majority, there's little hope. Thapar estimates the current tiger population in India at somewhere between 1,200 and 1,400. In 1973, he says, there were 1,800. Painstakingly, this was doubled to around 3,600 five years ago. But in the last four years, rampant poaching and poor protection have brought the number down by 2,300.

Thapar is at his wits' end with the approach of the government which, he's convinced, is absolutely wrong. He says he's worked on at least 150 committees and sub-committees (since 1992, when Kamal Nath created the Tiger Crisis cell) of the government relating to tigers which have "all been a waste of time". He says all the money in the world can't save the tiger unless there's a change in tack. He also squarely blames the state governments. "The Centre can only provide money and guidance. But the state has to do the day-to-day running of the park," he explains. Forest guards are treated "like dirt" in an era of "brainless governance and absolute ignorance".

I know I risk Thapar's wrath, yet I mention the task force on tigers set up in 2005. The task force was a "mess" consisting of a "strange bunch of people" who, in his view, had "no understanding of the tiger. If they want to deal with people's problems, they should set up a people's task force or a tribal task force, not a tiger task force." Thapar dissented with the final report of the task force which suggested people and tigers can co-exist. Hogwash, he says. "Between 1850 and 1950, 30,000 tribals and villagers were killed by tigers and 100,000 tigers were killed by man and you're trying to tell me the two can co-exist! There's no harmony here," he adds. Today, he stands vindicated. "Now, they are struggling to relocate villages as they realise tigers and man do not co-exist!"

I suggest that the task force's composition may have been deliberate to keep alive an element of objectivity in the report — his views may be too "rabid" for public consumption. He begs to differ. "I'm not saying you must have 5,000 tigers. All I say is have 2,000 if that's what you can manage. Genuine forest dwellers must have their space in the forests. The tiger must have his. All I am saying is don't try and mix the two. Simple. Is that rabid?"

Thapar argues that if tigers vanish, in due course, so will forests and India will be "desertified". "Who will visit the forests then and who will say ‘oh let's save this forest just for its natural beauty'! Forget it! India has 600 national parks and forests. There are 100 in Andaman and Nicobar islands alone. Who even knows their names? Tourists go to eight-ten out of 600."

He says he's shocked at corporate India's apathy to India's environmental and forest heritage. "All of them — the top corporates — want to visit the sanctuaries but no one wants to come forward and do anything to preserve them. It's a national shame — what the corporate world hasn't done!" He says he's exhorted each of them personally to get involved, but to no avail.

I, for the life of me, can't imagine him on any kind of government committee. He must be quite a shock to the stodgy, dull bureaucratic senses, I suggest? "They hate me," he says matter-of-factly. He says he's on numerous committees because someone or the other forces him onto it or forces the bureaucracy to put him onto it.

And is there more to Valmik Thapar than just the tiger? He says he and his family have discovered a new love: snorkeling and underwater life. Every year, he, his wife (who's a deep sea diver) and his son spend a month in the Maldives, with their heads buried in the water watching the marine life go by. "It's the new thing that's happened in our lives," he reveals, quite happy to spend a few moments describing the ocean with its myriad colours and life.

I ask if he sometimes feels fed up with the futility of things as he sees them. "What can one do? We can only push, cajole, pressurise or embarrass. We can't beat the system. The first tiger crisis was in 1992. Sixteen years later and we are back where we started. It doesn't give one much hope," he says in conclusion. The tiger, it appears, has been left to its own devices. Its survival — if it happens — will be despite the system, not thanks to it.


Can’t find tigers in Palamau

- WII left wandering due to faulty data, no indicators

Ranchi, April 28: “A tiger is like God in the Palamau Tiger Reserve. It is impossible to sight both God as well as a tiger.”

An earnest tiger tracker’s comment to a tourist sometime back has now got the seal of approval from the Dehra Dun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII): “The Palamau Tiger reserve hasn’t reported a single tiger sighting during the phase I survey,” it said in its latest report.

According to WII, Palamau is part of a 12,580km long forest spanning Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand and has the potential to harbour a good number of tigers.

But inadequate data, coupled with lack of indicators, made it impossible for WII to estimate the population of tigers in Palamau.

“The questionnaire survey of phase I data requires further field verification for evaluating status of the population. Subsequent data provided by the state government was not as per the phase I protocol,” the report said.

The WII report has put the total number of tigers in the country at 1,411.

