Thursday, September 17, 2009

Gujarat retains its ‘pride’, foils MP move to acquire big cats.

Express News Service
Posted: Sep 17, 2009 at 0303 hrs IST

Gandhinagar Gujarat has once again foiled a move by Madhya Pradesh to get a few Asiatic lions shifted from Sasan Gir to Kuno Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary in the neighbouring state. Besides, it has also succeeded in eliciting an assurance from the Centre that no Gir lions should be transferred to Madhya Pradesh until wildlife experts give their opinion on this contentious issue.

The issue of proposed translocation of Gir lions, which came up for discussion at the National Board for Wildlife meeting in New Delhi on Wednesday, triggered heated exchanges between the representatives of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. The Gujarat side was represented by Principal Secretary (Forest) S K Nanda and Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) Pradeep Khanna, while Madhya Pradesh was represented by Additional Chief Secretary ( Forest ) and PCCF (Wildlife).

“When the Madhya Pradesh officials pressed for the shifting of Gir lions to Kuno Palpur, we vehemently opposed it and told Union Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh, who chaired the meeting, that Gujarat was not prepared to transfer the big cats to MP,” Khanna told Newsline over the phone from New Delhi this evening.

Khanna and Nanda told the meeting that Asiatic lions could not be translocated to Kuno Palpur sanctuary, as there is a lack of social support to lions from the local community. Besides, the climatic conditions there are not congenial for the lions. They added that the presence of tigers there would cause frequent clashes between the two apex predators over territories.

They also impressed upon the Board members that Gujarat has initiated concerted measures to conserve and protect Asiatic lions in the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, and the State Forest Department has even expanded the home territory of the big cats and improved their habitat. Besides, the local community in and around the Gir sanctuary has lent social support to the lions.

Countering this, the MP representatives contended that their government has already taken up a Centre-aided Rs 24 crore “Asiatic Lion Introduction Project” to accommodate some Gir lions in the 344 sq km Kuno Palpur sanctuary, adding that 24 villages on the periphery have been relocated under the project.

The heated exchanges between the two sides forced Jairam Ramesh to intervene. Quoting Ramesh, Khanna said, “The Union Minister endorsed Gujarat’s views on the issue, and stressed the need for a detailed technical examination of the matter. He assured us that the Centre will seek the opinions of experts, which along with the views expressed by both Gujarat and MP, will be incorporated in a report to be submitted to the Supreme Court”.

The Union Minister also assured Gujarat that if necessary another round of meeting will be held to discuss the issue of shifting Gir lions to Kuno Palpur.

Incidentally, Madhya Pradesh’s move to introduce zoo-bred lions in Kuno Palpur sanctuary came in for criticism from wildlife experts at the meeting.

The MP Forest Department had recently mooted plans to obtain some pairs of lions from zoos in Hyderabad and Delhi for breeding in the sanctuary.

Gir lions can breathe easy for now.

TNN 17 September 2009, 01:44am IST

AHMEDABAD: The standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife which met in New Delhi on Wednesday has asked experts to review and give
their opinions on the scientific and social aspects of translocation of Asiatic Lions from Gir to Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh (MP).

Union minister of environment and forest and chairman of the standing committee Jairam Ramesh accepted Gujarat government's point of view and asked the panel if there were any other options available.

Principal chief conservator of forest, Gujarat, Pradeep Khanna and principal secretary SK Nanda raised the point that earlier attempts to translocate lions to Chandraprabha in Uttar Pradesh had failed. Also, it was pointed out that conservation efforts of Gujarat were much better than any other state which had led to the increase in lion population.

The duo also said that lions need peaceful co-existence with the people in their surroundings. "People of Gujarat take pride in living in harmony with lions which would not be the case in MP," they added.

Official sources said that it was also proposed that MP can get lions from the various zoos in the country and they can then release the second generation of the big cats in the wild. Officials said during the meeting, the experts also raised doubts over conservation aspect of zoo-bred lions.

Nanda said the minister has asked experts to give their opinions and papers on doubts raised over translocation by the Gujarat government. The Union ministry would then, based on these, file their reply in the Supreme Court to a petition by Biodiversity Conservation Trust of India, a Delhi-based NGO seeking transfer of lions from Gujarat to MP.

He said that it was a victory for the state as Gujarat's viewpoint was accepted in principle by the minister. Meanwhile, the mail and fax campaigns against shifting of lions continued through Wednesday. Officials said that over 1,500 mails and 500 faxes were sent to Ramesh and the Wildlife Trust of India.

‘Pride’ at stake, Gir villagers with Gujarat on lions’ rehab

FRONT PAGE | Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rathin Das | Ahmedabad

Villagers, cattle-keepers and animal lovers in and around Gir National Park and Sanctuary have protested the Centre's bid to move its famous Asiatic lion to Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh even as Gujarat's top bureaucrats are in Delhi to oppose the proposal.

