Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Gandhinagar to get three machines for replantation of trees.

Rs 75-lakh machine can replant 100 trees in a day

By Dilip Patel
Posted On Monday, March 29, 2010 at 02:45:37 AM

In a bid to save full-grown trees falling prey to road projects, the Forest Department has come up with an idea of re-plantation of trees to boost the depleting green cover in Gandhinagar. To this effect, the department will soon get three giant machines from the US at a cost of Rs 2.25 crore.

“Around 76,000 trees have become victims of several road-widening projects in last four years in Gandhinagar alone. Two years back, more than 2,500 trees were felled to develop a 5-km stretch on ‘Ch’ Road which passes though Vidhan Sabha and secretariat. The department then thought of adopting the re-plantation technique,” a source in the Forest Department said.

“Massive development work is in full swing at Gandhinagar. This has taken toll on several full-grown trees. The technique of replantation will save trees without disturbing projects. It is an attempt to save green cover of the city,” said Forest Minister Mangubhai Patel.

Former District Forest Officer of Gandhinagar S D Vasava had experimented with this technique. He attempted to replant trees and got success in 40 per cent cases. His experiment revealed that not all trees can be replanted. Based on Vasava’s findings, Forest department initiated the process and identified trees which can be replanted with 100 per cent success.

Forest Secretary S K Nanda said: “The machine can plant 100 trees in a day, however, priority will be given to those trees which can grow and can survive four to five years. Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation will sponsor the

How will the machine work
The area around the tree will be dug to expose the roots. The tree is then uprooted and lifted with the help of the machine and planted in another location. The machine will be used in Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad.

Kesar mango from Gir all set to rub shoulders with Darjeeling tea.

Hiral Dave
Posted: Monday , Mar 22, 2010 at 0152 hrs Rajkot:

Is the only agri product from Gujarat to get registered with Geographical Indication Registry

Alike Darjeeling tea or Solapar chaddar, kesar mango from Gir will soon have its own identity. The luscious fruit is all set for registration with the Geographical Indication Registry (GIR) of India, which conveys assurance of quality and distinctiveness — essentially attributed to the place of its origin in a defined geographical locality.

Kesar mango will be the first agricultural produce from Gujarat and the second mango variety in India (Dussheri from Uttar Pradesh being the first), to get this registration.

Post-registration, villagers in a total of eight talukas across Junagadh and Amreli districts in the periphery of the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to reap the benefits of added value attached to their produce. Talala, Keshod, Vanthali, Una, Kodinar and Mangrol talukas are the main centres for Kesar in Junagadh district, while for Amreli, the centres are Dhari and Khambha.

Gujarat's Girnar ropeway project to start next year.

Saturday, March 20, 2010 9:54 IST

Gandhinagar: Finally after a delay of almost two decades, the Girnar mountain may get its ropeway. Tourism minister Jaynarayan Vyas informed the state assembly about the status of Girnar mountain ropeway project.

Responding to a question of Visavadar MLA Kanu Bhalala in question hour, Vyas said that through a notification dated May 31, 2008, the government has reserved land for the ropeway project in Gir forest land. The state government has also submitted the proposal to the central government's National Wildlife Board and the Board too has decided to take up the issue after site visit. "We had several meetings with the central forest & environment minister for the project also. We are hopeful of getting clearance soon and the project is likely to start by 2011.''

The ropeway project will be undertaken by Ushabrecko Company at the cost of Rs89.31 crore. GPCC president Sidharath Patel said: "I and leader of opposition have also met the central forest and environment minister and requested them to clear the project at the earliest.''

Last of the world's Asiatic lions clawing their way back.

Hannah Gardner, Foreign Correspondent
* Last Updated: March 30. 2010 10:28PM UAE / March 30. 2010 6:28PM GMT

Asiatic lions lounge in the shade of a tree near the village of Sasan on the edge of Gir National Park, their only remaining natural habitat. Raveendran / AFP

GIR, INDIA // One morning, just over three months ago, Abu Bloch was cycling to work when he came across a sight that made his heart sink.

Vehicles from the local forest department were haphazardly parked on the high stone bridge spanning a ravine ahead of him and a dozen officials were peering over the edge. As he moved closer, the cause of the commotion became clear: on the river bank, 30 metres below, lay the body of a fully grown male Asiatic lion – its limbs contorted and its head bloodied.

“I looked, but I didn’t want to see,” Mr Bloch said. “I love lions. I can’t look at a dead one.”

Like many of the residents of Gir Forest in the north-western state of Gujarat, Mr Bloch understands just how precious the life of every Asiatic lion is.

Genetically different from their African cousins, these majestic beasts once inhabited a belt of territory from the Balkans in the west to India in the east.

Today, only an estimated 360 Asiatic lions survive in the wild and they all live in Gir – a 1,600-square-kilometre patch of undulating scrub in south Gujarat.

Since the local nawab, or prince, banned lion-hunting in 1901, the animals have clawed back from the brink of extinction and their population is now growing by eight per cent every five years.

However, the subspecies remains highly vulnerable – not least, conservationists say, because it is concentrated in one area and could be wiped out by a contagious disease.

To protect against this, the Indian government wants to relocate a small number of lions to a park 600km away in the neighbouring state of Madhya Pradesh.

But Gujarat’s chief minister, the controversial and nationalistic Narendra Modi, has repeatedly refused to part with any lions, saying they are, in every sense, “Gujarat’s pride”. Even offers of tigers or cheetahs in exchange for lions have failed to entice Mr Modi.