In Jharkhand, the WII has singled out Naxalism as the primary reason behind the dwindling numbers.

“If this problem is resolved and anthropogenic pressures reduced by community participation in conservation management with appropriate economic incentives, this area could serve as a good source population of tigers,” the WII pointed out.

The Palamau sanctuary was brought under Project Tiger in 1973 and is among the first nine tiger reserves of the country. Around Rs 259 crore has been spent on tiger conservation in Palamau till 2004.

Principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) A.K. Singh said the WII was yet to reach a conclusion on the exact number of tigers.

“We have given further information. They have to analyse the data and give us the number conclusively,” he maintained. He, however, refused to make any comment on the exact number of tigers.


Lions haunt Panjarapol Gaushala employees

Posted online: Tuesday , April 29, 2008 at 01:42:27
Updated: Tuesday , April 29, 2008 at 01:42:27 Print Email To Editor Post Comments

Junagadh, April 28 The employees of the Panjarapol Gaushala in Junagadh district are having sleepless nights, as the incidents of lion attacks have been on the rise lately, particularly during the nights.
In the most recent incident, a group of three lions entered the gaushala, located on the outskirt of Virdi village near Malia town, by jumping over its 12-foot high boundary wall on Thursday and Friday nights, and killed seven cows. Since then, the gaushala’s 20 staff members are living under a constant fear, as the lions’ roars are being heard on a regular interval.

“It was like a nightmare. Lions created havoc and killed seven cows. We had never seen such a fury of the beast. It was a horrible experience,” said Bachu Bhai and Kanabhai Koli, two gaushala employees . They added that the big cats have increased their attacks in the last two years.

Confirming the incident, Ashwin Juthani, the gaushala’a trustee told Newsline: “Our staff are afraid of the lions. They have categorically told us that if the situation continues, then they would not work here.” He added that since last Thursday, he along with the entire staff have been guarding the cows.

“Taking a serious note of the incident, we have all ready placed flood lights around the compound walls. We have decided to raise the height of the compound wall from 10 feet to 13 feet with barbed wired fencing on the top,” he said.

He said they have already informed the forest officials about the incident, and that the foresters are patrolling the area. “But since they do not stay here, we have to take adequate action for the safety of about 325 cows sheltered here.”

Another trustee Mahendra Gandhi has sent a letter to the Gujarat Forest Minister, demanding an immediate action to free the area from the clutches of lions. He has threatened to launch an agitation if the state Forest Department fails to take necessary action.

The gaushala is located 10 kilometres from the Babara vidi land, which has now been turned into a permanent home for over a dozen lions.

Instances of big cats roaming in the revenue area outside the Gir forest is not new in Junagadh. According to the forest officials, one of the prime reasons for the lion’s presence in the area is the easy availability domestic animals.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Wildlife park visitors pay £100 to see lions kill tethered cattle

From The Sunday TimesApril 27, 2008
Dean Nelson in Delhi

British tourists are paying more than £100 to watch endangered Asian lions kill tethered cattle at an Indian wildlife reserve.

According to local officials, some visitors eat lunch at dining tables as they watch cows and buffalo being devoured.

Animal welfare groups have expressed outrage, saying such gruesome displays break the law and are not only cruel to cattle but also put the lions in jeopardy by bringing them closer to humans. They blame western tourists for encouraging the practice.

According to conservationists, the shows are being organised by tour guides and farmers in collusion with junior park officials.

Only about 360 lions survive in India from a subspecies that once ranged from Greece through the Caucasus and into China. It is now confined to the Gir national park in Gujarat, western India, where the incomes of villagers depend on frequent sightings.

To ensure that tourists do not go home disappointed, tour guides are offering “baitwalla shows”, in which the lions are lured out of the forest towards villages on the outskirts of their sanctuary by cattle tied to tractors.

When the lion picks up the scent, the cow is dragged towards the tour group waiting close by and finally untied so that the tourists can watch it being caught, killed and eaten from as little as 10ft away.

The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) denounced the tours and called on the Indian government’s forest conservator to ban them.

Jaya Sinha, a spokesman for Peta, called on western tourists to give up their “lion and tiger mania”, which, he said, was putting pressure on guides to guarantee big-cat sightings.

“It’s not just the Gir lions. It’s the same in the tiger reserves: there’s a tiger mania. The cats are shy animals, but the tourists go crazy if they don’t see one,” he said.

