Monday, May 30, 2011

Tenacious pangolin defies pride of lions.

— Photo: PTI

Unusual ambush:An Asiatic Lion prepares to attack an Indian Pangolin at the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary in Junagadh district, about 300 km from Vadodara, on Saturday.

Tenacious pangolin defies pride of lions
Vadodara: A forest official at the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary on Saturday stumbled upon a rare phenomenon. Generally known to predate upon big-sized herbivores, a pride of lions was seen trying to kill a scaly pangolin.
Sandeep Kumar, Deputy Conservator of Forests at the Sanctuary in Sasan Gir in Junagadh district, about 300 km from Vadodara, witnessed the scene when he was patrolling the area.
Talking to PTI over phone on Sunday, Mr. Kumar said: “A pride of five sub-adult lions was trying to predate upon an Indian pangolin yesterday [Saturday]. The pangolin, [in defence], curled itself [up] into an armoured ball, exhibiting enormous muscular power, which defies any ordinary attempt to unroll it.
“To me, it was for the first time I encountered such an amazing event of natural history, where a completely different prey was being attacked by the lions,” he said.
During the encounter, the lions repeatedly tried to unroll the pangolin, but it did not give up till the end, while hissing loudly — a sound it produces when under stress — Mr. Kumar said, adding the lions eventually gave up. — PTI

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

NBWL looking the other way?

Something is very wrong when the National Board for Wildlife clears 70 agenda items in two-and-a-half hours.

Gautam Patel
Posted On Thursday, May 19, 2011 at 11:27:08 PM

Not so long ago, Jairam Ramesh and his Ministry of Environment and Forests were being pilloried by industrialists and the business establishment while being cheered by environmentalists. Finally, it seemed, there was someone unafraid of consequences and determined to do what his portfolio demands. Business satraps howled that he was choking development. The environmental lobby retaliated, pointing out that environmental butchery could not possibly be ‘development’.
Ramesh is free of taint. There are no questions about his personal integrity. But his decisions tell another story: of a ministry hobbled by money pressures from other quarters, of a man under severe pressure, of a ministry that has failed its remit. In a report that is perhaps the more scathing for its restrained language, the Guardian demonstrated how Ramesh’s ministry has rejected just six projects since he took charge in 2009, with clearance rate of nearly 95 per cent.
The working of the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife is a grim illustration of how our environment is being railroaded. Wildlife and old-growth forests are the two areas that must have a hands-off policy. The NBWL thinks otherwise. At its 22nd meeting on 25 April 2011 in New Delhi, its overstuffed Standing Committee — 40 people, 28 of them invitees — considered roughly 70 items. A very large number of proposals were received only three days before, on 22 April, leaving no time to study documents or make any kind of informed decision. Thirty nine proposals were listed under the agenda caption of “any other item with the permission of the Chair”, typically a residuary agenda item meant for routine, non-controversial matters. Non-government sitting members (some are reputed conservationists and environmentalists) protested at this surreptitious sneaking in of major proposals. They were ignored.
What were these items? A rough sample: destroying 52 acres of forests in the Hazaribagh Wildlife Sanctuary for the widening of NH33; a proposal to ‘repair’ and ‘maintain’ existing National Highways through national parks and sanctuaries in Madhya Pradesh; irrigation projects in the Chambal Sanctuary; drawing underground water from the Son Gharial Sanctuary; installing a ropeway in the Ralamandal Sanctuary in MP; upgrading the 2-lane highway through the Kanha National Park; electrical transmission lines through the Mt Abu Wildlife Sanctuary; dam-building on the Parvan river involving the Shergarh Sanctuary in Rajasthan (which will submerge 82 sq kms of the sanctuary and destroy nearly 2 lakh trees); allowing Idea Cellular to lay a fibre optic cable through the Sawai Mansingh Wildlife Sanctuary; and more. The ‘regular’ agenda items including the denotification of 14 ha of the Radhanagri Sanctuary, diverting 7 ha of forest for a ropeway to the Ambaji Temple in the Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary (proposed by a private operator, this is the death knell of the critically endangered long-billed vulture) and the construction of roads in the Dampa Tiger Reserve in Mizoram.
Most of these projects were cleared. The meeting lasted just over two hours. It was chaired by Jairam Ramesh.
Something is very, very wrong here. Everything points to a determined assault on that most fragile aspect of our environment: our wildlife and its habitat. Particularly worrying are the number of projects proposed in, around and through National Parks and Sanctuaries. These are legally designated areas of wildlife and habitat protection under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972. The law sets standards of what can and cannot be done in these areas, reflecting a wider public policy. This violation of an environmental law, in letter and spirit, is being actively encouraged, by the very body that is supposed to protect our sanctuaries and national parks.
Every one of these proposals violates the ‘precautionary principle’, a legal rule that requires ‘informed prudence’, the anticipation of environmental harm and loss. Project proponents must, in the face of scientific uncertainty, establish that their proposals are environmentally benign. The precautionary principle has been with us at least since 1982 when the UN General Assembly adopted it and is part of an international treaty since the Rio Earth Summit of 1992. In every single proposal before the NBWL this principle has been abandoned in favour of ‘necessity’, an altogether more dubious standard with no foundation in environmental law.
The NBWL, when conservationists of the calibre of Salim Ali, Kailash Sankhala and others served on it, was instrumental in framing strong strategies for wildlife conservation. On Jairam Ramesh’s watch it has become a farce, and the non-government representatives, though illustrious and committed in their own right, are reduced to putting in dissents.
Ramesh’s statement that he has been under pressure to overlook environmental violations and clear projects is unconvincing. He, and those who pull his strings, are answerable for the continuing rape of our wildlife and its habitat.

