Thursday, June 18, 2009

Indian Wildlife - Some news from Of Cats.

To India now. Some good news for Asiatic Lions in India as their population goes up in the Gir forest, their sole sanctuary. The rise is attributed towards a significant number of healthy cubs that are being reported in Gir this year. More good news from Gir is that the government there has doubled the grant money for covering up of the wells across the forest. Numbering in thousands across the reserve these abandoned wells have been responsible for the death and injury of dozens of lions who have succumbed by falling into them. Fortunately they are being covered at an increasing rate now, thanks to money raised by conservationists and provided by the government, and hopefully will be fully covered by the end of this year. More on the two positive developments here and here.

There's some negative news coming from Gir too. Barda wildlife sanctuary in the proximity is being threatened by mining. A number of mining projects have been set up in the reserve's periphery, perhaps not in full accordance with laws. The news has emerged only recently, not long after government announced an initiative to shift some of the lions from Gir to there. Disconcerting news therefore for the lions and wildlife of Barda, that will certainly be affected adversely if the mining ventures continue in the sanctuary. More here.

Bengal Tiger
To tigers now. And there is a mix of good and bad news here. First the good news. The Indian government has taken some major initiatives recently for protecting its Bengal Tigers. The first involves drastically altering the travel itineraries of tourists across its forests. The authorities are attributing the decline of the striped cats partly to the visitors' interference in tiger's breeding grounds. As a result the movement of tourists across the core areas of tiger reserves is now being restricted. However, it remains to be seen if the move will play a decisive role in saving the tiger in the long run, for there are some counterarguments against it too. To read them and more about this move go here and here.

Another significant move for tiger conservation in India is the announcement by officials there to relocate away from the forests nearly one hundred thousand families who are residing in and around tiger reserves in India. A landmark move, this will entail nearly a decade of work and one hundred billion Indian Rupees, or roughly two billion US Dollars. Let us hope that this bears fruition for the tigers and wildlife in due time across India. The full report here.

In some forests across India though, government is currently employing the tribal population to help protect the wildlife. One example is that of Mudumalai Tiger Reserve near Udhagamandalam, one of the best preserved sanctuaries in the region. Here the wildlife department is employing the locals to patrol the forest and help the authorities protect the fauna and flora. A unique and somewhat refreshing approach towards conservation that may be sustainable in the form of development of ecotourism and employment of the natives. More on this here.

In more good news, the relocated tigers in Sariska have mated, leading to the possibility to a litter by the coming rainy season. Just a few years ago Sariska tiger reserve was wiped clean of all its tigers by poachers. Over the course of past few months a male and two female tigers were relocated there to repopulate the forest. And now it appears that a new generation indigenous to Sariska may soon reappear. More here.

Some bad news now. A decline in tiger number has been reported from forests in the Indian states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. In Bihar tiger numbers fell from fifty six to just thirteen over the past seven years, a significant decline attributed largely to poaching. And in Madhya Pradesh five tigers have been lost in the past year or so. In Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in the state of Maharashtra, twenty tigers have been lost in the past five months alone. An alarming rate of decline. It appears that despite the best efforts and apparent good intentions of authorities, the great Bengal Tiger continues to disappear from forests. More on these sad news here, here and here.

Another threat to tigers in India - a national highway that is being constructed through the world's largest tiger habitat in Satpura, central India. The road will have quite an adverse impact on the wildlife and ecosystem of the reserve. The conservationists have already lodged their protests against this to the central government. More on this here. And to read an article on tiger conservation and how you can help, go here.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

No tigers in MP’s Panna means Gir keeps lions’ share, says Gujarat

Neha Sinha Posted: Monday , Jun 15, 2009 at 0126 hrs IST

New Delhi:

Desperate to hold on to its monopoly as the last wild habitat of the Asiatic Lion, Gujarat has come up with new reasons to stall sharing its ‘pride’ with Madhya Pradesh.

The central Indian state, says Gujarat, has not done a very good job of conserving its tigers, citing the example of Panna Tiger Reserve, where the big cats have been completely wiped out — as was confirmed by MP Forest Minister Rajendra Shukla just this week.

In its response to a Supreme Court case that seeks to create a second habitat for Gujarat’s Gir Sanctuary lions, the state has also argued that tigers and lions cannot coexist.

Gujarat’s response was to a case filed by the Biodiversity Conservation Trust, which had pleaded that it is essential to translocate some of the Asiatic lions in case an epidemic or some other calamity invades the specie’s single habitat in Gir.


Cong demands probe in to vanishing tigers.

13 Jun 2009, 2315 hrs IST, PTI

BHOPAL: The decline in number of tigers in Panna Tiger Reserve today took a political hue, with Madhya Pradesh Congress demanding an all-party
MLAs committee to probe into the reason behind the disappearance of the big cats from the reserve.