Using live cattle as bait for protected animals is prohibited under India’s wildlife laws, but the fines are paltry. One act carries a fine of just £1.

Nobody has ever been convicted of the offence.

Domesticated animals such as cows and goats are also banned from the lion sanctuary because of fears that they may spread foot and mouth disease.

The lions’ hunting grounds have been shrunk in recent years by intense cattle grazing, which has led to a cycle of lions eating cows, and cattle farmers killing lions.

According to Peta, local farmers were conspiring with officials to charge tourists for using their cattle as bait, and then claim government compensation under a scheme to protect the lions. For each cow sold as bait, many are also receiving an extra £60 in government compensation.

Maniswar Raja, the official responsible for protecting the lions, said he was conducting an investigation to establish which officials and tour guides were involved in the shows.

“We’re responsible for the lions inside and outside the national park, so it’s a matter of great concern to us,” he said.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Lion - Logos Dictionary - Logos Translations multilingual dictionary

Very interesting and usefull link:

Forest fire risk area mapping of gir – P. A. Integrating Remote Sensing, meteriological and topograpgical data - a GIS approach

Forest fire risk area mapping of gir – P. A. Integrating Remote Sensing, meteriological and topograpgical data - a GIS approach

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Open wells being covered to save Asiatic lions in Gir

April 25th, 2008 - 7:43 pm ICT by admin

Rajkot, April 25 (ANI): The Rajasthan State government, forest department, NGOs and corporate companies in Sasan Gir have joined hands to prevent lions, cubs and leopards from falling in wells, by constructing parapet walls around them.

The Asiatic lions have been in news in the recent past due to widespread poaching incidents and their declining numbers. Many of them have fallen into wells and died.
In 2007, 24 animals fell into open wells and died.
Corporate companies like Reliance, Essar, Tata Chemicals and Amubja cement have come forward and started constructing parapet walls around the open wells in villages in the Sasan Gir Forest.

“The work has already started. The State government and forest department have taken up this project. We have received a very good response from few NGOs and corporate companies who have spent a good amount to money to finish the task at hand said B. D. Patti, the head of the project in Junagadh.
Nearly 1,200 such wells have been covered by the corporate houses and NGOs like Rajkot-based Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT). The State government has sanctioned 4,000 rupees per well. The rest of the expenses are borne by the concerned company. We hope to finish the project before 2009, “said Patti.
Amost 9,000 open wells are located in the farming land of the various farmers.
Villagers have agreed to help in the effort to prevent the Asiatic lions falling in their wells in fields.

“This is a good project undertaken by all. I have agreed for construction of parapets around open wells so that in future no animals fall in the open well. I feel very happy by this decision,” said Ramesh bhai, a resident of Bhoj De Village.
Kaushik Bhai, another villager, said that he was happy that the construction is happening in his farm too. Not just animals but sometimes even children used to fall
in the open well so this has happen good for us also.”

Sasan Gir is spread over a 1,400 square kilometer area and has over 800 villages in it. The main crops in the villages are mangoes, groundnuts and cotton. For water conservation farmers dig wells themselves. There are many open wells in the villages. .

It is a dry deciduous habitat for the lions, dominated by short and gnarled teak trees , thorn bushes and grassland.

Deepak Gajjar, a wild life lover and an active member of the Wildlife Conservation Trust, has designed protection around 800 such wells in the various villages.
These are the wells which can not be sighted easily and panthers and cubs used to fall into them.. All of us have started doing this job jointly. Companies too have come forward and parapets around 1,200 such wells have been completed. In one month further 2000 wells will have protection and this effort will not only save the animals but also will reduce the work of the forest department, as they have to work hard to save the animals when fall into open wells,” Gajjar said.(ANI)


Friday, April 25, 2008

Poachers on prowl again

25 Apr 2008, 0203 hrs IST,Himanshu Kaushik,TNN

SASAN: The Asiatic lion may be under threat again. Over 200 members of the Baheliya tribes, who were suspected to have killed lions in the Gir forest last year, are back.

There are intelligence inputs indicating their camps in and around the forest, which have put the Junagadh district police and forest department on vigil.

An alert has been sounded in the villages around the Gir National Park to look out for Baheliyas who are labourers from Madhya Pradesh.

Officials from the forest department confirmed that with the sugarcane harvesting season already on, a large number of labourers from MP are camping in Saurashtra.