Wildlife Board clears 40 crucial projects in two hours.

May 24, 2011   12:09:49 PM
Moushumi Basu | New Delhi
The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), with Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh as its chairman, has been virtually reduced to a mere clearance house for diversion of forest land. Much to the annoyance of the members, as many as 40 proposals were cleared in two hours in the 21st Standing Committee meeting of the Board on April 25.
Exasperated over the alleged unilateral decision of the Minister, several members have written letters to Ramesh expressing their dissent. According to them, the meeting was conducted in great haste for simply giving clearances and most of them got just 24-72 hours to study project proposals running into hundreds of pages. As many as 38 proposals reached at the eleventh hour giving them little time for preparation, they added.
“These are by no means ordinary proposals but relate to the protected areas and wildlife sanctuaries which constitute just about 4 per cent of the total area in the country. Our decisions in these meetings concern the critically endangered wildlife. This is certainly not the way to dispose of such proposals”, pointed out a member, on condition of anonymity. The opinion of the Board is binding on the Government.
The members further noted that no conservation issue was discussed, even those raised by them did not figure in the agenda.
Senior member MK Ranjitsinh pointed out, “the agenda items must be sent well in advance and that in future additional agenda items must not be given in the meeting itself. Crucial information such as the opinion of the State Wildlife Advisory Boards without which the Standing Committee cannot consider the proposals must be clearly stated in the project format prepared for each proposal”.
Divyabhanusinh Chavda, NBWL member, regretted, “the hard copy with the maps was delivered to my house on Sunday, April 24 at Jaipur when I had already left for Delhi. Additional items in the agenda were presented at the meeting itself. In view of the above, I was unable to fully prepare for the meeting as I would have liked to do”.
Prominent amongst the proposals that invited major concerns from the members were the diversion of 7.2871 ha of forest land for construction of Ropeway from Bhavnath Taleti to Ambaji Temple in Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat.
NBWL member Prerna Singh Bindra expressed her concern on the possible impact it would cause on the resident vulture population in the area. “The ropeway will pass through a known breeding site of the long billed vulture”, pointed out Bindra. She added 69 vultures were counted in 2010, which is an increase from the last count of 41, suggesting an increase in numbers, as against a massive decline in the State, and indeed India.
The report by Divyabhanusinh and Nita Shah placed before the committee on January 24 clearly states that the ropeway, if constructed, would lead to the local extinction of the long-billed vulture Gyps indicus in North Gujarat. The critically endangered long-billed vulture has seen a collapse of nearly 99 per cent of its population, and is categorised as critically endangered, she pointed out. Ironically, the vulture is part of species recovery programme of MoEF.
Asad Rahmani, another NBWL member and Director Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) suggested as one of the conditions of clearance that the State Government should effectively implement the ban on use of diclofenac in the State so as to protect the existing population of vultures in the State.
The proposal for denotification of entire area of Trikuta Wildlife Sanctuary (31.40 sq kms) in Jammu and Kashmir also drew concern of the members. MK Ranjitsinh pointed out such a site - double the area of the current notification - should be identified with a proper biodiversity survey, and put before the Board and notified as a protected area first before any denotification of Trikuta Wildlife Sanctuary.

