Thursday, July 3, 2008

Conservation panel to help vulture population growth

Express News Service
Posted online: Monday , June 30, 2008 at 12:03:16

Vadodara, June 29 Vulture’s population has fallen from 2,646 last year to less than 1,500 this year
The state Forest Department has formed a Vulture Conservation Committee in a few cities across Gujarat in a bid to create a Diclofenac-free environment for the safety of the apex scavengers.

The committee comprises NGOs, officials from the Veterinary Department, Food and Drug Control and Panjrapols (shelter for animals) trustees.

Pradeep Khanna, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF), Wildlife, Gujarat, said, “A meeting was held with NGOs and the Drug Control Department in the state a few days ago to orient them about using alternatives to Diclofenac.”

As per the latest survey by the Forest Department, vulture population in the state has fallen from 2,646 last year to less than 1,500 this year. According to the Forest Department, the continued use of the banned veterinary drug, Diclofenac has had a big role in depleting the population of the birds. “The Forest Department is trying to replace Diclofenac with Meloxicam and has formed a committee to implement this action plans to combat the vulture decline in the state,” said Khanna.

“In a span of around six months, we have already sold 21,000 Meloxicam at a subsidised rate in Panjrapols. However, Meloxicam is still available at very few centres in the state,” Khanna added.

Snehal Patel from the Surat Nature’s Club said their organisation, along with other trustees in the state, were invited for an interaction with the Forest Department to help combat the decline in the vulture population. Meanwhile, the captive breeding centre for vultures will be completed in five months at the Sakkarbaug Zoo in Junagadh. The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has recently released a grant of Rs 40 lakh for the purpose.


India welcomes first-ever Tanzanian tourism delegates

Jun 26, 08 | 9:50 am

By Anil Mathur | MUMBAI, India (eTN) - Tanzania, the East African country of 36 million people, bordering the Indian Ocean, Kenya, Uganda, Congo and Zambia, is the latest nation to seek a part of the growing Indian outbound traffic.

As part of this effort, a high-level trade and government delegation was on a tour of Delhi and Mumbai, the first time ever, to see how the figures can rise from the present 15,000 to at least 45,000 or so in the next two years. The country of 1.2 billion sends about nine million outbound tourists ever year, and Tanzania wants a slice of this.

The team was led by the Tourism and Natural Resources Minister Shamsa Selengia Mwangunga and included leading agents like Mustaqali Y Abdallah, managing director, of Bobby Tours and Safaris who is himself of Indian origin (hailing from Gujarat).

Abdallah said he handles some 2000 tourists a year and hopes to increase the present figure of about 200 more from India. He has kept up his Indian links and connections, coming to the country often, and speaking the Gujarati language at home.

Tanzania, known for Mount Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar, attracts about 750,000 tourists from all over the world and the target is to reach a million arrivals in two years. The country is served by 11 international airlines, but Minister Mwangunga admitted that there was need for direct links and that efforts were being exerted for this purpose.

US, Canada and Europe are the major markets but Japan, China and Korea are growing, said Tanzania National Parks director general Gerald Bigurule, director general.

A Memorandum of Understanding between India and Tanzania is being drafted in an effort for the two countries to strenghten ties through tourism development.

The Tanzania National Parks director general said they were very serious to have a sustained presence in India and the trip was “will be only the start, and not the end.”

Joint promotions and packages with economic grouping in Africa are also being done to promote Tanzania, which is being marketed as a wildlife, beach, culture destination.


Over 40 sites in Gujarat to be developed as eco-tourism destinations

Posted online: Thursday , June 26, 2008 at 02:44:38

Gandhinagar, June 25 The sites showcase wildlife and bird sanctuaries, pristine forests of eastern hilly terrain among others
In an effort to boost eco-tourism and promote nature-based non-consumptive tourism activities in Gujarat, the government has identified as many as 42 sites across the state to be developed as eco-tourism destinations.

The sites include wildlife and bird sanctuaries, pristine forests of the eastern hilly terrain, diverse landscapes and ecological niches among others. The state Tourism Department has entrusted the task to the Forest Department.