On March 3, 2007, carcasses of three lions were found in the forest. The lions were killed by poachers in the Babaria range under Gir West Forest division. On March 29 the same year, three more lions were killed in the same area of the forest, followed by two more on April 12, on the outskirts of Bhandariya village near Jesar town in Bhavnagar.

The CID (crime), which was probing the incidents, had written a letter to inspector general of police (Junagadh range) Mohan Jha last year about the Baheliya community being "actively involved" in poaching of Asiatic lions in Gir sanctuary. This community, apart from working in the fields, indulges in poaching of wild animals under the garb of selling traditional medicines and toys.

Jha told TOI: "This year the police are on alert and watching the activities of the labourers." Conservator of Forest Bharat Pathak refused such intelligence inputs.

But said that the forest department was using local NGOs to keep a watch on these tribes.Kanubhai Sanabhai, sarpanch of Vadal village in Akolwadi range, said the villagers are alert now.


'Lion shows only outside Gir'

25 Apr 2008, 0206 hrs IST,TNN

AHMEDABAD: The state forest department has admitted that 'lion shows' of the kind that TOI had exposed, could be going on, but outside the "protected area".

A report in TOI on April 22 and April 23 had exposed how villagers were networking with farmers to stage lion shows for tourists by tying unwanted cattle or goats as baits for lions to prey upon.

And this was set up for tourists at a premium. Later, the farmers claimed compensation on the ground that the livestock had been killed by lions.

A rejoinder sent by the principal chief conservator of forest on Thursday claimed that no farmer had resorted to such illegal baiting of lions for tourism.

However, the official said: "It is believed that due to increased communication facilities in rural areas, people communicate fast about the natural livestock killed by lions and as the wild animals take some time to consume the kill, local people and occasionally tourists may be gathering at the site outside the Gir protected area to watch lions."

When TOI contacted Junagadh collector Ashwini Kumar, he said the forest department was yet to inform the collectorate about any such shows in the revenue area. "But definitely action can be taken against such people under the Wildlife Protection Act," Kumar said.

Meanwhile, the forest department has banned entry of over 30-odd jeeps taking tourists inside the Gir sanctuary for the routine lion sighting, which would mean nearly 100 drivers and guides would be rendered jobless while the touts remain untouched, said a senior officer.

The ban was imposed after state forest and environment minister Mangubhai Patel rushed PCCF Pradeep Khanna to Sasan to inquire into the involvement of drivers and guides in lion shows.


Gujarat govt orders probe into 'lion shows'

24 Apr 2008, 1701 hrs IST,PTI

VADODARA: Gujarat government has ordered a probe after reports in a section of the media said that baits are being used to draw lions at particular spots to attract tourists in Gir National Park.

Chief Conservator of the Forests (Wildlife) Pradeep Khanna said that an inquiry would be conducted into the "lion show" using baits for drawing tourists and action would be taken against those found guilty.

According to recent reports, some gangs were allegedly charging hefty sums from tourists for giving them a glimpse of the lions at Gir National Park in Junagadh district, by using baits to bring the beasts to a particular place, where tourists can easily see them, following which government swung into action.

"I have asked top wildlife officials of the forest department to visit Gir to look into the allegations and find out the truth," Principal Secretary, Forest and Environment Department S K Nanda said adding necessary steps will be taken after conducting an enquiry into the matter.

Meanwhile, Forest Minister Mangubhai Patel said that there are no organised gangs involved in luring lions for tourists by using baits.

He also added that it is a tendency among people to gather at spots where a group of lions are feeding on the cattle after they have killed one.

However, Patel said that following the reports, two district forest officials in the area have been asked to keep a vigil on the activities in the park.


Increasing number of leopards gives Sakkarbaug Zoo officials a tough time

Hiral Dave
Posted online: Friday , April 25, 2008 at 12:09:50
Updated: Friday , April 25, 2008 at 12:09:50

Rajkot, April 24 Sakkarbuag Zoo in Junagadh is one of the country’s oldest and is the leading breeding centre for the Asiatic Lion. But the population of leopards here is on the rise and, in fact, has even outnumbered these lions.
Increasing man-animal conflict in last couple of years has been landing the big cats into cages in such a large number that it is now becoming difficult for the zoo authorities to handle the situation. At present, nearly 30 leopards are inmates of the Sakkarbaug (SKB) Zoo, while the number of Asiatic lions stands at 21.