Now, after more than 15 years of negotiations, proponents of the plan are hoping that the Asiatic lion’s future will finally be secured when the Supreme Court rules on the issue next month.

“Fundamentally, it is a matter of not having all your eggs in one basket,” Ravi Chellam, the director of India’s Wildlife Conservation Society, said in an interview. “The translocation plan is simply an insurance policy for the long-term survival of the Asiatic lion.”

Having been celebrated in European and Asian art and literature as symbols of bravery and nobility for millennia, by the turn of the last century the Asiatic lions had almost been hunted into extinction.

Gir was one of the few places the lions still roamed free and if it had not been for a strange twist of fate they would have been eradicated there, too.

In 1900, the nawab of Junagadh invited the viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, to Gir to shoot lions. On arriving in Gujarat, however, the viceroy learnt that there were as few as 20 lions left and urged the Nawab to protect them.

“The present generation owes it to its successors to restore the only species of a large mammal lost in the plains of India in historical times,” Lord Curzon wrote to the Burma Game Preservation Association at the time.

“Failure to do so would not be forgiven by the judgement of history.”

Thus, in one of the first acts of its kind in India, the nawab banned the lions’ slaughter.

After the turmoil of independence and partition, India’s new government also enacted laws to protect the lions, banning lion hunting in 1955, and declaring Gir a sanctuary in 1965.

By the early nineties however, conservationists were voicing concerns that Gir was overcrowded and a second home was needed to ensure the lions’ survival.

An outbreak of canine distemper in Tanzania’s Serengeti Park in 1994 killed more than 1,000 common African lions, adding weight to their argument, and in 1995 the federal government approved a plan to relocate a handful of lions to Kuno in Madhya Pradesh.

The government spent millions of rupees resettling the new park’s human population and boosting the number of prey.

But it never secured Gujarat’s agreement to part with the lions, and in 2001 – the year the lions were supposed to be transferred – Mr Modi became Gujarat’s chief minister.

The deadlock between Gujarat and the central government deepened when in 2004 Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party was defeated by the Congress Party in a general election. Subsequent attempts to persuade Gujarat to supply lions to Kuno failed and in 2008, a group of conservationists took the state to court.

“We are arguing that no state can claim a monopoly on its wildlife, especially if that wildlife is endangered,” Ritwick Dutta, the lawyer representing the Biodiversity Conservation Trust of India, said.

“Any experiment has an element of risk in it, but it is a necessary risk if you consider that the reward is the long-term survival of the species.”

The conservation trust and other proponents of the move say a second home is also necessary to help ease overcrowding at Gir.

Although the lion population has more than doubled since 1965, Gir’s area has only been expanded by 16 per cent.

As a result, the lions are moving out of the park in search of new homes. One pride was found living in the scrubby grassland of Gujarat’s south coast 40km away from Gir, while another has moved into the hills around Junagadh town.

Inevitably, this brings the lions into greater contact with humans – often with fatal results. Last month, Gujarat’s forestry department released figures that showed 72 lions died in 2008 and 2009, including five from non-natural causes.

The one Mr Bloch saw died when it jumped from a bridge after it was startled by the headlights of a car. Four other lions died from falling down wells.

Last week, villagers near Junagadh hacked a lion to death with an axe after it mauled one of their neighbours.

Although Gujarati officials concede that all such deaths are tragic, they say the lions are still safer in Gir than anywhere else.

They are confident that a census, due next month, will reveal that the lion population has risen since the last time it was counted in 2005. They say they are working to make the environment around Gir safe by covering thousands of wells and building a bypass to move traffic further from the park.

But Gujarat’s strongest argument is the Indian government’s poor record protecting the tiger, the country’s national animal since it replaced the lion in 1973.

Numbers have dropped to 1,411 today from 3,500 in the mid-nineties, largely because of poaching to meet demand for tiger parts from China.

The one case of poaching in recent years in Gir was carried out by trained tiger trappers from Madhya Pradesh, the state where the new park is located. They killed seven lions and discarded their pelts so they could pass off the body parts as those of tigers.

Thirty-eight people were arrested and Gujarati officials say there has not been another case of poaching in Gir since.

“The local communities in Madhya Pradesh have done little to conserve the tiger and now you want to sacrifice the lion there, too? For what?” Pradeep Khanna, the principal chief conservator of forests, asked.

By comparison, the majority of people around Gir are protective of the lions, which draw more than 100,000 tourists each year

“Because of the lions we have jobs; we can afford to send our children to good schools,” said Nitin Ratangayra, a local restaurant manager in Gir. “When a lion dies we are very sad.”

Like him, most of the local community opposes the relocation plan, concerned that tourists would be diverted to Madhya Pradesh if it had both lions and tigers.

Despite this, Mr Khanna said his department will comply if the Supreme Court gives a clear ruling to hand over the lions.

Wildlife activists are concerned that Gujarat will still find ways to hold on to the lions.

“In theory the Supreme Court ruling should make all the difference, but the court has made thousands of rulings which are not complied with,” said Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India. “They will find loopholes or appeal. This is an emotional issue for them now.”

Saturday, March 27, 2010

1,500 trees face the chop in Gir forest.

Jumana Shah / DNA
Wednesday, September 23, 2009 8:26 IST

Ahmedabad: The state government which has been fighting tooth and nail for the exclusive custody of the Asiatic lions in the Gir forest, has ordered cutting of over 1,500 trees to make room for residential plots. The land which has to be cleared of the trees is a territory of a pride of 6-7 lions.