The State Forest Secretary, SK Nanda, and Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Pradeep Khanna have gone to Delhi for a crucial meeting of the National Board of Wildlife which would decide on the contentious issue.

While the officials are expected to reiterate the Gujarat Government's stand that the Gir lions would not be shifted out to MP, people in and around the National Park and Sanctuary, too, are up in arms against the proposal.

The 1,412 square km Gir National Park and Sanctuary is the last and only natural habitat of the Asiatic lion the current population of which is estimated at around 360.

Fearing an epidemic might wipe out the entire species, a Delhi-based NGO had filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking shifting of some lions to Kuno Palpur forest area in Madhya Pradesh. The apex court has referred the matter to the National Board for Wildlife which has called for its Standing Committee meeting in Delhi on Wednesday.

People in the Gir forest area, who have lived in close proximity of the Asiatic lions for centuries, are agitated about the idea. For the last few days, barely literate people have been sending letters and e-mails to the Prime Minister and Environment Minister to register their protests against the move.

"We will not allow our lions to be taken to MP as they are our pride and honour," Gir Maldhari Sewa Samaj president Karsan Rabari told The Pioneer over phone from Sasan Gir, the last human habitation in the Gir forest area. Maldharis are traditional cattle-keepers who were evacuated from the Gir National Park when it was declared a protected area for wildlife three decades ago. Now, about 350 of these Maldhari families, along with their 3,000 buffaloes, are living in about 54 ness (hamlets) in the periphery of the National Park.

Karsan has sent e-mails to Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh saying that local people never posed dangers to the lions while the poachers (of 2007) came from Madhya Pradesh.

"Even a cub can be taken only over our dead body," said Allarakha Siddique, an activist and teacher with the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan. Allarakha added that even the shifting process of lions can be dangerous for the big cats as they run for about three kilometres after being shot with the tranquiliser gun before falling unconscious.

Last time this was tried many years back, five lions died after falling into water bodies before losing consciousness. One lioness never regained consciousness and died due to the tranquiliser shot, Siddique said.

Other organisations which joined the protest include Maldhari Hak Rakshak Samiti, Maldhari Yuvak Sangharsh Samiti and Saurashtra Paryavaran Sangrakshan Samiti. The State's officials would argue at the Delhi meeting that the tigers and lions cannot live together and the tigers at Kuno Palpur forest were not properly protected leading to their vanishing act over the years. Moreover, Gujarat's forest officials plan to stress on the fact that the people of Kuno Palpur are not as favourably disposed to lions as the traditional inhabitants of Gir at the meet in Delhi, sources said.

'Relocate Maldharis outside the park'

TNN 16 September 2009, 04:25am IST

AHMEDABAD: The task force which reviewed the India Ecological Development Project (IEDP) in Gir has urged the Centre and state government to work
out a policy to relocate Maldharis outside the park with adequate budgetary allocations. This, according to the task force report submitted to the Gujarat government recently, would help forest authorities maintain Gir's ecological integrity and prevent habitat degradation. The report suggested that a biogas plant be set up in each village with sufficient cattle population to reduce use of firewood. It noted how cattle belonging to the Maldharis continue to graze freely within the protected area (PA) which degrades habitat, and poses an epidemic threat to the lions and other endangered species.

Poaching was never a threat in the Gir national park till 2007 when eight lions were killed in the sanctuary for their bones, skin, claws and pelts. This was the first poaching case in the final abode of the Asiatic lion. Earlier, there had only been attempts of commercial poaching in the early 1990's, said the report. It pointed out that some of the local communities, whose population is very low, did indulge in poaching of wild animals for domestic consumption. Faster relay of information of offence, rapid movement within the PA and proper protection has led to almost complete eradication of poaching cases now, the report added.

The report stated that grazing of cattle in villages situated on the border of the protected Gir sanctuary still remains a major problem. About 50,000 cattle of about 100 villages on the border, exert grazing pressure on the PA, which has reduced by 10 per cent since the IEDP took over.

Collection of wood for fuel from forest is also a crucial issue. As per officials, there are about 20,000 households dependent on the Gir PA. Out of these 20,000 households, about 50 per cent get their energy requirement from forests in the PA fringe areas or from the adjoining non-PA forest areas. It is estimated that one family consumes about 10 kg of forest fuel wood per day. During the project implementation, more than 9,000 families have been given LPG connections. Although not all families use LPG alone, there has been a substantial reduction in the extraction of firewood, the report said.

The use of LPG is on the rise with its growing popularity and women getting accustomed to using it. People are also using agricultural wastes or crop residue for burning, said the report and added that the extraction of firewood may have reduced up to 70 per cent as compared to the situation before the implementation of the IEDP.

'No taking Gujarat's pride out of Gir'

TNN 16 September 2009, 04:28am IST

GANDHINAGAR: Even as the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife prepares to discuss the issue of translocation of Asiatic lions
from Gir forest to Kuno in Madhya Pradesh (MP), on Wednesday, non-governmental organisations and wildlife activists from Gujarat have launched a campaign to prevent it.