This year, half a dozen cases of man-leopard conflicts have been reported so far. In 2007, the forest department had caged over 70 leopards from the villages located on the periphery of the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary (GWS). In most cases, forest officials have no option but to send these animals to zoo, as many of these leopards are injured when caught.

“In recent years, the zoo has been receiving leopards that were on prowl in the revenue areas. They are brought here for treatment after sustaining injuries during conflict with villagers. Some of them suffered permanent damage and could not be released back in wild,” said SKB zoo superintendent Y Rana.

He added that some have developed the tendency of wandering in the revenue areas, so they have also been kept at the zoo. “As a result, the zoo is overcrowded with leopards,” he said, adding that though there is a shortage of space, but they have no other option than keeping the wild cat in captive.

While leopard is a solitary big cat, its been hurdled in groups of five to six in small cages of total area less than 300 square meter, with little or no height. These undersized cages are said to be constructed and designed over 100 years ago. The zoo does have big open cages in the safari park for leopards, but its number is restricted to two.

Officials say that shrinking natural habitat coupled with increasing lion and leopard population has led to dispersion of these two big cats outside forest areas. They generally take shelter in sugarcane and mangoes orchid farms for days. “The cats go out in search of food. Leopard, which is an opportunist hunter, prefers to stay in the revenue areas for hunting. This increases chances of conflict between man and leopard,” said Rana.

The leopard population stood at 155 when the first census was done at GWS in 1974. Since then the animal’s population has been registering increase in every census. The number stood at 380 in the last census done in 2005, indicating an increase of 69 since the 2000 census.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Lioness gives birth to 2 cubs.

Maliyahatina (Gir): Fast gaining the tag of a maternity ward for Asiatic lionesses, the Maliyahati village in the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary withessed the birth of two more male cubs, this time in a sugarcane field on the outskirts of the village. According to a forest official, this remote village has been serving as a maternity home in Gir, as a number of lionesses have been visiting and delivering their cubs here for the past four years.

In the latest case, hte two 12-day-old male cubs were spotted gambolling about in the Bhikha Solanki's sugarcane field. Alerted by his farm labourers, Solnaki called the forest department officials, who reached the farmarmed with cage and bait. "Our prime concern was to catch the lioness in order to avoid any untoward incident of man-animal conflict and the safety of the lioness and her cubs," said forest official. Source: SANDESH.

The times of India, Ahmedabad
Thursday, April 24,2008
Page 3

Zoo gets ready for lion’s share

- Authorities pin hope on Asiatic jungle cat pair for population increase

The Telegraph

Jamshedpur, April 22: Step away bulls and bears, when it comes to zoos, jungle cats are the preferred choice.

The Tata Steel Zoological Society (TSZS) will soon be home to robust Asiatic lions. Sources said housing lions has now become a necessity for zoo authorities as they are only left with one pair of the breed — an aged lioness (13) and a young male (4), who was procured from a rescue centre in Bengal.

“Hybrid lions were available for the zoo but we are thinking of housing a pure Asiatic breed. We are currently looking at the Junagadh Zoo in Saurashtra — known as the cradle for Asiatic lions,” an official told The Telegraph.

Unlike hybrid ones, Asiatic lions are better built with shaggier coats with a longer tassel on the end of their tails along with longer tufts of hair on the elbows. They are also known as the Persian lion as they were once found in Southwest Asia. But now they survive only in India.

The zoo’s interest to house Asiatic lions is also linked to Central Zoo Authority’s (CZA) decision. “Yes, the CZA is pushing zoos across the country to procure the Asiatic breed,” TSZS director M.S. Jain said. But zoo authorities were not sure if this would help increase the population of the species.

However, authorities were not in the position to say whether young cubs would be brought home or full-grown adults.

“It really depends upon the availability of the breed. We are interested in getting a pair of Asiatic lions. It is possible that we may have to procure adults,” Jain said.

Getting jungle cats home is not easy. Several formalities need to be completed. “Hence, besides Junagadh, we would also contact authorities of the Alipore Zoo in Calcutta and Nandan Kanan in Orissa,” Jain said.

Animals between zoos across the country cannot be bought or sold. They can either be exchanged or arranged for. Around six months ago, zoo authorities had exchanged nine hog deer for a pair of leopards from an animal rescue centre in Jaldapara, Bengal.