Tourism Minister Jay Narayan Vyas said that besides providing a unique experience to foreign as well as domestic tourists, the move will also improve the economic well-being of the local community by involving them in the project.

“The current pace of urbanisation should be an eye opener for all of us. This alarming trend has been gradually alienating the youth from nature and environment,” he added.

The Tourism Department also plans to form eco-tourism committees comprising members of the local community. The committees will manage services related to catering, accommodation and local transport for tourists. They will also be trained as tourist guides and will be involved in the upkeep of the camp sites and interpretation centres.

Vyas told Newsline on Tuesday that the government is committed to implement its new eco-tourism policy. Of the total 42 sites, work at over 30 places has already been completed by the Forest Department, he said.

Chief Conservator of Forests, Rajeeva said: “The department has already spent over Rs 19 crore on developing these sites.

Budget provisions for an additional Rs 1 crore has been made in the current year for such facilities at another 10 eco-tourism sites, including the famous Sasan-Gir lion sanctuary, Velavadar blackbuck sanctuary in Bhavnagar and Kadiya Dungar in Narmada.”

Rajeeva added that various facilities like accommodation and lodging for prospective tourists, camping sites, adventure activities, interpretation centres, and cafeteria among others are also being created at these sites.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

No sanctuary status for Girnar, say priests

Posted online: Thursday , June 26, 2008 at 02:41:05

Junagadh, June 25 The sadhus and the temple heads of the Girnar region have opposed all moves to declare the 200 sq kms Girnar forest near Junagadh into a sanctuary. The Girnar area accommodates dozens of religious places and the sadhus have expressed fear that the presence of a sanctuary will jeopardise the pilgrimage.
The increasing lion population in Gir had forced the state government and the Forest Department to expand the present area covered, under the sanctuary status. The Forest Department’s proposal to convert the Girnar forest into a sanctuary was also sanctioned by the state government, and according to forest sources, a notification in this regard was to be issued shortly.

The sadhus have now written a letter to the Chief Minister and highlighted the problems and threats posed as a result of this move. “A sanctuary status to the area means that religious activities carried out here throughout the year will be automatically stopped. Lakhs of people pay their visit here particularly during the two big melas, namely Shivratri and Parikrama, which will also be stopped,” the letter said

The letter signed by Mahant Gopalanand, Mahant Tansukhgiri, Mahant VasantGiri said that in the event the forest is turned into a sanctuary, devotees and pilgrims will have to seek legal permission to enter the area. Besides, night halt will also be prohibited in the area, which will mean that the centuries-old tradition will come to an end.

“Lakhs of peoples stay for four days and nights in the forest during the Parikrama mela. But no such things will be allowed once it becomes a sanctuary. The melas will not take place here,” they said in their letter. The letter further said that that the state government's move will also reduce the religious tradition and ‘ashmita’ to zero. As such, the government should seriously consider these issues before taking any decision, they said.

All India Sadhu Samaj (Gujarat chapter) president and head of the Girnar Sadhu Mandal- Mahant Gopalanand, said: “The state government’s decision is not fair. The future of the all-important religious places particularly Bordevi temple, Bhavnath, Sarkadiya Hanuman temple, Indreshwar Mahadev temple is at stake. The government should first clarify our doubts. Using our right to information-we have sought details from the Forest Department as to how many temples and religious places will be affected by this move.”

A forest officer said: “Girnar is a reserved forest and state government has issued a notification whereby any person who has objection to the plan can put forward their view.”


Monsoon showers lash Junagadh

Posted online: Wednesday, July 02, 2008 at 11:31:01

Junagadh, July 01 Torrential rains lashed Junagadh district on Tuesday with all the 14 talukas receiving moderate to heavy rainfall. This has come as a breather for the farmers in the district.
As per the figures received from the Junagadh district flood control room, the port city of Veraval has received the highest amount of rainfall at 225 mm (9 inches). It has been followed by the other port city of Mangarol with 200 mm (8 inches), Kodinar 149 mm (6 inches), Sutrapada 125 mm (5 inches), Talala and Malia each 67 mm, Visavadar 45 mm, Manawadar 27 mm, Junagadh 24 mm, Una 15 mm and Mendarada 6 mm.