The land, which spans over seven-acres, is surrounded by the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary on three sides, in the Rupayatan forest area of Bhavnath taleti in Junagadh. About 450 reserve and 1,100 non-reserve trees are likely to be chopped down next week to make space for the construction of new houses.

These houses are to be built there for families who will be displaced during the clearing of the area around the Bhavnath temple. The land was lying unused for nearly 40 years and was acquired very recently from the Rupayatan Trust.

The proposal has aroused the ire of environment activists, botanists and residents of the region who believe the project would lead to 'deforestation' and do immense harm to the lions' habitat. Moreover, cutting down trees, some of which are over 40 years old, would lead to irreparable loss for the flora and fauna of the area.

Retired agriculture scientist Professor Rasik Bhatt of Junagadh University says people were alarmed when the project was announced last month. "Because of the dense forest, lions rest there during summer," he said. "There is another, smaller plot that we asked the Collector to consider for construction of the houses. That would have ensured that the lions will not be disturbed and deforestation would not take place."

Junagadh collector Ashwini Kumar conceded that some trees will be cut but refused to specify how many. He also conceded that the area is 'frequented' by lions. He, however, insisted that the plot is ideal for rehabilitating the displaced families and that wildlife conservation cannot be done at the cost of human life.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Another lion found dead in Gir sanctuary.

TNN, Mar 24, 2010, 04.04am IST

RAJKOT: A day after a lion was axed to death, a decomposed carcass of an Asiatic lion was found in Junagadh on Tuesday. The postmortem report, however, stated the big cat died of old age a fortnight ago.

The body was found along Machundri river at Jokhiya, near Gir West, Babariya range, infamous for poaching of six lions by a Madhya Pradesh gang in 2007. Basbariya range deputy conservator of forests Sandeep Kumar said the carcass is of a 14-year-old lion which died of old age 15 days ago.

"All 17 claws and nails were found intact on the body, except one which might have fallen off due to old age," Kumar said. Animal lovers, however, expressed surprise over the fact that the body was not spotted by forest guards in the area, supposed to be under strict vigil since 2007.

"It is surprising that the beat guards, who visit the area regularly for taking baths, could not spot the body. We are looking into the matter as this area is covered by the foot patrol staff, who file an 'all well' report on a daily basis," Kumar said.

India's Environmental Detectives.

By Monika Kerdeman on March 22, 2010

Lawyers in India advocate for environmental rights, one case at a time.

After six hours in a small basement office here in Delhi, India, I am overwhelmed by the activities of the day. From one minute to the next, it has been unpredictable and unplanned, but surprisingly productive. There is no such thing as a scheduled meeting, and adaptability is key. I’m visiting the office of the Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE), an Indian advocacy and law group that helps people who have been affected by environmentally harmful development projects. The people at LIFE are more than just lawyers to their clients. They serve as the voices of local people in an often voiceless world.

LIFE’s four full time lawyers (Ritwick Dutta, Rahul Chaudhary, Promod Kumar, and Soumyarup Sahu) try over 70 cases a year with the Indian Supreme Court, the National Environmental Appellant Authority (NEAA) and the Central Empowerment Committee (CEC). Their goal is to keep the government accountable for its environmental decisions, and make sure that existing laws are enforced. This work, and the work of so many Access Initiative partners like them, is a fundamental building block of sustainable development.
LIFE Attorneys Rahul Chaudhary, Promod Kumar, and Ritwick Dutta

LIFE attorneys serve as watchdogs when business and the government fail to follow the best practices mandated by law, such as holding public hearings, consultations and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs). They perform quite a bit of detective work, piecing together evidence to ensure laws are being followed. They also help teach civil servants how to implement the laws, and help organizations and people connect with one another on cases taking place all over the country.

In one of their cases, runoff from a cement company had created brackish water in neighboring communities. In another, thermal power plants built without environmental testing had hurt local mango farmers. They take on these cases and others like them for only a nominal fee, if they charge at all.

In one such case I attended with Ritwick Dutta, he was appealing to the courts to enforce a law meant to protect Asiatic lions in the Girnar Sanctuary. Dutta’s client, the Gir Nature Youth Club, had used India’s Right to Information Act to obtain information about the building of an Ashram on land designated for wildlife. Through the petitions process, the club discovered that the Ashram had in fact been encroaching on protected forest lands for years, even after the courts had ordered them to stop.

The impact of the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Ashram had taken a huge toll on the land, the wildlife in the area and the local community. Even though the courts had previously decided in favor of the Youth Club to preserve the land, local ministers had overruled them and allowed for the encroachment, undermining the purpose and intent of the protected area.
Ritwick Dutta with clients outside the courthouse

Our session in court that day, like so many others, ended without a final decision. When Ritwick and I returned to the LIFE office, I asked what motivates him to take on cases that can often drag on for years. “It’s interesting and challenging work,” he said. “I want future generations to be able to appreciate how beautiful India truly is. The environment has an inherent right to exist in the form in which it has been created. Since we are not the creator we should not be the destroyer.”

In my job with The Access Initiative (TAI), I have had the pleasure of working with some of the most amazing people around the world. Being based in DC, though, I rarely get to see them in action. Generally, I read their stories on our blog or in reports.

Sitting in LIFE’s office in Delhi, I see the ultimate value of how access laws (access to information, access to justice and public participation) are the keys to empowering people to truly have a more sustainable future.

By putting the pieces of the law puzzle together one case at a time, the lawyers at LIFE help to ensure that the courts take the environment and community rights seriously. Even though they might not win all of their cases, they have at least brought the injustices to the attention of a larger Indian population. They have also given the local people a voice to ensure better standards for the future of their country’s environmental and sustainable development. It’s a process, and a story, that continues to inspire me.