Gir lion show: Sell cattle as bait, claim damages

23 Apr, 2008, 0240 hrs IST,Himanshu Kaushik, TNN

SASAN: Call it the lion's share, twice over. For every "lion show" organised in Gir — using cattle to be attacked and eaten by lions as tourists watch — there is a bonus for those providing the bait.

While farmers here organise these shows to earn money from tourists or sell their ageing cows and buffaloes to organisers, they also claim compensation from the government to pay for the loss of livestock. Statistics with the forest department shows the number of applications and the compensation paid have shot up over the years.

On Tuesday, TOI reported how "live shows" are organised in and around the Gir sanctuary, where live bait is used to lure lions and groups of tourists pay anywhere between Rs 500 and Rs 10,000 to watch. Forest officials claim it is non-lactating cows and buffaloes that are sold the most, each fetching Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000. As soon as the show is over, the farmer informs the forest department that his has been killed by a lion.

"Not only are villagers in and around Gir earning from tourists by organising shows or by selling their livestock as baits, they are making money by fooling the government too," said an official. While a compensation of Rs 5,000 has to be paid for a milch cow, non-lactating cows fetch Rs 1,100. A non-lactating buffalo would fetch Rs 2,100.

Sources say an elaborate racket is in place, whereby a beat forest department guard certifies that the animal was attacked killed by a lion, despite knowing that bait was offered to the beast. The department then pays compensation on the basis of this certificate.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Illegal temple coming up in wildlife sanctuary

Ashwin Aghor
Monday, April 21, 2008 03:25 IST

The Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, 30 km north of Borivili, is witnessing an unholy development — an illegal temple is being constructed by the Sadanandbaba Ashram. Despite several notices, the construction continues.

The state forest department has already issued two eviction notices to the Sadanandbaba Ashram Trust. “The trustees have ignored the notices so far. However, as per the latest notice, the trust has been instructed to vacate the place before April 30. In case they fail to comply, the construction will be demolished,” said PN Munde, conservator of forest and director, Sanjay Gandhi National Park.

However, forest department officials claimed that it was pointless trying to stop the trust’s activities since they have strong political support with around six cabinet ministers and six ministers of state supporting them. “There have been around 25 futile meetings with the state government and the trustees. The department had to face enormous political pressure every time any action was initiated against the trust,” said a senior official from the state forest ministry.

Officials claimed that they face serious problems such as threat to life and other political pressures when they try to remove the encroachment and prevent illegal activities in the sanctuary.

Apart from the illegal construction, the trustees of the ashram have also kept four peacocks — two males and two females — claimed to be donated by a devotee from Gujarat


Dry grass spread over 125 hectares of land was reduced to ashes after a major fire broke out in the Gir east forest division of the Gir Wildlife Sanct

Posted online: Wednesday, April 23, 2008 at 03:53:14
Updated: Wednesday, April 23, 2008 at 03:53:14

Junagadh, April 22 Dry grass spread over 125 hectares of land was reduced to ashes after a major fire broke out in the Gir east forest division of the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary on Monday. Forest officials suspect it to be the handiwork of someone.
Sources in the Forest department said that so far no wildlife casualty or injury has been reported.

According to Deputy Conservator of Forest (Gir east) J S Solanki, the fire broke out in an area falling between Bhutada and Nani Jenagar forests under the Hadala forest range. The fire was first noticed by the duty forest staff posted on a watchtower, who immediately informed the forest headquarters.

After hours of struggle, the fire was doused completely by late Monday evening. Solanki said, "An FIR has been registered and an inquiry has been ordered." Sources said this was the seventh such incident of the year in the Gir east forest division, and that this was the second incident wherein forest officials have lodged an FIR for intentionally causing a fire.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Treating nature with reverence

Huned Contractor
OneWorld South Asia
17 April 2008

Pune, Maharashtra: As winner of innumerable national and international awards for his acclaimed films on wildlife, you would expect Mike Pandey to hold forth on filmmaking, the dilemmas it imposes and the success it brings.

Mike Pandey / Photo credit: The Telegraph

Instead, the first thing he touches upon, after receiving the Vasundhara Mitra Award in Pune in March 2008, is the failure of government in doing anything concrete about saving the flora and fauna of the land.

"There is nothing such as a strong political will in India that will help save the environment. It’s not enough to announce policies, which remain on paper. The reality has to be studied in detail and measures have to be practical enough for quick implementation," he states.

