Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sedating a lioness, living to tell the tale.

Stavan Desai, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, April 22, 2010

It was a sultry summer afternoon in 1997 in Gir, Gujarat, the only place in the world where the Asiatic lion survives, and I was not sweating. Travelling in a Gypsy, the dry, hot forest wind in my face, I was with a deputy conservator of forests and a tracker trailing a lion that, according to locals, had injured itself. It was a three-year-old that had got into a territorial fight with another lion.
The only way to treat the big cat was to tranquilise it.
Then an honorary animal welfare officer of the Animal Welfare Board of India, I was attending a course in handling wild animals. The tip-off gave my tutor, an ace marksman, a chance to give me some on-the-job training.
For more than three hours, the tracker followed every mark the lion had left while searching for a safe spot. We failed.
Having decided to call off the search, we were returning when we received a message that a lioness was to be tranquilised for research purposes at Shakar Baug Zoo in Junagadh. The zoo, about 50 km away from Gir, is also a research centre and has a one-of-its-kind gene bank of the Asiatic lion.
At Sakar Baug, we were met by Dr Sabapara, who has been involved in lion conservation for years.
For more than an hour, he explained a complex formula used to decide the measure of Ketamine and Xylezene, sedatives required to tranquillise the four-year-old lioness.
As the lioness was in an enclosure, we decided to use a blowpipe instead of tranquilising gun. I blew the dart, filled with the sedatives, and missed by a whisker. The second time, I managed to hit the thigh. Soon, the lioness was on the floor, breathing but still. We opened the cage, gently dragged her out. As the veterinarian took blood, hair and saliva samples, the only thought I had was what if it woke up while its head lay in my lap?
“Look at that paw. One blow would be enough to kill you,” said Sabapara. I ignored the comment and concentrated on the big cat.
On Tuesday, when I learnt about the incident at Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Sabapara’s words came back to me.

My Gir experience.

Gir National Park, billed as the “Last Sanctuary of Asiatic Lion” was a must visit for our group of eight who had gone on a Customs attachment to Kandla-Mundra. We were not just attracted by the advertising blitzkrieg of the Gir forest which by the way was omnipresent on most websites related to Gujarat but also we were drawn towards the idea of seeing a majestic lion in all its glory in a natural setting and that too at a stone’s throw distance. We were also enthused by the stories of how the lions had got used to people around the forest and the fact that they had sort of say opted to ‘harmoniously’ live with humans. They were known to be least afraid of human presence and were known walk at a touching distance from humans without fear. Before I get down to our experience at Gir, let me introduce you to Gir National Park. Set up in 1965 with a total area of 1412 km2 located in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat and to the south east of Junagadh, it houses about 350 lions along with 2,375 distinct fauna species and also has several families of Madhesi tribals living inside the park. It is the last area where Asiatic lions not only survive but also thrive, thanks to the climate and is also home to one of the largest Leopard populations in any park in India.
We reached on 26th of Dec ’09 at Gir and to utter disappointment found the place overflowing with tourists all around as it was that time of the year (Christmas to New Year) when everyone was out travelling and we never got the pass to enter the safari zone. We had to be content visiting the Gir Interpretation zone at Devaliya spread over around 10Km2 and a few ‘semi-domesticated’ lions left in it. It was a scene perfect for an example for over-tourism as buses after buses loaded full of tourists flooded the small area where two lionesses were resting and they seemed to have been subjected to sensory overload as they lay in motionless and had become insensitive to the crowd peering over it. We felt sorry for the lionesses and guilty at the same time for being a part of the huge crowd which was tipping to see them.
We were quite unsatisfied with our first Gir visit for the simple reason that the lionesses we saw had been cornered in the interpretation zone and hardly had the majestic nature that we had imagined. So we resolved to visit the place some other day. The opportunity soon came across to us when we had to visit the shore guard unit of Porbander. Having had to stay put at a place close to Gir forest we lapped up the opportunity to visit it once again. This time we reached early in the morning and were lucky to get an entry pass for the safari. Armed with multiple cameras and with great anticipation and hope we moved into the forest in a hired open jeep. We were all eyes and watching expectantly to see the lion walk in from along the bushes. And as with any other safari the guide was gleefully showing us ‘fresh’ pug marks and scats all along which didn’t amuse us after a point and sounded like a cruel mockery of us when were expecting to see a live lion. After more than an hour and just when we had started to give up all hope of spotting a lion in natural setting, we spotted a ‘tracker’. Trackers are people sent out by the forest department for following lions into deep forest and they are sort of ‘co-opted’ by the lions into their family over a period of time in the sense they let these trackers as close as a few feet away without causing any harm to them. The tracker to our delighted pointed to us a direction where we saw two majestic lions in deep slumber. He informed us that they were brothers and after a nice heavy meal on the day before were resting which happens to be their regular routine (Lucky them!). As we watched them intently and clicked snaps one of them got up, warmed up a bit by doing a set of fascinating stretching exercises and then moved on. The other brother not to be left out also got up, did the same routine of stretching as if they had a mutual pre-agreement to follow the same steps and moved towards the nearby pool for a drink and stopped in between its lazy walk to make sure it ‘marked’ its territory. As they walked on the road towards the pool, our group of eight were left speechless not because we were lucky to sight a lion and our trip mission was thus fulfilled but because that we could help but admire the majestic-ness of the lions which we had always read of in books and had dismissed them as clichéd references to glorify the king of the jungle. But the feeling that we had when we saw those two lions walk by on the road was beyond words and surpassing expressible words. It was like in the matrix movie that we were suddenly unplugged from the concrete world where time flies by and connected to a place where time just stood still and the lions were just teasing us with their carefree, happy attitude and an exerting that we were in the their territory! As they crossed across the road and moved out of view all of us muted by the spectacle broke into a self congratulatory mode and the smile of everyone’s face made it quite evident that everyone was moved beyond satisfaction at the sight they had just witnessed. On our way back luck smiled on us further by let us have a peek at a couple of owlets, peacocks, Blackbucks and lots of Deers.