Bachchan to promote more tourist destinations in Gujarat.

AHMEDABAD: The advertisements showing country's best-known superstar reclining on a beach chair on Mandvi beach, telling you to 'breathe' in a bit of Gujarat has worked wonders.
Now, Amitabh Bachchan is set to begin his third round of shooting for the 'Khushboo Gujarat Ki' film series in August this year.
During this visit, Bachchan will shoot at Champaner, Pavagadh, Ambaji and Saputara. Bachchan had earlier visited the state twice for shooting of the films promoting Gujarat. While in the first trip, he shot in Somnath, Girnar, and Bhuj in the second, he shot at Ahmedabad, Porbandar and Dwarka.
State tourism department had last year released the first set of 60-second film titled 'Khushboo Gujarat Ki'. From scenes of a camp fire in the stark and pristine Gir forest to praising the 'fragrance of faith' at Somnath Temple, Bachchan took the audience through a tour of Kutch, Gir and Somnath in the films.
"The films to be shot during this visit of the actor will portray Saputara as a hill station which is at par with others like Mt Abu. Champaner, a world heritage site and Pavagadh and Ambaji will be promoted as major tourist destinations," said a state tourism department official. The state government had earlier made it clear that superstar Amitabh Bachchan is not being paid any remuneration for acting as Gujarat's brand ambassador.
Officials also said that the Big B has proposed to lend his voice for the light and sound show for Dwarka, Ambaji and Somnath. 

Science City turns focus on forests on international biodiversity day.

Published: Monday, May 23, 2011, 19:22 IST
Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: DNA 
A one-day workshop on 'Forest Biodiversity: Earth's Living Treasure' was organized at Gujarat Science City on Sunday on the occasion of International Day for Biological Diversity where teachers from schools and college and science club coordinators were present. It also organized several education and outreach activities on bio-resources and biodiversity based on theme 'Forest Biodiversity'.
The workshop educated the participants about nature and sustainability. Some 200 people were present at the workshop which included science educators, DNA club coordinators, students, and young researchers among others from different cities of the state. Inaugurating the workshop, chief conservator of forests of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam of Government of Gujarat, SD Vora, said the benefits of the forests are far reaching. "In spite of the growing understanding of the benefits of forests, they are disappearing at an alarming rate," added Vora. He opined that the younger generation should be motivated for conserving and managing forests in a sustainable manner.
An exhibition was also held by the Science City along with some hands-on activities, screening of scientific films, science, lectures highlighting the importance of forest biodiversity in human life and also the role which people play to management, conservation and sustainable development of the forest resources. Executive director of Science City, Dilip Gadhvi said, "The celebration has brought the issue in focus, and has sensitized the community on the same." Narottam Sahoo, senior scientist at Science City said the forest biodiversity is being lost at an alarming rate and 100 animals and plants are lost and damaged everyday in tropical forests."

India the Last Savior of Endangered Species.