Since Monday, nature lovers sent over 1,000 emails justifying why Asiatic lions should not be translocated to MP. Letters have even been sent to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging him to intervene and stop translocation of lions. The last census showed the lion population in Gir at 360.

Revtubha Rayjada of the Sky Forest Youth Club-Keshod said local communities have made sacrifices by demonstrating their commitment to lion conservation besides technical issues that go against its shifting to MP.

Rayjada said the lions have dispersed up to Mahuva, Talaja and Bhavnagar. He added local people in Kuno are known for poaching and that is how the local tiger population is on the verge of extinction in MP. Earlier, attempts to relocate the lion to Uttar Pradesh and Sheopuri MP had failed due to lack of local support.

Ahmedabad-based wildlife activist Manisha Rajput, who has also initiated a fax and email campaign, backed Rayjada's stance and said that "looking at MP's track record, the entire project of lion shifting should be scrapped as there is no local support for the tiger. How can one expect support for lion conservation?" She also pointed out how the tribes involved in lion poaching in Gir in 2007 were from MP.

Bhushan Pandya, a wildlife photographer, has also sent emails and joined in the drive. He said, "Translocation should not be based merely on scientific aspect. Social and historical facts are equally or even more important for this particular species." He added that lions are known to visit and even live close to human habitations. In Gujarat, people have played a very crucial part in lion conservation and protection of other flora and fauna around them.

Kodinar-based Prakruti Pariyavaran Trust has also handed over a memorandum to Junagadh collector against the move.


State govt to oppose proposal to shift lions from Gir at Delhi meet

Express News Service
Posted: Sep 16, 2009 at 0122 hrs IST
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Gandhinagar The Gujarat government will oppose the long-pending proposal of shifting a few Asiatic lions from Sasan Gir to Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh, when this contentious issue comes up for discussion at a crucial meeting of the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife in Delhi on Wednesday.

Gujarat Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) Pradeep Khanna told Newsline in the evening: “Gujarat’s stand on the issue of trans-locating Gir lions has been consistent. We will resist any move to shift the big cats from Gir to Kuno Palpur, when it is taken up for discussion at the Board meeting tomorrow.”

Khanna and Principal Secretary (Forest) S K Nanda will attend the Board meeting to be chaired by Union Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh. He said the Kuno wildlife sanctuary project mooted by Madhya Pradesh lacked scientific backing and security. Besides, there are only 300 of the total 1,000 tigers surviving in MP. “If the neighbouring state cannot protect its tigers, how can it protect lions?” he asked.

The PCCF also contended that tigers and lions cannot survive together in Kuno Palpur.

In response to a petition filed in the Supreme Court by a Delhi-based NGO for the transfer of Gir lions to MP, the apex court had referred the matter to the National Board for Wildlife and asked it to submit a report in the matter. After hearing the representatives from both Gujarat and MP at the Wednesday meeting, the Board will submit its report on the issue to the SC, sources said.

At the meeting, Gujarat will also seek the Board’s permission for implementation on the Girnar Ropeway project in Junagadh. Gujarat proposes to acquire about eight hectares of forest land, where there are about 12,000 trees, for construction of pillars for the ropeway project. “Though there are about 12,000 trees standing on the forest land, the axe will fall only on 200 to 300 trees,” said a senior Forest official.

The Board will also hear Gujarat’s plea for laying a high tension electric line, and also the ONGC and IOC oil pipelines across the Wild Ass Sanctuary in Kutch. “We hope the Board will give its nod to both the proposals,” Khanna said.

African Cheetah likely to be translocated

Bhopal, Sep 12,PTI :

With Iran refusing to give cheetah to India for translocation, Union Minister of State for Environment and Forest Jairam Ramesh said today that efforts would be made to get this animal either from Kenya, South Africa or Namibia.

"Iran has refused to give cheetah that has become extinct in India ," Ramesh told reporters here."Efforts will be made to secure cheetah either from Kenya, South Africa or Namibia," he added.

The Minister said that experts sounded pessimistic over the plans to reintroduce cheetah in India at the consultative meeting on reintroduction of cheetah recently held at Bikaner in Rajasthan.

About reports suggesting that cheetah to be brought from a foreign country might be translocated in the wild of Madhya Pradesh, Ramesh said that such a suggestion was made at the meeting.

About the translocation of lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh, he said that he had already talked to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi twice on the issue.He had not agreed to give the Asiatic Lion of Gir Reserve to Madhya Pradesh, Ramesh said adding that now it is the turn of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to talk to his Gujarat counterpart on this issue.

The Madhya Pradesh forest has readied Kuno-Palpur sanctuary in Sheopur district for the translocation of lions at a cost of Rs 25 crore spread over an area of 330 sq kms, sources said.