Heavy rainfall has also been reported in the Gir forest region in the last 24 hours, with the area receiving around 150-300 mm rainfall on Monday night. Official sources said that Hadamatia, Madhupur and Talala areas in the Gir region received 300mm, 225mm and 125 mm rainfall respectively. There has been no damage to wildlife though, according to the reports.

The district administration has been put on alert, as heavy rains have been forecast within the next 24 hours. Fishermen have been warned against venturing into the open sea.


Three nabbed for illegally felling, trading in sandalwood

Posted online: Friday , June 27, 2008 at 10:48:49

Junagadh, June 26 Poaching apart, the world famous Gir forest is also facing the threat of illegal wood smuggling The Junagadh Forest Department has recently arrested three persons for illegally felling and marketing sandalwood from the forest. The three have been booked under the Indian Forest Act 1927 and the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

The three accused have been identified as Yar Mohamed Makarani, Pragji Dhanani and Ramesh Prajapati. Makarani is a resident of Sasan Gir village and a professional woodcutter, Pragji, a resident of Boradi village on the periphery of Gir worked as the middle man, while Ramesh, a resident of Vadatal village in Anand district used to sell wooden items in Vadatal village. Vadatal is one of the seats of the Swaminarayan sect and is a famous pilgrimage site in central Gujarat.

Assistant Conservator of Forest (Gir West) R D Katara said Makarani was arrested last week after he was caught hacking down sandalwood trees in the Sasaladhar forest range under the Gir west forest division. Investigations revealed that Makarani supplied the sandalwood to Pragji, who in turn sold the same to Prajapati.

During a raid at Prajapati's village, the foresters recovered 15 kg of sandalwood.

Later, on Wednesday Prajapati was produced before the JMFC court — Talala, which issued an order allowing the forest department to keep him in four-days remand.

Katara said the scandal might be widespread across the state and more arrests have not been ruled out.

Felling of sandalwood trees in the sanctuary area and its trade is a serious offence liable to punishment up to seven years of imprisonment.


Gir sanctuary bags national award

26 Jun 2008, 0411 hrs IST,TNN

GANDHINAGAR : The Gir national park and sanctuary has won a national award for the best wildlife and eco-tourism site of 2008.

The state tourism minister Jay Narayan Vyas will be accepting the award in Mumbai next month.

The award follows a survey of frequent upwardly mobile travellers from 12 important cities in the country which was undertaken by a business television channel. The survey was supported and recognised by the central tourism department's Incredible India campaign.

According to tourism minister Vyas, while there has been growing global recognition of tourism activities in the state, this award will give a boost to the efforts of the Gujarat's tourism industry.


Second home for Asiatic lions in Madhya Pradesh

Even as Sariska welcomes tigers from Ranthambore, Kuno Palpur sanctuary in MP is gearing up to provide a second home to Asiatic lions from Hyderabad's zoo. Gujarat had refused to part with any of its lions from Gir National Park..

CJ: roopmati ,

THE FUTURE of Asiatic lions may finally be secure thanks to the efforts of Madhya Pradesh government and Hyderabad zoo authorities. Even as Sariska welcomes its new arrivals of tigers from Ranthambore, the sanctuary at Kuno Palpur in Shivpuri district of Madhya Pradesh is gearing up to provide a second home to Asiatic lions from Hyderabad’s zoo. Talks are also being held with Delhi zoo to get some more lions for the new lion sanctuary. This, in the face of Gujarat’s refusal to part with any of its lions from the Gir National Park. Gir is the only place in the world to have Asiatic lions in the wild.