The nature garlanded India with diverse climatic conditions, vast geography, vivid topography, and equal amount of water bodies to support wildness. The magical land of India is beautified by nature with snow capped mountains, rolling hills, sapphire rivers, emerald forest cover, charming flower basins, varied species of flora and fauna. These rich legacies of nature has been well preserved in our national parks, wildlife sanctuary, bio-reserve, marine reserve, and protected forest area.
The wildlife destinations in India are the last savior of endangered species in the world because of its timely act and measures concerning wildlife. Due to the human atrocities, changing of climate, natural calamities, and growing modernity has threatened wildlife to a great extent. In this case India has much preservation focal points for wildlife were they can find their abode. The few destinations are Sunderban National Park, Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary, Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary and Gir National Park.
Sunderban National Park – The national park is a huddle of 56 islands covered with mangrove tress and is located at the Piyali district of West Bengal. The park is famed for the protection of Royal Bengal Tiger and is also a source of great wildlife tours filled with adventure. It is also a world UESCO heritage site and is spread across an area of 4262 square kilometers.
Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary – The park is an UNESCO heritage site and is located in the state of Assam. The park is famed for the rarest species of animal called the one horn Rhino and the great Indian Tiger. This is the only park in India where to deal with the poachers the forest officers are provided arms and license to kill.
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary – The Periyar is the richest habitat of birds as well as animal and is the only man-made wildlife park in India. The park is famed for the protection of Asiatic Elephants and is the abode to the largest mammal in the world.
Gir National Park – The park is situated at the state of Gujarat and is famous for the Asiatic Lions. The park is the only save harbor to the 300 Asiatic Lions left in the world. The Indian scientist will now take sample from these living species of Lions to make clone of Asiatic Lions. These will no only help them to overcome extinction but will also save India from a national tragedy.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Foresters fear urbanisation may take toll on porcupines in Gujarat.

Fi May 20 2011,
While most forest officials associated with leopard and sloth bear census in Vadodara and surrounding forest ranges are certain about the increased number of the animals, not a single porcupine was spotted in the region during the three-day counting exercise.
Records of the state Forest Department showed there were 398 porcupines across Gujarat and ravines of Sindhrot near Vadodara was their most preferred home.
“It is true that we did not see a single porcupine in the three days of census. It was strange as we had sighted a number of them during the last census. We are not sure about how many were there at that time, but the fact that not a single porcupine was seen means there is certainly something wrong,” said M R Gadhvi, Range Forest Officer, Vadodara. He said that extensive urbanisation near the Sindhrot ravines was the “obvious reason” behind the possible fall in the number of porcupines.
Deputy Conservator of Forests M R Patel, however, said that the census was for leopards and sloth bears and that the points selected for the drive were on the basis of these animals. “As far as porcupine number is concerned, it will be officially declared in a couple of days. Like any other animal, porcupine will also get affected by urbanisation,” he said.
Sindhrot, located nearly 15 km from Vadodara city, has become a hotspot for developing farmhouses and ravines have been turned into flat surfaces at several locations. The number of resorts has also increased in the last five years.

Gujarat leopard population soars in this decade.

Published: Thursday, May 19, 2011, 16:54 IST
By DNA Correspondent | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: DNA
If the number of captures of the leopard is an indication, then the population of leopards has more than doubled in the last decade in Gujarat. Forest department concluded a three-day census of leopards in Gujarat on Wednesday. While awaiting the final tally, officials indeed estimate an increase in the total numbers, but refrained from providing any numbers.
However, giving a larger perspective, chief wildlife warden HS Singh said the number of leopards being captured by the department on complaints of locals have increased by more than double over the last decade. "A decade back, we used to capture nearly 25-30 leopards every year. In recent years we have caught up to 100 leopards, based on the complaints of residents, invasion in farms and attack on locals. Such incidents occur mostly in districts of Junagadh and Amreli," he said.
A keen observer of wildlife trends, Singh says an increase in breeding has indeed been noticed in village areas, which indicate the rising population. The number of man-animal conflict cases reported is also a warning, he adds, but refutes that lions are indirectly pushing the leopards out of the forest. "There is no overlap of the lions' prey base with the leopards', except the chital. Big animals like sambal and blue bull are not for the leopard's palate, while monkeys which are a staple food for leopards, do not interest the lion king," he adds. The sloth bear census also concluded on Wednesday and the results of both are awaited.

RFO suicide: 3 held, get bail in Ahmedabad.