LIFE is one of hundreds of groups in the Access Initiative that are fighting for better governance and environmental protection around the world. For more information about their work and the Access Initiative network, visit

Gir Sanctuary to take up lion census in April.


COUNT ME IN: A young lion yawns in the Gir Lion  Sanctuary. The Forest Department is gearing up to conduct a survey in  the sanctuary in April. File photo
The Hindu COUNT ME IN: A young lion yawns in the Gir Lion Sanctuary. The Forest Department is gearing up to conduct a survey in the sanctuary in April. File photo

The Gujarat State Forest Department is getting ready to conduct a lion census from April 24 in the famous Gir Sanctuary in Junagadh district.

Nearly 1,500 officials would be deployed in the census, conducted every five years for a head count of Asiatic lions at Gir, sources from the Department said.

The officials have been given special training for the job, sources said, adding the Department will have photographed every lion to make sure they have a perfect head count.

A primary head count will be conducted on the first two days and a final count over the next two days. GIS (geographical information system) will be used this time in the census.

National Park District Forest Officer (DFO) Sandip Kumar said nearly 1,500 officials will be on the job, including 900 assistants, 100 sub-zonal officials, 28 zonal officials and several region officers and observers. The final report would be submitted to the chief minister who will then disclose the exact number of lions in the Gir sanctuary, sources said.

In the last census, 359 lions were reported. Many lions fell prey to poachers or fell to their death into open wells in subsequent years. However, the Department expects a rise in numbers this time around.


Foresters say lion was killed in self-defence.

An asiatic lion found dead near the Gir Range periphery was possibly killed in self-defence, forest officers have said.

Assistant Conservator of Forest P S Babariya said: “The lion’s body was found near the periphery of the Girnar Range, on the outskirts of Chorwadi, Nawagam and Mandalpur villages. The lion was aged around 3-4 years and was hit on the head with an axe.”

Girnar Range — some 70 km from the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary — is home to some 30 lions as per the last census of 2005. Gujarat has a population of 350 lions including those living in the Girnar Range and the sanctuary. People living in the periphery of the sanctuary are also known for their commitment to lion preservation.

Forest officers said the lion had reportedly wounded seven people (including a forest guard) from Chorwadi, Nawagam and Mandalpar villages, who have been admitted to the Junagadh Civil Hospital.


Gir villagers kill lion in self-defence.

Express news service Posted: Tuesday , Mar 23, 2010 at 0204 hrs Rajkot:

An Asiatic lion was killed on Monday by villagers in Junagadh district who claimed that it had attacked and injured seven people.

The forest department has registered a case under the Wildlife Act against three unidentified persons from Chorwadi village. The village falls under the Girnar range in outer Gir Wildlife Sanctuary area, the last home of the Asiatic lions. All the seven injured have been admitted at the Junagadh Civil Hospital. The forest department is in the process of identifying the people who killed the lion.

“The lion’s body was found from the Girnar range, on the fringes of which three villages — Chorwadi, Nawagam and Mandalpur — are located. The lion was hit by an axe on the head. It was a male lion, aged around three-four years,” said Assistant Conservator of Forest P S Babariya.


Villagers killed a lion that attacked 3 persons.

By our correspondent
Junagadh, DeshGujarat, 22 March, 2010

In a shocking incident, a group of villagers on Monday killed a lion in Gujarat’s Junagadh district.

A pair of lions(age 3-4 years) had attacked three villagers earlier.

The incident, the first of its kind happened today morning at around 11.00 am near Chorwadi Patiya in Bilakha belt of Junagadh district.

A pair of two lions first attacked three persons including deputy Sarpanch and forest guard.

When people gathered here to rescue them, both the lions fled to nearby farms.

The forest officials later spotted a body of lion killed in a farm nearby. The lion was killed using axe(Kulhadi) by villagers.

The investigation is on to arrest those responsible for killing the lion.

Three persons attacked by a pair of lions are admitted in hospital.

Meanwhile three wood-cutters involved in killing of lion were arrested from Mandanpar village under wild life act. They said they killed the lion in their self defence when they were with their axe to cut tree. The accused were also injured by lion as they too were attacked according to them.


Lion axed after it mauls five

2010-03-22 18:30:00

A farmer axed a three-year-old lion to death Monday after it mauled five people and also tried to attack him in Gujarat's Junagadh district that houses the Sasan Gir Lion Sanctuary, forest officials said Monday.

The lion was brought down in 'self-defence' by a farmer in the wider periphery of Mandanpara village after it attacked him, they said, adding the wildcat injured five others, including a forest official.

The injured, one of whom is reported to have lost a leg, have been admitted to a government hospital.

The Gujarat government had recently admitted in the state assembly that 72 lions had perished in the last two years of which 71 cases were of 'natural deaths'.

The announcement comes at a time when the area is preparing for a three-day lion census slated to take place in the last week of April. A three-day mock drill for the actual counting exercise began Sunday.

Former chief conservation of forest G.A. Patel was hopeful that the total number should be touching 400. The lion count in 2005 was 359.

Increased human activity within the wider area of the lion reserve is leading to increase in incidents of animal-human conflicts, he said.

In another incident Saturday, a female leopard was trapped after she attacked three persons in a village near Veraval while the carcass of another was found in a decomposed state from near Dhari.