The visit to Gir was a memorable experience that we will cherish as well as relish for the rest of our lives. It has not only offered us to view the grandiose of lions during the safari but also showed us the ugly side of eco-tourism in our earlier visit when we saw the lions swamped by visitors. We left with the thought that the lions were safe in Gir but the need to ensure sustainable eco tourism without overburdening the animals is something that we need to give a serious thought to. 

Big B to shoot ad for Guj Tourism.

Tanvir A Siddiqui
Posted: Apr 21, 2010 at 0353 hrs ISTAhmedabad Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan, who is also the brand ambassador of Gujarat Tourism, has agreed to give dates for the shooting of Khushboo Gujarat Ki – an audiovisual ad campaign to promote tourism in Gujarat. Confirming this, Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Limited (TCGL) Kamlesh Patel said the project will be handled at the state level, but many things are yet to be finalised. TCGL sources added that Big B would also dub for the Gujarati and English versions of the ad.
Shooting will start in the second half of May.
Advertising firm Ogilvy and Mather has been finalised for this Rs 30-crore venture (including airtime cost) with adman Piyush Pandey preparing the concept and script. Pandey is famous for several ad campaigns including the Zoozoo series of ads for Vodafone in recent times. The tentative shooting locales include Somnath, Dwarka, Sasan Gir, landmarks associated with Gandhi, and Kutch, said sources, adding that the production house is yet to be finalised.
The shooting will be split into several slots of 30 to 90 seconds duration over a 10-day period, and will go on air by June.
This is for the first time that Amitabh Bachchan will endorse tourism in Gujarat. It is expected the development would give a boost to state tourism.
Meanwhile, TCGL officials have clarified that the promos need not coincide with the Swarnim Gujarat celebrations.
Tourism Secretary Vipul Mitra could not be contacted on phone despite several attempts.
It may be mentioned that Bachchan agreeing to become the brand ambassador of Gujarat Tourism had sparked off a row between the BJP on one hand and Congress and her allies on the other. The phase was marked by bitter exchanges in blogosphere with the Congress daring Bachchan to endorse Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s “role” in the 2002 riots, and Modi shooting back by referring to the Congress leaders as “Talibans of untouchability”.

Gir officials prepare for lion census in Gujara.

Gir officials prepare for lion census in Gujarat. Dr. Sandeep Kumar.

Please click above link for video...

Interview of Dr. Sandeep Kumar DCF Wildlife Sasan-Gir, Gujarat Forest Department

April 10, 2010
Preparation for conducting a comprehensive and methodological lion census are in full swing at the Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary in Rajkot.

Lion census: 200 cameras to scan Gir.

DNA Correspondent / DNA
Wednesday, April 21, 2010 9:50 IST
Gandhinagar: The 13th Asiatic Lion Population Estimates 2010 will begin on April 24 in Greater Gir Sanctuary, which includes Gir National Park and Sanctuary. The area is spread in four districts — Junagadh, Amreli, Bhavnagar and Porbandar.
Principal sectary forest and environment department SK Nanda informed the media on Tuesday that the population estimate this time will be different from the earlier exercises. "For the first time, we are using 100 GPS equipment, 200 cameras and 100 special camera teams for making an accurate documentation of the lions and keeping the exercise error free. Another first is that the exercise will also incorporate Greater Gir," Nanda said and added that the many non-forest staff as ex-government officials, doctors, journalists, nature lovers would participate in the exercise.
"We have identified 450 locations in the Greater Gir area where enumerators will take estimate of the lions," he said.
Giving details of schedule, Pradeep Khanna, PCCF, Gujarat, said the exercise will start on April 24 and continue till April 27.The findings will be announced on April 29. "About 1,600 people will take part in the survey, out of which 100 will be volunteers," he said.
Speaking on the occasion, senior IFS officer RV Asari, the nodal officer for the survey, said, in order to make a comprehensive survey, the Greater Gir area has been divided into seven regions, 28 zones and 100 sub-zones.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Asiatic lion census to begin from April 24.