Published: Thursday, May 19, 2011, 16:49 IST
By DNA Correspondent | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: DNA

Adalaj police on Wednesday morning arrested the accused trio - Bharat Pathak, director of Gujarat Ecological Education and Research (GEER) foundation, former deputy director NK Nanda and district forest officer Suman Gurjar - facing charges of abetment in connection with the suicide of 44-year-old Range Forest Officer (RFO) Yadavendrasinh Chauhan.
The accused, appearing for the first time before the police, had their statements recorded and by afternoon, were freed. They have denied the allegations made by deceased RFO Chauhan in his affidavits before he committed suicide.
All the three secured anticipatory bail last week from the Gujarat high court in Ahmedabad and were produced before the investigating agency to record their statements. The police officially arrested them on Wednesday following which they were granted regular bail.
The Adalaj police had fished out the dead body of Chauhan from Narmada canal on April 13, 2011. Chauhan had made several serious allegations against most of the top GEER foundation officials and state forest department in his affidavits before he took his life.
In his suicide note, Chauhan had alleged, to clear the bills for a project (Butterfly Park) he had completed, the accused were demanding bribe from him. Chauhan's father, Chandansinh Chauhan, a retired deputy superintendent of police, had lodged an FIR against the top three officials.
The father alleged that his son was under depression for many months before he took the drastic step. In fact, in one of Chauhan's affidavits, he has claimed that NK Nanda forced him to pay Rs 20,000 for Diwali greeting cards in 2010, adding that, his son was also forced to incur expenses for Nanda's daughter marriage.
However, all the three accused have reportedly denied the allegations in their statement recorded with Adalaj police on Wednesday. One of the accused told DNA that Chauhan was mentally unstable. On the other hand, police officials investigating the case said that they will try to get the accused on remand for further investigation on Friday.

'Leopards love to hide in sugarcane fields'.

Himanshu Kaushik, May 19, 2011, 04.15am IST
AHMEDABAD: Next time you happen to pass by a sugarcane field in Saurashtra or South Gujarat, watch out for the spotted big cats. Experts counting leopards in the 3-day census that ended on Wednesday found most leopards hiding in sugarcane fields.
Although the beast managed to dodge them, enumerators who were involved in the census exercise said they corroborated its presence with pug marks found in these fields.
One of the enumerators, refusing to be quoted, said "During the census, the farmers informed us, that their fields are inhabited by leopards and cubs. The farmers realized that when they heard the roar of the big cat."

This enumerator was posted in Una Taluka. He said farmers complained that one fine morning while one of the farmers was working in his field, he heard the roar which established the presence of leopard in their fields.
Senior officials said that sugarcane fields are important hideout places for the leopards. Since the sugarcane plants are very high, the big cats can hide easily. These fields are also the breeding grounds for these animals, which are shy by nature. He said the fields in Una, Talala, Kodinar in Saurashtra, and the fields in South Gujarat and Vadodara have a good population of leopards.
Officials said these are not their permanent homes, as these animals keep moving between the forest area and the fields.
Former principal conservator of forest (PCCF), GA Patel said that the sugar cane fields have become a favourite haunt for the leopard as their prey base in the protected area is on the decline. "As the prey base is decreasing, the leopards move out in search of easy prey."
Another former PCCF Sanat Chavan said that sugar cane fields need lots of water and hence there is a cool atmosphere in these fields which is mostly suited to the big cats.

Gir documentary finds place in LA fest.

May 19, 2011, 11.53pm IST
AHMEDABAD: 'Sinh Samrajaya - Lions Domain', a 15-minute documentary on the Asiatic lions produced and directed by Gujarati producer Nirav Parikh and his wife Swati has found a place in the LA New Wave International Film Festival, Season 2 which was organised earlier this month in Los Angeles.
The Parikh family has been involved with the Gir forest for the past decade. Parikh's children Devashri (14) and Parth (9) also feature in the film where they talk of the lions.
The documentary is about green soldiers - the four members of the family. Swati Parikh said that unlike other tourists who just see the lions and leave, the green soldiers have a very interesting perspective to their observation and study during lions sighting in forest. The family has unique experience to share.
Swati said that Nirav has been filming the lions for the past 20 years, but the three days when this documentary was shot were the best days for the family.
"We all were witness to territorial fight and even the two kids witnessed this which is a rare shoot for any filmmaker."
Diving details of the documentary she said that the film reveals the social structure and the behaviour of the lions in Gir forest, where the female plays a major role in regulating the joint family affair. The disciplinary protocols, laid down by the king himself, has to be followed by every member of the family or else they face the consequences, said Swati.
Role of water to suffice the Gir lion eco-system, co-existence of mammals, herbivores, and avian fauna in particular are also projected in this film. She said that apart from the LA film festival, the documentary has been nominated for the Japan film festival too. However, the schedule is yet to be decided.
The film was first screened in the international bird watchers' conference held in Khijadia earlier this year.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Gujarat Forest Dept bans setting up new hotels near Gir National Park .