“The sanctuary at Kuno Palpur would have a sizable number of big cats in the next 10-15 years,” hopes PB Gangopadhyay, principal chief conservator of forests, Madhya Pradesh. “A special team of veterinary experts would be appointed to take care of the new inmates,” he added. According to sources on the forest department, Kuno Palpur, with its vast grasslands and sprinkling of trees and low shrubs, provides the perfect habitat for lions, which move in prides of up to 14 animals and prefer grasslands with shrubs. They point out abundant water supply, better grass cover to support the prey base and a minimal effect upon human settlements were the some of the reasons for choosing Kuno Palpur over other sanctuaries.

The need to find a second home for Asiatic lions was being felt for quite some time. The 359 strong lion population of Gir requires an area of 2,500 square kilometres against the present area of 1,800 square kilometres. Shrinking habitat increases the possibility of inbreeding among the lions. Inbreeding leads to infertility and a decrease in genetic variation that in turn results in greater chances of catching infection. A widespread infection could quite easily wipe out the entire population of lions in Gir.

Infection is not a remote possibility. With declining vulture population and consequent increase in the number of dogs, canine distemper is not unlikely. 1,000 out of some 3,000 lions were killed by canine distemper in the Serengeti Plains of Tanzania in 1993-94. Serengeti’s lion population was distributed over about 20,000 square kilometers. The chances of canine distemper spreading to the whole population in Gir remain alarmingly high.

There are other reasons. Increase in human population has been putting consistent pressure on the animals in recent years. Traditionally, the Maldharis share the forest with the lions. There are villages too, within the forest. Today the human population inside the forest stands at 7,500 with 14,000 cattle. This leads to direct friction between the animals and man. Incidents of attacks and deaths by the predators have seen noticeable rise in recent times. As though it was not enough, a temple inside the park means every year over 80,000 pilgrims blunder into the park much to the dismay of conservationists and the animals.

Three highways run through the park and a railway line that has a traffic of at least six trains every day. Although the roads are closed at night, there is increasing pressure on the forest department to open them up. It may not be long before the roar of trucks shatter the peace of the only home of the Asiatic lions in the world.

Quite naturally the need for a second home was felt and the help of the home state of Asiatic lions sought. But, Gujarat flatly refuses to cooperate. The refusal comes not just from the government but, from conservationists too. The reasons appear untenable. Gujarat officials say Madhya Pradesh government failed to take the Gujarat state government and the villagers in and around Gir into confidence when it came up with the proposal a few decades ago. Besides, poachers in Madhya Pradesh were a threat to Gir lions if they are shifted there.

Over the last two years 80 lions have died in Gir. Of them, 52 died from natural causes, one because of an accident, six due to electrocution, 13 fell in a well and nine lions died because of poaching in the protected area of Gir and surrounding habitats of Gujarat. Interestingly, in February this year, Gujarat’s minister of state for environment and forests, S Regupathy told the Rajya Sabha, investigation shows that a farmer laid live wire fencing his agricultural land to prevent crop damage from wild herbivores.

Clearly this does not paint the picture of a safe haven for what is until now the only home for the Asiatic lions.

Meanwhile, a Delhi based Non Government Organisation has filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in favour of transferring some of Gir’s lions to Kuno Palpur. The matter has reached the Supreme Court. But even as the two states fight the legal battle it is heartening to note that the future of Asiatic lions have not been left to chance. They will have found a second home in Madhya Pradesh and may have to travel a bit further to reach Kuno from Hyderabad.


Gujarat to promote tourism through prohibition mantra

2008-06-25 20:26:30

Gujarat Global News Network, Ahmedabad

Tourism Minister Jay Narayan Vyas today made it clear that there would be no relaxation in the policy of Prohibition in the name of tourism promotion. On the contrary, he said, prohibition was the USP of Gujarat and soon he would come out with a campaign highlighting prohibition and vegetarianism as the major attractions of the state.

In informal interaction with media, Vyas countered the idea of relaxation in prohibition with the argument that people come for sightseeing and not boozing. Tourists get liquor in their state and country and they come to Gujarat to see places with attractions ranging from Asiatic lions to Rann of Kutch.

He said that advocates of relaxation in the policy seem to overlook the fact that more and more people were becoming teetotaler and adopting vegetarianism world over. These two are the part of Gujarat’s social fabric and the State is to sell them as its USP.