Gandhinagar, April 20 : Assisted by tools like the Global Positioning System and the Geographical Information System, more than 1,600 personnel will fan out in Gujarat's Greater Gir forest for four days from April 24 for the thirteenth lion census, 2010, officials said Tuesday.
The lion numbers after the 2005 census was put at 359.
Gujarat's Principal Secretary for Forests and Environment S. K. Nanda told media persons that the census team will comprise 135 officers, 450 main enumerators, 900 assistants, 100 volunteers, 50 photographers, 12 doctors and
11 researchers. They will be provided 200 four-wheelers and 450 motor-cycles for the census process.
"The entire wider sanctuary will be sealed and closed to the public for the duration of the census," he added.
Nanda said that the estimate would cover Greater Gir which includes the Gir National Park and sanctuary spread over the four districts of Junagadh, Amreli, Bhavnagar and Porbandar.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Pradeep Khanna said the beat verification technique will be used to estimate the numbers of this critically endangered species.
"We have divided the area into seven regions, 28 zones, and 100 sub-zones for this census. While the preliminary census will be carried out for two days (April 24-25), the final census will follow after a daylong break (April 26-27)," he added.
Chief Wildlife Warden R. V. Asari, who will supervise the census, said that a nine-month long exercise had preceded it and 641 probable sites where the chances of finding lions were maximum were identified.
"These were then whittled down to 450 sites. Also data of kills of the last 10 years were analysed before the beginning of the census," he added.(IANS)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Trackers party formed for lions outside the Gir sanctuary area.

By our correspondent
Junagadh, DeshGujarat, 13 April, 2010

Junagadh forest department has created new Trackers party to deal with issues pertaining to lions outside the sanctuary area.
Last month, locals of Mandanpara and Chorvadi villages near Bilkha killed a lion in self defense. On the backdrop of this incident, the forest department decided to extend its supervision also in non-forest area around Gir.
Trackers party will build relation with the village people settled around forest area. There would also be an information mechanism. Junaadh’s CCF Sudhir Chaturvedi has appointed RFO Dipak Pandya to lead trackers party. In its first success, the trackers party relocated a 6-ft-crocodile from Sodvadar village to Vilingdon dam.

O&M scouting locations for Amitabh Bachchan’s Gujarat ads.

By our correspondent
Junagadh, DeshGujarat, 16 April, 2010
Mumbai based O&M ad agency Chairman Piyush Pande on Thursday visited Gujarat’s Somnath Mandir to scout locations for shooting of Gujarat Tourism advertisement featuring film star Amitabh Bachchan. Two persons from Amitabh Bachchan’s office and representatives of Gujarat Tourism also joined Pande during the visit.
Pande said the shooting of Gujarat Tourism ads featuring Amitabh would be kicked off in near future. He said: “I am feeling lucky for getting chance to understand this grate state. Visit to Gir and Somnath has energized me. According to Amitabh Bachchan’s availability we would films on Dwarka, Somnath, Ambaji, Sasan Gir lions, Rann of Kutch and Dang forests. The final product will go on air from May or June this year.”

In 72 hours, the lion king will be enumerated.

Jumana Shah / DNA
Sunday, April 18, 2010 9:09 IST
Gandhinagar: The suspense that has built up over the last five years over the lion population in Gir will end within 72 hours of April 24, when the scheduled lion census in the region begins.
But the exact number by which the population of the Asiatic Lions in Gir has risen will be known only on May 1, when Gujarat turns 50 as an independent state. The census will be carried out by a team of 1,300 volunteers who will be joined by senior state foresters and big cat experts drawn from all over the country. Spotting the lion king was never easy but foresters are hoping that technology will come to their aid this time. This is the first time that the lion census is being conducted on such a massive scale over a large area and much more scientifically than in previous years.
The labourers, forest staff and volunteers involved in the census will fan out over 300 beats carved out of a 5,000 sq km area called the Greater Gir. Seven regions were identified; these were then divided into zones, sub-zones and beats.

This is also the first time that the ‘Greater Gir’ region which includes areas in four districts - Amreli, Junagadh, Bhavnagar and parts of Porbandar - is to be covered for the census. Earlier, it was restricted to the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary spread over an area of 1,412 sq km. The inclusion of other areas for the census is a restrained admission by the establishment that the lion habitat has now expanded much beyond the sanctuary area.
The majestic beast is now steadily reclaiming its traditional corridor all the way from Porbandar to Bhavnagar. The last lion census of 2005, which stated that the lion population in the Gir sanctuary was 359, was conducted by identification of pug marks.
This time the methodology of ‘direct sighting’ will be used. Under this method, specific body marks will be identified and uploaded into the GPS device carried by each team. This data will be available to all other teams simultaneously.
“It will reduce redundancies to a great extent, but not completely,” said principal chief conservator of forests, Pradip Khanna.
Ironically, it might be relatively easier to enumerate the lion king in summer as they tend to hover close to the water holes because of the heat. 

1300 volunteers and experts to spot the lion king.

Jumana Shah
Sunday, April 18, 2010 0:24 IST  
Gandhinagar: Giri has a scar on her tail, she is not very ferocious but protective about her thee cubs. Spotted at waterhole in Beat no285; 1400 hrs; 25/04/10  
Bhuro’s mane has a dark golden fringe, brown scar on torso, hunting for a shade; in Mahuva, Bhavnagar…