Forest sources attributed territorial infighting as the ostensible cause of death. All carnivore deaths have been reported from the larger area housing the Asiatic lions in their sole global abode of Sasan Gir in Saurashtra region of Gujarat.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Forest dept identifies 4 areas to develop lions’ gene pools.

The state Forest Department has identified four places in Gujarat to develop gene pools of Asiatic lions. Captive lions from Sakkar Baug Zoo in Junagadh will be kept at these places— Wankaner, Bardo Dungar, Sakkar Baug and Umath near Hingolgarh. In-charge conservator of forest Mayank Sharma said the lions who were captured because they were either orphaned or injured will be used in the project. “We have identified at least 21 of them. They may be sent to these four separate areas by the year-end,” he said.

These areas have been identified for a long-term conservation of lions. Officials have also planned to make drinking water available in the area and construct check dams. “Land identified in Wankaner will be used for the project to maintain gene diversity of lions,” said Pradeep Khanna, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF), Administration. Meanwhile, Gir forest officials said the project has nothing to do with the relocation of the big cat from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh. Gir is the last abode of Asiatic lions. According to the last census held in 2005, their number stood at 359. The Forest Department will conduct a fresh census in April.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lions flourish in Gujarat's Gir forest.

Jumana Shah / DNA
ednesday, March 17, 2010 1:41 IST

Ahmedabad: The tiger population is diminishing despite herculean conservation efforts, but Asiatic Lions seem to be enjoying a revival in Gujarat’s Gir forest.

Though the exact numbers will be known only when the lion census (scheduled to start next month) gets over, there is expected to be a 20% increase over the population recorded in the previous census. During the 2005 census, 359 lions were found in Gir.

After the projected increase of 20%, 425 are expected to be found. If the census reflects and proves this trend, lion conservation in Gujarat will become the biggest and most successful conservation success stories in the world.

The increase in the lion population has happened despite the paltry sums being allocated for lion conservation by the Centre. Chief conservator of forest MM Sharma, who’s currently in Junagadh wildlife circle, told DNA that the Centre gave around Rs70 lakh for lion conservation in 2009 even though it spent hundreds of crores on tigers. “Just one Mumbai-based trust has donated Rs81 lakh this year,” Sharma said.

The success, acknowledged and appreciated in the conservators’ community, has been attributed mainly to the local people — the residents of 1,500 villages in the districts of Junagadh and Bhavnagar.

“Gujarat deserves a pat on the back for the lovely upkeep of lions. However, it must be kept in mind that this story would have been completely different if the lions had been in any other state,” said
Yadvendra Jhala, faculty at the Wildlife Institute of India, who was part of the tiger census. “People here are mostly vegetarian, so the lions’ prey-base is not poached upon. The king of the jungle survives even out of the forest area.”

While the growth in numbers is being celebrated, there are three big challenges. Because of the increasing numbers and increasing human pressure in its periphery, the lion’s habitat is shrinking at its fastest rate. This will make it very difficult for the animals to move freely and multiply. Besides, the politicisation over the ‘ownership’ of lions has made the issue of shifting some lions to safer habitats very complicated. This means lions face the biggest threats from natural calamity or disease.

The conservation is successful because lions now roam over 8,000 sq km in Saurashtra. “There is no retaliatory killing even if lions kill livestock. Villagers are proud to have them here.”


Gir lions thrive but tigers get lion's share of Central funds.

Jumana Shah / DNA
Tuesday, March 16, 2010 10:07 IST

Ahmedabad: The population of tigers in India has continued to shrink despite infusion of huge funds into efforts for their conservation. No such funds have been available for lion conservation. Yet, the population of the Asiatic lions in the Gir forests — which, incidentally, is their last surviving abode — has continued to increase.

The lion census scheduled next month would be the latest exercise to arrive at an estimate of the lion population in the Gir region. Though the results of the census will be known only after a few months, it is estimated that lion population in the region has increased by nearly 20%. This would take the figure for the number of lions in Gir to approximately 425.

The last census in 2005 had estimated the population of lions to be around 359. If the next census indicates that lion numbers had increased by nearly 20%, lion conservation in Gujarat would become one of the biggest success stories of conservation.

Moreover, this rise in lion numbers would have come at a time when tiger population in neighbouring states (Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra) have plummeted despite the huge amounts spent on their conservation.

In Gujarat, on the other hand, lion numbers have increased despite the paltry sum allocated by the Union government for their conservation. Chief conservator of forests, MM Sharma, who is currently in-charge of Junagadh wildlife circle, told DNA that around Rs70 lakh was sanctioned by the Centre for lion conservation in 2009.

This is in sharp contrast to the crores spent on the tiger. “Just one Mumbai-based trust has donated over Rs81 lakh for tiger conservation this year,” Sharma said. Gujarat’s success story has been possible mainly because of the support of the local population.

“Gujarat deserves a pat on the back for the wonderful upkeep of lions,” says Yadvendra Jhala, faculty at the Wildlife Institute of India. “The story may have been completely different if the lions had been in any other state. The people here are extremely tolerant to such a huge carnivore in their midst.” Jhala was part of the tiger census team. “People here are mostly vegetarians,” he said. “So the lions’ prey-base has not been poached upon by the residents.”

Despite the remarkable success, lion conservation in Gujarat still faces some big challenges. The lions’ natural habitat — the Gir forests — is shrinking, mainly because of the growth in human population. In fact, it is shrinking faster than ever before.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

India needs more parks and corridors for long-term survival of its animals.

Washington, March 11(ANI): In a new study, an international team of scientists has determined that the long-term survival of many large species in the midst of rapid economic growth in India will require improving existing protected areas and establishing new protected areas and corridors.