To a question about relaxation in prohibition in the SEZ zones, he said that it was a different product to be sold to different clientele. The question of prohibition policy came up when Vyas was unfolding before journalists an ambitious plan to develop and promote Saputara in South Gujarat.

Saputara which represents the highest mountain range in Gujarat borders Maharashtra. Vyas said that those who loved booz could go to the neighbouring Maharashtra, just five six kms away from Saputara.

Every year lakhs of people pass through Saputara to visit Shirdi and Nasik in Maharashtra. But most of these visitors do not stay at Saputara. Vyas said that this is mainly because of poor basic facilities and lack of places to enjoy.

Now, Vyas said, a lake is being developed in Saputara. To tackle the problem of electricity, a 66KV line is being laid. Water resources are also being developed. Saputara already has accommodation of 1500 rooms and more accommodation is being created.

In next couple of months, the Tourism Department is going to launch a massive campaign to market Saputara, he said. A photographic competition, Different moods of Saputara , will be held soon where artists of repute will show their photographs and best entries will be given award.

He said that not many have idea of clouds hovering in the houses for almost two months or so every year in Saputara. In Mt Abu this is just for a week in a year, he said. The beauty of Saputara in monsoon, potential of adventure sports and the position of a hill station is the mix that will make Saputara an all weather tourist destination of Gujarat.


Madhya Pradesh sanctuary to get Asiatic lions from Hyderabad

Bombay News.Net
Wednesday 25th June, 2008 (IANS)

A sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh that has been identified as an alternative habitat for the endangered Asiatic lion is to soon to get the first of the big cats from a Hyderabad zoo after Gujarat refused to part with the animals.

'We have already got the nod from Hyderabad from where we would soon be getting zoo-bred lions,' Madhya Pradesh Chief Conservator of Forests P.B. Gangopadhyay told IANS.

Talks are also in progress with the Delhi Zoo authorities for relocating four lions from there to the Kuno-Palpur sanctuary in Sehore district.

'The sanctuary would have a sizable number of big cats in the next 10-15 years. A special team of veterinary experts would be appointed to take care of the new inmates,' he added.

The Dehra Dun-based Wildlife Research Institute has for long felt that the 1,400-sq km Gir forest in Gujarat, with its population of over 325 big cats, was too small for housing such a large number of animals.

It also felt that concentrating the entire lion population in one place exposed it to the danger of being wiped out by disease or a natural calamity.

The institute then zeroed in on the 344-sq km Kuno-Palpur sanctuary and launched the Asiatic Lions Reproduction Project, a Rs.640-million ($15-million) centrally funded scheme, spread over a period of 20 years, to shift the lions.

It envisaged tranquilising the animals and transporting them by air from Gir to Kuno-Palpur, where they were to be housed in a pre-release centre near Palpur for acclimatization.

Gujarat, however, flatly refused to part with its prized lions, saying that any new site should be a natural and not an artificially created one.

Gujarat's forest officials also did not rule out a tiger-lion conflict in Kuno-Palpur since the two can never co-exist in the same place.

Gangopadhyay ruled out any such threat, saying: 'The new habitat at Kuno-Palpur was chosen as the most apt second home for the Asiatic lion after scientific deliberation based on several parameters.'

The sanctuary is home to Bengal tigers, leopards, wolves and other species of wild animals.

Forest department sources said Kuno-Palpur, with its windswept grasslands punctuated with trees and low shrubs, was the perfect habitat for the lions which, unlike tigers, move around in prides - each comprising up to 14 animals - and prefer grasslands with low shrubs.

They pointed out that the abundant water supply, better grass cover to support the prey base and a minimal effect upon human settlements were the other factors that favoured Kuno-Palpur over other sanctuaries.

A Delhi-based NGO - Bio-diversity Conservation Trust - also filed a public suit in the Supreme Court urging it to direct the Gujarat government to cooperate with Madhya Pradesh in transferring the lions to Kuno-Palpur.