… Reads what could be a typical GPS posting to be used by Gujarat foresters for enumerating the lions next weekend. The suspense of five years will be resolved in 72 hours by a team of 1,300 volunteers with senior state foresters and cat experts of the country. The increase in the Asiatic Lions’ population residing in Gir jungles of Saurashtra will be known when the state of Gujarat turns 50 on May 1.
Spotting the lion king was never easy, but the foresters are hoping technology will come to their aid this time. This is the first time that the lion census is being conducted on such a massive scale over a large area and much more scientifically than the previous years. Even as the mercury peaks, the census will be carried out with labourers, forest staff and volunteers spread over 300 beats carved out of 5,000 sq km area, called the Greater Gir. Seven regions have been identified; divided into zones, then subzones and then beats.
This is also the first time that the ‘Greater Gir’ area is to be covered for the census in four districts — Amreli, Junagadh, Bhavnagar and parts of Porbandar. Earlier it was restricted to the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, spread over 1,412 sq km area. The inclusion of this area is a restrained admission by the establishment that the lion habitat has now expanded much beyond the sanctuary area. The majestic beast is now steadily reclaiming its traditional corridor all the way from Porbandar to Bhavnagar. The last census process in 2005, which stated the lion population to be 359 in Gir Sanctuary, was carried out through pug marks.
This time, the methodology of ‘direct sighting’ will be used, through which specific body marks will be identified and uploaded on the GPS device carried by each team. This data will be available to all other teams simultaneously. “It will reduce redundancies to a great extent, bit not completely,” says principal chief conservator of forests Pradip Khanna.
Ironically, it might be relatively easier to enumerate the lion king in the heat as they are most likely to hover close to water holes. Refuting the use of any artificial methods, state’s wildlife warden RV Asari said only natural resources will be used. “The lions are generally spotted in a pride. The identification will be a body mark, not a number. The locals give names to the animal for ease of use, but officially we do not name or number them,” Asari said.
The volunteers are being trained for almost two months now.

No Asian lions for Winnipeg zoo.

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Planning to welcome African cats, instead

WONDERING where the Asian lions are?
Well, the pair the Assiniboine Park Zoo was preparing to welcome this summer aren't coming.
"Although we did our best to enter the Asian lion breeding programs in Europe and India, we were informed there is a waiting list of dozens of zoos ahead of us," zoo spokesman Dr. Bob Wrigley said.
"The animals are so rare, and the breeding so carefully controlled among participant zoos, that it will likely be many years before we are selected."
Now, the zoo is planning to get some equally majestic, albeit less-rare and exotic, African lions, he said.
There are just 350 Asiatic lions left in the wild -- all of them in the Gir National Park and Lion Sanctuary in northern India.
The animals were almost wiped out by sport hunting over the last two centuries, the Asiatic Lion Information Centre reports.
When the lion hunt was outlawed in the 1900s, the greatest threat came from the destruction of habitat. Vast tracts of jungle forest were cleared for timber to sell and to make way for the increasing human population. To bolster the endangered Asiatic lion population, co-operative inter-zoo breeding programs were set up. In 1990, two Asiatic lion couples from India were brought to the London Zoo, the Asiatic Lion Information Centre said. Zoos in Zurich and Helsinki received lions in 1991 and 1992 respectively. By the end of 1996 some 12 zoos were participating in the Asiatic lion breeding program. Ten years later, there were 99 lions at 36 zoos, the information centre said.
The Zoological Society of Manitoba was hoping Winnipeg's zoo might be the first in North America to house Asiatic lions.
Last year, it decided to spend $1 million to convert the unused 20-year-old panda bear enclosure into a home for Asian lions. It was seen as an investment in promoting conservancy and education, and a way to boost zoo attendance. The warm-weather cats needed space to roam and a cosy abode in cold winters. Later this spring, the renovated panda pad will house a pair of African lions, said Wrigley. "...We have made great progress on the lion exhibit -- including the indoor exhibit area, a beautiful interpretive space and renovations to the outside enclosure."
Around five years ago, the zoo had some African lions who had cubs. Nearly half a million visitors flocked to the zoo to see the king of beasts. They are no longer at the zoo. "I believe the new lions will be a real hit," he said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 10, 2010 B2

Endangered Asiatic lions of Gujarat's Sasan Gir relocated to another zoo.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010,8:03 [ISTRajkot, Apr 6 (ANI): The Asiatic lions of the Sasan Gir Lion Sanctuary in Gujarat's Junagadh district have been relocated to a newly built sanctuary in Rajkot.The newly built enclosure is called the Pradyuman Park Zoo.
The Rajkot Municipal Corporation is planning to further expand the zoo by getting exotic animals from different parts of the world. Eco-friendly battery-run vehicles will also be introduced inside the zoo to keep it pollution-free.

"The zoo will soon be expanded. There will be separate wings for Australian animals, African animals, birds and monkeys too. And little by little, this zoo will grow to be the best natural enclosure in whole of Gujarat and India," said Sandhya Vyas, Mayor of Rajkot.

In addition to lions, visitors can also see several big cats like tigers and panthers, as well as crocodiles, rhinos and other exotic animals at the Pradyuman Park Zoo. The animals here are kept in outdoor enclosures rather than in cages.

"People go to Sansan Gir to see Asiatic lions but now one can see Asiatic lions in Pradyuman Park too. It is a big zoo and there are six-seven Asiatic lions here. Also, there are tigers, bears, deers and crocodiles. I liked it a lot. One can see animals from all over India here," said Falguni, a visitor at the zoo.

Asiatic lions are different from African lions, with a characteristic skin fold on their bellies and thinner manes on the males.