Early forays

Mike was born in Kenya, and the Nairobi National Park, which was situated at the back of the Pandey household, is probably what proved to be a rich source of inspiration for him in terms of choosing his career.

Mike’s tinkering with the camera started when he was barely seven when an uncle presented him a Kodak Browning Box camera on his birthday.

On his father's insistence, Mike joined the British Aircraft Corporation, and also took classes in filmmaking, but before he could graduate as an aeronautic engineer, Mike turned into a full-time filmmaker.

He trained at the London Film School and Regent Street Polytechnic in the UK, and worked at Universal and MGM studios in the US during his student days alongside legends like Charlton Heston and Clint Eastwood.

He also worked on the special effects for films like Romeo And Juliet, Planet 0f The Apes, Dirty Harry, Lions Of Gir, and a few more.

Coming back

After returning to India he did a brief foray in the Indian film industry in Bombay doing special effects for movies such as Betaab, Razia Sultan and others before he decided to switch to documentaries.

In 1994, he became the first Asian to win the Wildscreen Panda Award, also known as the Green Oscar, for his film The Last Migration – Wild Elephant Capture In Sarguja.

In 2000, his film Shores Of Silence - Whale Sharks In India, won the Green Oscar for the second time. The film also led to the ban on the killing of whale sharks on Indian shores.

Pandey is also the first filmmaker to be awarded the prestigious United Nations International Award for Outstanding Achievement in Global Conservation.

Switching lanes to talk about how he slots himself as a wildlife filmmaker in society, Pandey states: "I see myself as a person who has to share information so that it can lead to positive changes. Documentary films are the backbone of a country."

Taking the point further, Pandey feels that documentaries must also be made in a story-telling format so as to appeal to a wider audience and make them more effective.

Sensitising people

"We need to sensitise the urban audiences into caring for our natural resources, which includes wildlife. Also, a larger number of corporate groups should step in as part of their social responsibility to fund documentaries so that the truth is known to all," he says.

The onus of preserving wildlife, Pandey opines, is also upon people who live in rural areas. "They are the ones who have to be aware of the need to preserve wildlife because if they don’t do it, nobody else will. Also, we must all learn to treat nature with reverence," he adds.

As an example of how the eco-system needs to be balanced at all times, Pandey draws attention to the rampant killing of leopards in Himachal Pradesh where due to fewer leopards feeding on monkeys, the crops are being destroyed by the latter.

Even though he continues to face bureaucratic hassles and the shortage of sponsorship to make his films, Pandey hasn’t lost his optimism.

"We have organisations like People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and celebrities like John Abraham and others who are more than willing to spare time and effort to bring about a change in society.

However, the media needs to do its bit too. Television coverage, especially, takes a single view stand in cases where wild animals foray into the urban milieu and cause destruction. A question such as why did an animal stray into the city is one that needs to be posed here to provide a proper perspective," he points out.

And as a parting shot, Pandey laments the fact that even after so many years of independence, we have still not devised an effective way of protecting the tiger. "The issue is well known, there has been more than enough coverage by the media and there are experts who are willing to provide a solution. And yet, we are losing the tiger. That’s sad, really sad," he states.


MP's tribal group involved in poaching: CID

Press Trust of India
Sunday, April 20, 2008 (Ahmedabad)
The tribal community of Baheliyas is ''actively involved'' in poaching of Asiatic lions in Gir sanctuary, the Gujarat Crime Investigation Department (CID) has said.

''Under the garb of selling traditional medicines and toys, this tribal community members indulge in poaching of wild animals,'' a letter written by CID (Crime) Officer Keshav Kumar to Junagadh Range Inspector General (IG) Mohan Jha said.

There are about 15,000 Baheliyas, basically from Katni in Madhya Pradesh, who are actively involved in poaching all over the country.

''They camp themselves on the outskirts of the town and put up a tent at the roads and sell medicine and toys. They travel mostly in trains and buses,'' the letter said.

''The men go out in the forest during night for hunting animals and women sell them. They travel mostly by trains and state transport buses to avoid checking by police,'' the letter said.

Though the State CID has arrested many tribe members, including the kingpin Sharkashlal, they have not recovered any body parts of the poached lions.

There has been no incident of poaching since April 2007 in Gir, but the CID letter said the 'poaching community' returns when the heat of the police and forest patrolling decreases.

Around eight lions were poached in different areas in and around Gir Wildlife Sanctuary in March and April 2007 for their claws, bones and body parts.