The study, carried out by researchers at the wildlife conservation Society, Duke University, and other groups, found that country's protected area system and human cultural tolerance for some species are key to conserving the subcontinent's tigers, elephants, and other large mammals.

The researchers created models to estimate extinction probability for 25 large mammal species, determining current species distributions along with more than 30,000 historical records from natural history, taxidermy and museum records dating back 200 years.

The models were used to gauge how factors such as protected areas, forest cover, elevation, and human demographics, and cultural attitudes impact extinction predictions.

The results of the analysis found that all 25 species would experience some level of local extinction due to a variety of factors such as habitat loss and human population growth and development.

The study results confirmed that species do benefit from protected areas, especially large carnivores such as tigers and other forest-dwelling animals such as Sambar deer.

The species with the highest probable rates of extinction were large-bodied animals such as the wild buffalo (66 percent), habitat specialists such as the goat-like Nilgiri tahr (71 percent) and the swamp deer (90 percent), and rare species had higher probabilities of extinction such as the Asiatic lions of Gir Forest (96 percent).

Factors such as human densities did increase the probability of extinction for many species with the exception of adaptable animals such as wild pigs, jackals, and black-buck.

The researchers pointed out that many species, including ones that exist outside of protected areas and species that now occupy a tiny remnant of former ranges will require new protected areas to ensure their persistence.

"Our results highlight the need for an expansion of conservation planning to complement land use decisions and development," said Krithi K. Karanth of Duke and Columbia University.

"This study provides us with a road-map for next steps for conservation in India," said Colin Poole, executive director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Asia Program.

"As India develops into a world economic power, it is critical that conservation planning is part of that expansion," he added.

"Our work highlights the perilous state of wildlife in India and conservation priorities must help conserve the nation's natural heritage," said Karanth. (ANI)

72 Asiatic lions dead in last two years in India's Gir Forests.

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 08:36:00 GMT By : M G Srinath

New Delhi – The western Indian state of Gujarat, home of the majestic Asiatic lions, has admitted that 72 lions had died in the Gir sanctuary during the last two years mainly due to “natural causes”.

The state government told lawmakers in the state legislature in Gandhinagar on Wednesday, that there were only 291 lions left in the Gir sanctuary as on December 31, 2009. Among them were 100 lionesses and 123 cubs in a park spread over 1,400 sq km of forest area.

The government said 71 lions died due to natural causes while one was killed in poaching in the only abode of Asiatic lions, in the last two years.

Conservationists have long complained that Gir forests was overcrowded and some lions need to be shifted to a sanctuary in neighboring state of Madhya Pradesh.

But the Gujarat government has turned down the offer of the federal government to swap lions for tigers. The state's plea is that it was not going to share its biggest tourist attraction.

More than 13,500 open wells in Gir pose a threat to lions, many of which have been killed after falling into them, the Times of India newspaper reported..

Many lion deaths in Gir have occurred from fights between the animals. "There are several deaths because of territorial fights over lionesses," says conservationist Sanat Chavan.

However, some officials say though lions are dying in large numbers, the total population is higher than what the government gave the assembly. Principal chief conservator of forests Pradeep Khanna told the Times of India newspaper that the data was only about lions in the protected area.

According to the state government, there are currently 68 lions, 100 lionesses and 123 cubs in the entire Gir area spread over three districts of Junagadh, Amreli and Bhavnagar.

Giving details of the measures initiated by the authorities to protect the endangered wild animal, the Forest Department said security staff has been increased and they have been provided with latest communication equipment.

The department has stepped up patrolling in the dense forest and traffic within the protected areas has been regulated.

The Gujarat state rejected twice last month renewed offers of 'you give us your lions and we will give you tigers' swap offer.

The thumbs-down from the state government came after the Minister for Forests and Environment Jairam Ramesh had made the swap offer to transport tigers from the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh to the Gir National Park of Gujarat.

Gujarat had also had told the Indian Supreme Court last month that it will not part with its lions for their relocation.

"There is no way Gujarat can part with its lions. The state has shown a successful model of conservation of lions and therefore it does not want to part with it," the official said.

"We have developed expertise in not only conservation of the wild cats through community protection, but also in wildlife crime management, the unnamed official has been quoted as saying.

The Gir sanctuary in Gujarat is the last surviving bastion of the Asiatic lion — a source of pride for the state, but also a source of worry for many conservationists who feel that the lions' habitat must be expanded.

“If you look at the map of India, every major state has a tiger reserve except Gujarat,” . Ramesh said on Tuesday. “I have written to the Gujarat Chief Minister and suggested that the National Tiger Conservation Authority will work to reintroduce tigers in Gujarat. I hope that will create the incentive for him to part with his lions,” he added.

Despite his assertion that the lions of Gujarat “continue to be a big headache for us,”. Ramesh has praised the Gujarat model of wildlife management where there was community protection for wildlife”.

Meanwhile, the Gujarat government has said it is procuring high-tech gadgets like GPS, automated sensor grid and night vision devices to track lions and keep poachers at bay at the Gir National Park.

"We are in the process of introducing these high-tech gadgets in the Gir forest for lion conservation," Principal chief conservator of forest (Wildlife), Pradeep Khanna has been quoted as saying in media reports.

The state also plans to conduct census of Asiatic lions at the Gir Sanctuary in April this year.

"We will conduct the census at the Asiatic Lions Sanctuary at Gir in April," according to Khanna.

The lion census is conducted every five years and the previous one was conducted at Gir in 2005. In the last census, a total of 359 lions -- plus or minus 10 -- were reported.