It may be recalled that the Gujarat government has opposed the relocation of the lions from the Sasan Gir Sanctuary in the state to another demarcated reserve in Madhya Pradesh for which many villages were displaced and rehabilitated elsewhere. (ANI)

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Asiatic Lion and the Maldharis of Gir forest: An assessment of Indian Eco-Development

This article is an analysis of the India Eco-Development Project (IEP) implemented in Sasan Gir National Park and Sanctuary. Statistical data describing the consumption patterns and financial status of the Maldharis was collected from 13 nesses. This information demonstrates the impact of the Maldharis on Gir, a lack of willingness among people to change environmentally harmful behavior when forest-dependent activities are economically beneficial, and that participatory approaches under IEP have resulted in positive changes in the lifestyle of the Maldharis and enhanced relationships with the forest department but have failed to improve conservation. The research seeks to assess the effectiveness of IEP in reducing the dependency of Maldharis on natural resources by considering (a) appropriateness of IEP strategies for the Maldharis; (b) methods used to apply IEP strategies; (c) amount of understanding of IEP among the Maldharis, particularly women; and (d) the ability and willingness of Maldharis to participate in IEP.



Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Iran warned against cheetah transfer.

Mon, 05 Apr 2010 16:40:18 GMT

The endangered species of Persian cheetahs are distributed over Iran's central deserts.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has warned that the transfer of the Persian cheetah from Iran to India could endanger the already threatened species.

According to Iran's Mehr News Agency, IUCN has opposed an Indian proposal to bring a few Persian cheetahs from Iran in return for giving a number of Asiatic lions to Iran.

Once a native of Iran, the Asiatic lion, or the Persian lion, survives today only in the Gir Forest of Gujarat, India.

The Asiatic lions once ranged from the Mediterranean to the north-eastern parts of the Indian subcontinent, but excessive hunting, water pollution and decline in natural prey reduced their habitat.

Persian cheetahs are distributed over Iran's central deserts and are not capable of expanding their territory; therefore, their transfer could endanger the species, Mehr quoted an IUCN official as saying.

The Asiatic lions, on the other hand, are confined to the Gir Forest and their transfer to Iran could be useful, he added.

The IUCN official warned, however, that no decision could be made without a detailed study of whether the Asiatic lion could adapt to its new habitat.

Today, the Persian cheetah, the Eurasian lynx and the Persian leopard are the only remaining species of large cats in Iran with the once common Caspian Tiger and the Persian lion having already been driven to extinction.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Lion census from April 24, count could go beyond 400.

TNN, Apr 4, 2010, 06.27am IST

AHMEDABAD: This is going to be a census that will be closely watched by many, given the fact that it is being conducted after a period that saw poaching incidents for the first time in Gir and when neighbour Madhya Pradesh became more aggressive in its demand for a share of the Asiatic lions.

The once-in-five-years census will be carried out for four days from April 24 in a direct-sighting method which will involve nearly 1,500 staffers. Teams will be equipped with 130 cameras and they will hover around the watering holes where lions are bound to come to quench their thirst during this hot summer period. It will take at least two months before the results are out, after careful tabulation of data and matching it with the photographic evidence.

Stray accidental deaths notwithstanding, the going has been good for the lion in its exclusive abode in Gir, with the Gujarat government promising expansion of its protected habitat and a Rs 40-crore corpus for its conservation. Sources say this time the lion count is likely to go up to 400 from the last figure of 359 of 2005.

Besides, the lion is poised to be one of the state’s biggest draws in the soon-to-be launched campaigns featuring Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan.

The Gujarat government has told the Supreme Court that there could be 400 lions in and around Gir, a clear evidence of good conservation measures.

MP government, which has prepared Kuno Palpur as the lion’s second abode, had a dig at Gujarat recently in its last affidavit filed before the SC, stating that if at least 10 lions died unnaturally in Gujarat, then the state could surely afford to part with five lions. It is another matter that the gangs of poachers arrested in Gujarat have all come from MP.

Gujarat's Gir lion monopoly faces fresh threat.

Jumana Shah / ANI
Monday, April 5, 2010 16:12 IST

The odds are stacked against Gujarat which has the distinction of being the only state in the country to have Asiatic lions.

In the continuing tussle over relocation of some of the Asiatic lions to Madhya Pradesh, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has voted against the Gujarat government’s opposition to shifting of the big cats.

It may be recalled that the Supreme Court had asked the NBWL to give its opinion on an affidavit filed by the Gujarat government opposing the relocation of the lions to Madhya Pradesh. In an affidavit filed in the Apex court in mid-January, the NBWL said that although Gujarat has done commendable work in lion conservation, the threat of an epidemic wiping out all its Asiatic lions could not be overlooked.

“There is no disputing the fact that Gujarat’s contribution to conserving its wildlife is praiseworthy,” a source on the board said. “Everyone realises this and, therefore, the prized tigers were also offered to the state.”

The source, however, added that epidemics could strike anywhere anytime. “And if an epidemic were to strike in the region, it may affect the entire species adversely given their proximity to each other,” the source said. “Moreover, because of the growth in the population of the lions, their habitat is also under strain.”

The NBWL affidavit is important as the Supreme Court has been waiting for it to come to a conclusion on the issue. The Gujarat government had filed an affidavit expressing its concerns about moving the lions to M-P, the chief one being that lions and tigers cannot co-exist. The SC had given Gujarat’s affidavit to the NBWL with the direction that the board give its opinion on the concerns raised by the state government.

Sources said most of Gujarat’s concerns have been addressed in the NBWL’s affidavit, which is expected to form the basis for the SC verdict.