"An all-party MLAs panel should be formed to look into the disappearance of tiger population from the Panna Reserve," Madhya Pradesh Congress General Secretary Captain Jaipal Singh said in a statement.

Congress' statement comes a day after reports quoting Madhya Pradesh Minister of State for Forests Rajendra Shukla, claimed that there was no tiger in the Panna Reserve.

Earlier, Singh said that the state government had maintained that there was a tiger in Panna and the forest officials, some months ago, trans-located two felines from Bandhavgarh and Kanha tiger reserves in Panna for reviving stripped animal's population.

But, a team of National Tiger Conservation Authority, which visited Panna last month found that there was no tiger for the two trans-located felines to revive the animal's population, the General Secretary said.

Singh said that the committee should be helped by the wildlife experts enabling it to conduct a detailed probe and thereafter the forest officials responsible for the lapses should be dealt with strictly.


Gir to go on a four-month monsoon vacation.

DNA Correspondent
Saturday, June 13, 2009 13:01 IST

Ahmedabad: If you have been planning to pay the lions in Gir a visit but have not been able to do so, then this weekend is perhaps your last opportunity for another four months to come. The lions' keepers will close the sanctuary's doors to tourists for the four months of monsoon starting June 16, coming Tuesday.

The period is also believed to be the lions' mating period, during which they do not like to be disturbed. Moreover, even the roads in the wildlife sanctuary are rendered unusable because of the rainfall as most of the trails inside the forest are non-concrete.

"Every year the forest is closed for tourists for these four months in the year. This is to ensure that the lions are not disturbed during mating. The sanctuary will reopen on October 16," principal chief conservator of forest, wildlife Pradip Khanna said.

The lion census is due next year in 2010 and preparations for the same are already underway. There were 358 lions in the forest as per the last census conducted in 2005. Residents of region and environmentalists believe there has been a healthy rise in lion population over the past few years, pegging the figure at around 500.

According to recent reports, lions have been found prowling in coastal villages of Veraval and Bhavnagar - as far as 300 km from the Gir protected forest. This, naturalists claim is because the entire Saurashtra region used to be the habitated by Asiatic lions about a century ago and now they are reclaiming their old corridor.

This has the forest department on their toes with numerous incidents of man-animal conflict. An elaborate plan to expand to include the surrounding areas of Gir forest as reserved protected forest area has been initiated under the banner 'Greater Gir project'. With the Damocles Sword of the case of Madhya Pradesh demanding to relocated a pair of lions to their Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary also has the foresters under pressure to expand the lions' habitat.


It's official: Panna reserve has no tiger.

14 Jun 2009, 0408 hrs IST, Suchandana Gupta, TNN

BHOPAL: It's now official: Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh has no tiger. A national park that once boasted of having over 40 tigers six
years ago, has repeated the Sariska story. State's minister for forests Rajendra Shukla confirmed on Friday what was being suspected: that the last resident tiger of the reserve sighted early this year is untraceable.

There are only two borrowed tigresses, translocated from nearby Kanha and Badhavgarh, left in the park. These were meant to accompany the last of the tiger at Panna.

A special investigation team, headed by former chief of Project Tiger P K Sen, was sent to Panna by National Tiger Conservation Authority last month. The team conducted an inquiry and interviews — all on camera — to now claim that Panna has lost all of its own tigers. The team members visited Panna again on June 10 and rechecked park's logs and documents and went back to New Delhi on Friday. The team's final report on the disappeared tigers is expected to be submitted to the Centre by the end of this month.

As the central team of wildlife investigators left, forest minister Rajendra Shukla admitted that the tiger count in Panna was zero. The state government, he said, has formed a committee to fix responsibility for the disappearance of tigers from Panna.

The latest investigation is in sharp contrast with a report published in the June 2008 edition of an environment magazine, where state principal chief conservator of forests H S Pabla had claimed that Panna was flourishing with tigers. However, in December last year, a survey conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) found only one surviving tiger in the national park.


More wells around Gir covered after government hikes subsidy.

Vikram Rautela Posted: Tuesday , Jun 16, 2009 at 0247 hrs IST


Following the state government’s decision to double the subsidy for covering open wells located on the periphery of the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, the number of wells that now stand covered has also increased in the last two months. The government used to give a grant of Rs 4,000 on each well and had increased it to Rs 8,000 in 2008.

The Forest Department had initiated the move after it was found that these uncovered wells had proved fatal for the Asiatic Lion in at least 27 cases. A total of 57 lions had fallen victim to these wells between 2001 and 2009, according to state government figures.

Since the ambitious project to barricade open wells around the sanctuary took off in September 2007, in just two months during this financial year, parapet walls have been constructed around 1,302 open wells in the immediate periphery of the sanctuary. This comes to about 650 wells a month against an average rate of less than 325-odd wells per month.