"I don't know the exact number of lions which died after the last counting, but 30 to 35 deaths a year is absolutely natural," according to Khanna.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Gujarat govt sets up gene bank to conserve microbial resources.

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat government has established Gujarat Bio-diversity Gene Bank (GBGB) for conserving microbial resources which are significant to preserve diversified eco-systems.

GBGB, is a repository with close to 200 microbial genomes, related to forest, mining and sub-sea habitats, that are considered significant for conservation of various eco-systems which are under threat of genetic wipeout due to rapid development pressures on land and sea resources.

"Gujarat has widest area in terms of bio-diversity and its eco-systems are subject of study globally; so, there is an utmost need to preserve them," principal secretary, Department of Science and Technology (DoST) Ravi Saxena said.
"Under GBGB we have started Bank a Bug' project where the stakeholders can deposit their microbial resources at the facility, and can be stored safely," he added.

The bank operating under Gujarat State Bio-technology Mission (GSBTM), has received over 100 microbial genomes from stakeholders comprising academicians, researches and industry, of which 55 are significant to mining sector where they facilitate natural ore development from earth, Saxena said.

"There is a lot of demand for this kind of public facility, which entails creation of microbial pool essential for conservation of eco-systems," he said.

‘Relocating Gir lions won’t hurt state’s pride’.

Express News Service Posted: Sunday , Mar 07, 2010 at 0157 hrs Ahmedabad:

Reiterating the demand for relocation of lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh, the All India Congress Committee general secretary, Digvijay Singh, today said that the Gir forest is getting too small to accommodate lions and that it is better to move some of them to the sanctuary in MP. “The Gir forest is unable to support such a large number of lions, and if some of them are relocated, it will not hurt anyone’s pride,” said Singh.

The Congress leader was in Ahmedabad to give away the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Awards to exporters. “The development of Gujarat is inherent to the enterprising people and not because of the government,” Singh said.

He also talked about how he and former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel had improved their relations over the Sardar Sarovar Project.

“I remember when the Sardar Sarovar Dam was being planned, we (Keshubhai and he) were not on talking terms. It was the late Dhirubhai Ambani who had asked me to talk to Keshubhai. He broke the ice between us,” Singh said.


Lion census: Gujarat Day functions may affect schedule.

Express News Service

Posted: Tuesday , Mar 09, 2010 at 0102 hrs Ahmedabad:

The state Forest department plans to prepone the census of Asiatic lions as 450 beat guards and foresters to be involved in the activity will be given the additional work during the Gujarat Day celebrations on May 1.

The census work, which was scheduled to start on April 25, is likely to begin now on April 23, said Forest Department officials.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) Pradeep Khanna said that the matter is still being discussed and the official announcement about the beginning of the census work will come soon.

The In-charge Conservator of Forest, Mayank Sharma, said, “Gujarat’s pride is in the hands of people of the state. In fact, the state has succeeded in conserving Asiatic lions on its landscape because of people’s involvement. It is through the support of the people in Gujarat that the lions are still there in the three districts of Bhavnagar, Junagadh and Amreli.”


Friday, March 5, 2010

Plan for consolidating long-term conservation of Asiatic Lion in the greater Gir Region

Wednesday, March 03, 2010
Ministry of Environment and Forests

Plan for consolidating long-term conservation of Asiatic Lion in the greater Gir Region

18:59 IST
Lok Sabha

The Central Government strongly supports conservation of Asiatic Financial assistance is provided under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of 'Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats' (IDWH).Lion The Gir Forests in Gujarat is the only habitat of Asiatic Lion in India. The financial assistance provided to state for lion conservation in 2008-09 and 2009-10 is Rs. 32.00 lakh and Rs. 92.08 lakh respectively.

Government of Gujarat has submitted a project entitled "A plan for consolidating long-term conservation of Asiatic lion in the greater Gir region". The project proposal is for an amount of Rs. 236.17 crores of which Central Government's share is 90% and State Government's share is 10%. The Ministry has requested the Planning Commission to provide additional funds under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme 'Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats' (IDWH) for considering the proposal.

The Minister of State for Environment and Forests (independent charge) Shri Jairam Ramesh gave this information in a written reply to a question by Shri. Harin Pathak in Lok Sabha today.


Corbet lost 15 tigers in last four years.

United News of India
New Delhi, March 3:
The year 2009 has been very bad for tigers in their world famous habitat, the Corbet Tiger Reserve, with six of the big cats dying or being killed, the Lok Sabha was informed today.
The new year has also reported two deaths so far.
Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh told the Lok Sabha in a written reply that 2007 had also seen five deaths of tigers due to poaching or natural causes.
In 2008, two tigers were killed.
Thus a total 15 tigers died in the Corbet National Park in the last four years.
He said poaching of other animals in the national park like elephants and spotted deer and seizure of their body parts had also been reported.
Replying to a question on conservation of Asiatic lions, the Minister said the Gujarat Government had submitted a project 'A Plan for consolidating long-term conservation of Asiatic lions in the greater Gir region' which demands Rs 236.17 crore with the Central Government share being 90 per cent.
He said the Ministry had requested the Planning Commission to provide additional funds under a centrally sponsored scheme 'Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitat' for the Gujarat proposal.
Mr Ramesh said the state was provided Rs 32 lakh and Rs 92.08 lakh in 2008-09 and 2009-10 respectively for lion conservation.

Once upon a time, Asiatic lions roamed all over north India...