Centre to give away Rs.5000 crore to States for forest conservation: Jairam Ramesh

Bhopal, April 2, 2010
Mahim Pratap Singh

The Central Government will grant Rs.5000 crore over the next five years to States towards better forest conservation, Union Minister of Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh said here on Friday.

Speaking at the convocation of the Indian Institute of Forest Management, Mr. Ramesh said that the 13th Finance Commission, for the first time, has made a provision for a forest conservation grant worth Rs.5000 crore to States with rich forest cover.

At Rs.727 crore, Arunachal Pradesh will receive the largest share from this grant. Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra will follow with Rs.490, Rs.411 and Rs.310 crore respectively.

The formula for the allocation of the grant has been designed to take into consideration three factors. The share of the total forest area in the country falling in any particular State is the first, further enhanced for those States where forested area is greater than the national average.

Interestingly, according to the 13th Finance Commission document, the enhancement serves to add a further compensation for the economic disability posed by forest cover. The entitlement of each State, so obtained, has been further weighted by the third factor, which is the quality of the forest in each State, as measured by density. The weights are progressively higher for area under moderately dense and dense forest cover.

Talking about forest conservation and tiger protection, Mr. Ramesh said that the Centre and the States have spent Rs.8,200 crore in forest areas in the last financial year i.e. 2008-09. On the question of translocation of lions from Gir wildlife sanctuary in Gujarat to the Kuno Palpur sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, he expressed inability of the Central government to make a difference.

“I have asked Mr. Shivraj Singh Chauhan to convince Mr. Narendra Modi as they both belong to the same party, but that’s all that I can do,” Mr.Ramesh told The Hindu.

He also said that research was being conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India to re-introduce the Cheetah in India, with Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat as potential States where the re-introduction might take place.

He dismissed reports of the Ministry of Surface Transport calling the Ministry of environment and Forests as a blockade in the construction of national highways, saying the MoEF had a 98% approval rate for highway projects.

He however also said that “whenever and wherever national highways will pass through sensitive areas like tiger habitats or dense forests, we will raise concerns”.

Taking a dig at forest officers, he said that forest officers kept telling him that the best way to save forests was to drive away the people and the cattle out.

“A senior IFS officer from Madhya Pradesh told me that the Forest Rights Act has spelled the doom for forests but I told him that this is India, we have to save forests with the people and the cattle,” he said delivering the convocation address.

Let tigers have the lion's share, but spare a thought for us.

April 4, 2010

Gir National Park has reached its saturation point and hence government should establish a second lion habitat in Kuno sanctuary

Tucked away in a little corner in Gujarat is the Gir National Park, which is home to the critically endangered Asiatic Lion (Panthera Leo Persica).

In the early 1900s, trophy hunting by the British colonist and the Indian Royalty had decimated their population, but thanks to the timely conservation efforts of “The Nawab of Junagadh,” the lions escaped extinction by a whisker. But now the greater danger looms, that of inbreeding and low genetic variability which could make them susceptible to disease owing to the weakening of their immune system. Besides, their sperm has deformed leading to infertility.

The government should educate people on the importance of lions in the Gir ecosystem. Their decimation would cause ecological imbalance and, in turn, result in an increase in the numbers of prey species (sambar, chital, nilgai) and increase the competition for grasslands which are shared by the domestic livestock.

The locals who live in direct contact with the lions must be taught how to avoid conflict and how to protect the lions from poachers who hunt and sell the body parts of the lions in various Chinese and other herbal remedies markets across the world.

The WII (Wildlife Institute of India) has recommended that due to the increase in the population and the limited area of the Gir National Park, a second population of lions must be established at the Palpur Kuno Wildlife sanctuary. The capacity of the park in relation to the lion area ratio has reached the bursting point and fighting among the lions has forced the weaker ones to move out of the GPA (Gir Protected Area).

Lack of space over food is the reason why the lions are spreading out in search of new habitats.

As more and more forests and grasslands are being lost to agriculture, the home ranges of the lions are shrinking, forcing them to head for new habitats as if to reclaim the 2,560 sq km they inhabited until 1956. The GPA is a little over half the size at 1,421 sq km.

There are three or four prides of lions outside the park. A pride of 13 lions lives in the Girnar hills, 20 roam in the coastal forest of Dur, there are 16 in the Hipouadli-Savarkundla region and about seven in other places.

Instead of allowing the lions to spread naturally and eventually cause panic and mayhem whereever they go, the government should act now and go ahead with the plans to establish a second population about 100 km away in Kuno, a former lion habitat.

Law enforcement organisations must restrict the number of people entering the park borders since they are setting up illegal snares to catch small animals, but sometimes the lions manage to get one of their paws entangled in a wire snare which later leads to the animal losing their limb; the result a slow, painful death.
Hollow promises

Till date, government aid has come only in the form of empty promises and a meagre Rs. 12 crore, which has been spent to purchase vehicles, night vision glasses and other fancy gadgets. The money has proved to be inadequate to close the 9,000 wells which litter the park. Each year, these wells prove to be a death trap for at least four to five lions.

The fact remains that the plight of the Asiatic Lion has not created the same hullabaloo vis-à-vis the threat to the tiger.

African Primitive Tribe Siddi, Will be Eco-Guide at Gir.

Premal Balan/Ahmedabad | Apr 05, 2010

The men folk of African primitive tribe, Siddi, who were brought here as slaves by the Portuguese, are being trained to become eco-guides of the Asiatic lions last abode - Gir Sanctuary - by the Gujarat government.