Girl attacked by leopard, man by lion in last one week

Posted online: Tuesday , April 22, 2008 at 03:08:51

Junagadh, April 21 Arvind Abhangi was working in a mango orchard when a group of lions attacked him from behind a tree. Even as one of the lions sunk its teeth into his thighs, he managed to extract himself from the beast’s clutches, and climb onto a tree
Man-animal conflict is again on the rise in areas around the Gir forest. On an average, two to three such incidents are reported from Junagadh district every week.

On Monday, a seven-year-old girl was injured in a leopard attack, while in a separate incident, a man was attacked by a group of lions, leaving him badly injured.

According to forest officials, the first incident occurred on the outskirts of Kuba ravni village, where a leopard attacked one Bhavisha Mansukh when was was playing in the fields. However, she was rescued by her parents and admitted to the Junagadh civil hospital.

In a separate incident, a group of three lions attacked a man when he was working in an orchard on Saturday afternoon. The incident occurred on the outskirts of Ramapara village located on the border of Gir forest. The man was rushed to the Talala town public health centre and later shifted to the Junagadh civil hospital, where he is stated out of danger.

According to reports, Arvind Abhangi (35) was working in a mango orchard when a group of lions attacked him from behind a tree. Even as one of the lions sunk its teeth into his thighs, he managed to extract himself from the beast's clutches, and climb onto a tree. And as he was trying to climb on to the highest branches, another lion caught hold of his foot. He somehow managed to extract his foot and climb to safety. He came down once the three beasts went away and rushed to the public health centre.

Meanwhile on Monday, the carcass of a 9-feet-long crocodile was recovered from a dam on the outskirts of Paswala village in Junagadh taluka falling under Girnar north forest range. It is suspected that some one had killed the reptile.

Acting on tip-off, Deputy Conservator of Forest (Girnar range) rushed to the Paswala Dam along with his staff members and after a two-day exercise fished out the carcass of the crocodile from the dam.

"It appears that the crocodile succumbed to some illness. The carcass has been shifted to the Sakkarbagh Zoo in Junagadh for a postmortem. However, the exact cause of his death can only be ascertained after receiving the post-mortem report," said Range Forest Officer Vijay Yoganandi.

However, he also did not rule out foul play and maintained that patrolling has been intensified in the area surrounding the dam."


Watch lions feast in Gir, for a price

22 Apr 2008, 0340 hrs IST,Himanshu Kaushik,TNN

SASAN: The setting sun has painted the sky a bright red. But, for a group of wide-eyed tourists, it's a different red that's attracting their attention. A bloodied buffalo is being torn apart by two lions while two cubs join in.

This is right in the middle of the lion country, just 25 km from Sasan, the core of Gir lion sanctuary that is the last refuge of the endangered Asiatic lions. At Babra Virdi, around 8 pm, the feast was on. So was the show as tourists, including some foreigners, watched in wonder.

The show is managed by locals by luring the lions with a live bait and costs anywhere between Rs 2,500 and Rs 10,000 for a group of five close to the core area. This is not an isolated incident. Lion shows are a rage in Gir, with several touts organising these shows in and around the forest. They are usually drivers of tourist vehicles who are hand-in-glove with forest department staff. These touts even have business cards and offer you a package which includes a meal while the lion is having a banquet.

Since the lion has strayed far beyond the protected sanctuary and national park, shows are organised even in villages on the outskirts of the sanctuary. "These shows violate security for the lions and will only help guide poachers at a time when poaching turning out to be a big menace," says Revtubhai Jadeja, former member of Wildlife Board. "We are looking for people who organise such shows," says conservator of forest (Junagadh range) Bharat Pathak.

What's on show?

Venue: Sasan, core area of Gir

Tourists who do not sight lions during a tour of Gir are the targets of well organised groups. They promise sure shot viewing at close quarters. They help you take your car up to a pride of lions. While the car is stopped barely 10 feet from the lions, visitors are told not to take pictures as it would annoy the lion.

Venue: Dhari, near the core area

A buffalo or cow is let loose on the top of a hillock, with a long rope tied around its neck. The other end is tied to a tractor, which waits at a distance down the hillock. Around 7 pm, when lions approach the bait, the tractor pulls the bait down the hill with the lion in pursuit. The rope is cut off, leaving it to the mercy of the lion. The lion feeds on the cattle as the tourists watch.