By Muriel Kakani

A few centuries back, there would have been in India as many Asiatic lions as there were tigers or may be even more, at least in western India.

The evidences:

The lion motif (double headed terracotta lion) is already seen in the seals of Indus Valley civilization.

In Vedic literature, the lion is mentioned as the king of the jungle. Asiatic lions were abundant in the Indus Valley (actual Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Sind). Tigers were the animals of the East. For Vedic people, the inhabitants of western India, the lion was a more popular animal than the tiger and was the icon of power. That explains why in the ancient history and mythology of India, the lion is more prevalent than the tiger. Ancient fables of India likePanchatantra, a collection of ancient tales of wisdom - some believe that the fables of Panchatantra are as old as the Rig-veda- feature many more lion characters than tigers, such as in ‘The Lion and the Rabbit’ and “The Lion and the Foolish Donkey”.

In Buddhist literature (300BC), the Jatakas, a collection of 547 stories about Buddha’s prior existence in which he is described as having taken birth as a variety of different animals, the Asiatic lion is once again a prominent character. Because Buddha plays the leading role of a pre-eminent person he is styled as the Universal Monarch (Raja Chakkavatti); and a lion (siha). That could explain why, Emperor Ashoka (273 - 236 BCE), the most famous of the Buddhist rulers of India, inscribed his famous edicts on the lion capitol of Sarnath. Jataka scenes have been the favourite themes in the sculptured carvings adorning the railings of the Stupas of Sanchi and Bharhut, Buddhist shrines built by Ashoka the Great. The elaborately carved gateway of Sanchi’s Stupa is famous for its adorsed lions.

Asiatic lions have been equally celebrated during the Mughal period. Babur, the founder of the Moghul Empire, was very famous for hunting lions and he gave accounts of lions killed by him in his Babarnama. Lions would have been the preferred animals of the Mughal as the population of lions would have been widespread in northern, central and western India. Mughal miniature paintings depict many scenes with lions. Court writers recount many horrifying stories of lion attacks on travelers.

In the 17th Century, Sir Thomas Roe, the first British ambassador to India, during Jahangir’s reign, recounts the presence of lions in the Narmada Valley.

During the British period, lion hunting was considered as the most aristocratic sport in India. British journals of the 19th century show that lions occupied a prominent place in British shikaar stories. Lions were found in Bundelkand (Jhansi), in Rajputana (Udaipur, Jodhpur, Mount Abu …), in the Vindhyas, in the Tapti and Narmada Valley, in Bihar and around Gwalior and Agra. In 1857, a British officer is reported to have hunted 300 lions of which 50 were in the district of Delhi. Lions were hunted from the elephant back.

The 19th century saw the indiscriminate slaughter of lions till there were only 12 left in the Gir forest. A lion was reportedly killed in the district of Palamau (Bihar) in 1814. Fifty lions were killed in the district of Delhi between 1856-1858. In 1891, Blanford wrote that the lion was verging extinction in India.

And today, 120 years later, we have almost forgotten that lions were once upon a time a common denizen of our jungles!!

Tell your kids about the Asiatic lion, world's most endangered carnivore. Only 350 of them are left in the wild!!

For Lesson Plans and Printable Activities about the Asiatic lion visit: Ecology for Children

Rajkot opposes shifting of lions to Madhya Pradesh.

Rajkot (Gujarat), Mar 1 (ANI): Amid growing concern about the depleting tiger population in India, the people of Rajkot have expressed their unhapiness with the Centre's proposal to shift Asiatic lions to the Kuno Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh.

The president of the Gir Nature Club, Mahendra Singh Shekhwat, said: "Asiatic Lions from here are very popular. They are staying here for last 100 - 150 years. It is a natural habitat for lions because the climate suits them. If they are taken to other places, it would be difficult for them to acclimatize."

The Gujarat Government has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court opposing the decision of the Central Government. The government has rejected the Madhya Pradesh Government's plea to swap lions for tigers.

There are over 360 lions in a stretch of approximately 1600-kilometers.

Gir Nature Club Manager Nitin said, "Asiatic lions are safe in 1412 km territory of Gir forest. From last 10 days, we have issued forms for the tourists' feedback whether lions should be shifted or not. The results indicate that lions should stay here."

Over 100,000 domestic and international tourists visit the Gir and the Devalia National Parks.

Forest department officials said that Gujarat Government fears that a majority of tourists coming to Gujarat for lion tourism could be diverted to Madhya Pradesh if the shift took place. (ANI)

Banni Grassland development,more Mangrove plantation proposed.

By our correspondent
Ahmedabad, DeshGujarat, 25 February, 2010

Guajrat Fiance Minister Shri Vajubhai Vala today in his Budget speech 2010-11 announced development of Banni grass land in Kutch with involvement of Rs 8 crore. Vala said, the Banni grass land area is so rich that it is capable to provide fodder not only to cattle in Gujarat but also to other states.

Vala announced that the Gujarat Environment Management Institute would be fully functional this year for speedy implementation of development works in the state.

While speaking on Rs 412 crore Forest and Environment department budget in his speech, Vala said the state would carry out plantation of mangrove on 12000 hector land this year. ” This would be an achievement internationally,” he added.

He said the protection of Asiatic lion population in Gujarat is state’s top priority and therefore Rs 8.93 crore are allocated to strengthen monitoring and communication system inside and on the periphery of Gir sanctuary.

Vala said Rs 100 crore would be allocated for Gujarat government’s newly formed Climate Change department this financial year. This includes formation of Climate Change Trust Fund which would be initiated with Rs 10 crore allocation by the state.