This is a part of the project initiated by the state Tribal Development department in order to improve livelihood, housing, access to safe drinking water and electricity, increase literacy, health facilities and roads to the five major Primitive Tribal Groups (PTG) of Gujarat, namely Kolgha, Kathodi, Kotwalia, Padhar and Siddi.

"Looking at the concentration of Siddi tribe near the Gir forests in Junagadh, we thought of training them to become eco-guides, which will help them take advantage of the growing eco-tourism in the state, especially around Gir forests region," Secretary, Tribal Development A M Tiwari told PTI.

"As such we would be working with five primitive tribes in the state, but we have started with the training of Siddis, while the project with others is in the pipeline," he said, adding that the project for Siddi community was designed with focus on potential of eco-tourism in the area.

"This project is also aimed at conservation and development of the Siddi community," he said.

Since the Siddis know the Gir forest well, they could become good guides and could provide information to tourist and also could earn a livelihood, Tiwari said.

He said that for training purpose, they approached the Gujarat Education and Ecological Research (GEER) Foundation, an autonomous body under the Forests and Environment department.

The first batch of 22 men from Siddi community have completed 15-day training last week for becoming an eco-guide.

"Besides theoretical lectures, practical sessions were also organised which included field trips to the Gir forest and other nearby places," Deputy Director (Environment education) at GEER foundation N K Nanda said.

"Since they are going to be guides, they need to know about the do's and dont's of being in wildlife sanctuary. Also, besides the forest area, they should have some knowledge of history and importance of near by area which are of tourist interest," Nanda said.

"We have given them training on how to interact with tourist, the do's and dont's of being in a forest area," he said, adding that they have also been given training in driving jeeps and other vehicles which could help them during safari trails.

Nanda said that in order to make a good livelihood, they have been given information about places of interest around the Gir forest area.

Siddi population, which is roughly 8816 in the state, is largely concentrated in Gir area of Junagadh district in Saurashtra with some habitations also in Bhavnagar, Rajkot, Jamnagar and Amreli districts.

The group also has presence in states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra besides Gujarat.

Ancestors of Siddis were brought about 300 years ago from Africa, by the Portuguese as slaves for the Nawab of Junagadh.

Although in Gujarat, Siddis have adopted the language and many customs of their surrounding populations, some African traditions have been preserved, these include the Goma music and dance form, which is also called Dhamaal.

The efforts of the Tribal development department is part of a major strategy of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's Ten Point Programme for development of tribal families.
Filed At: Apr 05, 2010 15:03 IST , Edited At: Apr 05, 2010 15:03 IST

Lion census at Gir from April 22.

Press Trust Of India
Vadodara, April 03, 2010

The forest department will be conducting a Lion Census in the Gir sanctuary from April 22, a top official from the Gujarat government said on Saturday.

"The Census at Gir, housing Asiatic Lions will be done from April 22-25. This time it will be conducted in a more scientific manner. In the past it was based on pugmarks," Sudeep Kumar Nanda, Additional Chief Secretary (Forest and Environment) told PTI.

Chief Conservator of Forests, Pradeep Kumar Khanna said the forest department will be using GPS system and the counting will take place on the direct sight of lions following Gujarat government's statement on March 26 in the Assembly that 116 lions died in Gir between January 2007-2010.

About 1,200 persons will be deployed for this exercise after providing them with training in this regard, he said.

About 359 lions were counted in Gir during 2005 census which also covered Girnar hills, coastal areas, Bhavnagar and other parts outside the 1412 sq km sanctuary, Nanda said.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


3 Mar 2010
Lok Sabha

Will the Minister of ENVIRONMENT AND FORESTS be pleased to state:-

(a) whether Gir Forest in Gujarat is the only and last home for Asiatic Lions in India;
(b) if so, whether the Government intends to be helpful in protection and conservation of the Asiatic Lions;
(c) if so, the details thereof indicating therein the financial help provided to the State Government of Gujarat for the years 2008-09 and 2009-10;
(d) whether the Government of Gujarat had submitted any proposal for financial assistance for any project related to protection and conservation of the Asiatic Lions; and
(e) if so, the details thereof indicating the amount of assistance proposed to be released to Gujarat?

(a), (b)& (c) Yes Sir. The Gir Forests in Gujarat is the only habitat of Asiatic Lion in India. The Central Government strongly supports conservation of Asiatic Lion and provides financial assistance under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of `Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats` (IDWH).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.

(d)&(e) 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.


Asiatic Lion.

Key Facts

* Common Name - Asiatic lion
* Scientific Name - Panthera leo persica
* Geographic habitat - Gir Forest National Park, Gujarat
* Height - Approx 90cm
* Length - 200-280cm
* Weight - 200-275kg
* Population - Around 300 (359)
* Did you know? - Lion cubs are born blind
* Status - Endangered

Habitat and distribution: The Asiatic lion survives today only in the wilderness of Gir and surrounding forests of western India’s Gujarat state.

Characteristics: Asiatic lions are highly social animals, living in units called prides. Their prides are smaller than those of African lions, with an average of only two females, whereas an African pride has an average of four to six. The Asiatic males are less social and only associate with the pride when mating or on a large kill. This is thought so because their prey animals are smaller than those in Africa, requiring fewer hunters to tackle them. Another difference is that the Asiatic lion have a smaller stomach fold and mane than its African counterpart. Asiatic lions prey predominantly on deer (sambar & chital), antelope (nilgai), wild boar, and livestock.


Conservation issues and WWF-India’s interventions
Conservation issues
The lions face the usual threats of poaching and habitat degradation. Three major roads and a railway track pass through the Gir Protected Area, the Asiatic Lion’s last remaining habitat. Also, there are three big temples inside the PA that attract large number of pilgrims, particularly during certain times of the year. But notably, the steps taken by the PA management and the Government of Gujarat, have led to an overall improvement in the habitat conditions and the population of lions has been increasing steadily since 1974. One such step was the relocation of about 50 maldhari nesses outside Gir, which led to improvement in lion population and its habitat.

But the increased population has resulted in their spill over the PA. Therefore, at present, the most pressing threat to the lion population of the Gir PA comes from the increasing hostility toward them from the resident human population. Due to the increase in population, about 100 lions stay outside the PA and face conflicts with humans. Though the conflict is not high now, with changing lifestyles and values these can increase in future.

An emerging threat is the number of lions falling in the open wells in the fields around Gir NP. The main reason is that wells in arable fields are unguarded. These wells have been made at ground level without any protection like parapet walls around them.

Ultimately, this single population is very susceptible to catastrophic events. Increasing the effective range of lions by connecting protected areas with lion-friendly corridors and establishing a second lion population elsewhere in India through translocation are required management options that need to materialize in the medium term future.
WWF-India interventions
The Asiatic lion is a priority species for conservation for WWF-India. Project has been initiated to construct barricades around open wells around the Gir NP to decrease the incidences of lions falling into such wells. The aim is towards long term conservation of the species, and this also includes having a viable wild population of Asiatic lion at an additional place.

The following aspects are important for long term conservation of Asiatic lion in India:

1. Strengthening overall protection measures
2. Habitat management in Gir
3. Mitigating Conflicts outside Gir PA
4. Greater Gir concept
5. Relocation of villages Jambuthala, Timbarwa and Ghodavadi villages.

Historical significance.

Hannah Gardner, Foreign Correspondent
March 30. 2010 9:38PM UAE / March 30. 2010 5:38PM GMT

GIR, INDIA // Technically known as Panthera leo persica, the Asiatic lion is slightly smaller than its sub-Saharan counterpart, with a more modest mane and a distinctive flap of skin along its belly.

@Body-Infobox2:Although the African lion is more common – numbering about 40,000 – many of the best known historic and cultural references are to the Asiatic variety.

It was the Asiatic lion that Daniel would have faced in the biblical lions’ den and which the Romans set upon the early Christians.

In India, the national emblem – printed on money and passports – is based on a sculpture of four Asiatic lions erected 2,250 years ago under Emperor Ashoka.

National Parks in India.

Submitted by admin on March 31, 2010 – 11:12

The wild abodes of the wild animals in India are outstanding. From North to South and East to West, India is always “WOWing” the tourists with its rich bio-diversity and heritage. National Parks and Wildlife sanctuaries in India lure people from all over the world with their rare species. The diversity and range of Indian wild life is matchless. Many visitors come to visit India to see tiger which can be found in the national parks of India. India has around 97 national parks and all of them possess a wide variety of captivating diversity of terrain, flora, fauna, avifauna, aqua fauna. Where one can experience different wild forms in their natural surroundings on an elephant or inside a jeep. The adventure and excitements in these parks are simply amazing.

The national parks are reserved land and generally owned and declared by national Government. These areas are reserve land and protected from human development and pollution. They provide natural habitat to all the animals residing there. More over these parks provide abundant scope for overall development of the wildlife tourism a and adventure tourism.

Tourists from all over the world become surprise to see the Indian wild lives located at various geographical locations and have different climate. Even these different parks have different natural vegetation and different wild lives.There are national parks in the hilly areas, desert areas, plain lands and in mangrove regions. The several endangered animals in our territory are Languor, Monkeys, Asiatic Lion, Asian Elephants, Tiger, One-Horned Rhinoceroses, Wild Buffalo, etc

Some of the important national parks in India are The Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve – Uttaranchal, Kanha and Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh, Ranthambhor – Sawai Madhopur, Gir – Sasangir (Gujarat), Kajiranga in Assam etc.

As a tourist it is always exciting to be in India and it is far more exciting to be in the confines of an Indian Wildlife territory. For the wild life enthusiast India is an amazing place because it houses a good number of wild life species which cannot be found no where else in the globe. India is a abode to not only of the wild animals but the national parks of India are also blessed with over 2000 species of birds, over 500 species of reptiles and amphibians and around 30000 species of insects including colorful butterflies.

The rich variety of biodiversity and maintaince in all these national parks in India had done a great contribution to the eco-tourism in India.

Leopard trapped in Gujarat village.


Vadodara, Apr 1 (PTI) A leopardess tried in vain to free a leopard trapped in a cage put up by the Gujarat Forest Department at a village in Junagadh district.

The forest personnel had put up the cage with a prey inside it in a field in Andri village yesterday after there were reports that a leopard has been seen in the area, department officials said.

As the animal got trapped in the cage, the forest staff saw a leopardess slowly walking towards it and trying to break the iron grille of the cage.

The forest staff drove a tractor to scare the leopardess away, they said, adding this was the 12th leopard captured from villages under Veraval taluka of the district in the last two months.