Wednesday, May 18, 2011, 18:00 Hrs  [IST]
By HBI Staff | Mumbai
Hoteliers eyeing business opportunities around the Gir National Park in Gujarat ought to start looking for options elsewhere, as the Forests & Environment Department, Gujarat, has banned setting up new hotels within a two kilometre radius of the sanctuary.

According to a report in the Times of India, the department recently issued a notification restricting the building of any new hotel businesses in a two kilometre radius of the national park. The decision is aimed at giving Asiatic lions free access to the Sasan Gir sanctuary and to protect their natural corridor.

Forest officials said, however, that the hotels and farmhouses which are already in business would be unaffected by the new regulation and could function as earlier. Apparently, after the tourism department's advertisements featuring Gujarat’s brand ambassador, Amitabh Bachchan, there was a mad rush of the tourists to the sanctuary. Sensing opportunities, businessmen started buying land in the area, which consequently forced the State Forest Department to come out with the regulation.

Wild fire: Activists fear two lion cubs missing, foresters say all safe.

Express News Service
Posted: Wed May 18 2011, 04:37 hrs Rajkot:

A day after a huge fire broke out in the Krakaj forest area, environmental activists on Tuesday expressed fear for safety of two new born Asiatic lion cubs, which were reportedly too young to walk properly.
The forest was home to more than 10 Asiatic lions. While both, the Forest Department and activists, confirm that the big cats and other animals fled to safer parts of the forest on Monday evening, they differ over their safety conditions.
“The fire has been extinguished. There has been no damage,” said Range Forest Officer R Rathod, adding, “We have got reports that all the animals are safe.”
On the reports that two cubs might be missing, he said, “We have not received any such news.”
Contrary to this, the president of Dristi Paryavaran Trust (DPT), which has been associated with environment conservation in ‘interior Gir’, said, “Only last week had we spotted two cubs. One would be now five-day-old and the other may be 10-12 days old. When cubs are this young, they cannot walk or run properly.”
Mahendra Khuman further said that they had been doing a survey of the area after the fire broke out. “Maldharies (milkmen) and volunteers claimed to have seen at least 10 big cats fleeing the area, but there was no cub with them. We have been trying to locate these two cubs since this morning,” he said.
Krakaj in Amreli district is spread over 6,000 bighas. Forest officials said an inquiry has been order to find out the cause of the fire and the damage to the forest.
Locals, meanwhile, said that over 700 bighas, mainly covered with dry grass, might have been gutted in the blaze. 

Leopard numbers up 15-20%.

May 18, 2011, 05.54am IST
AHMEDABAD: A preliminary count arrived at the three-day leopard census which began on Monday has shown that big cats have been well conserved in Gujarat. The initial trends indicated an increase of about 15-20 per cent in the leopard population in the state.
This census might throw up some surprises too. Forest officials said that there are indications to suggest that leopards have thrived close to areas occupied by humans.
A senior forest official said that the recent incidents of man-leopard conflicts were an indication that the leopard is now moving more into densely populated areas.
However, there is not much of increase in the number of sloth bears. The 2006 census had revealed that there were 1070 leopards and 247 sloth bears in the state.
The census is being conducted over 17 districts. Specific areas have been identified by forest officials.
Forest department officials said that during the lion census too, they had carried out a similar count which had thrown up a near-perfect data, which was echoed after the final count was complete and it was proven that Gujarat has no less than 411 Asiatic lions.
Officials in the forest department said prior to conducting the census, the forest department officials take an estimate. This estimate is taken to ascertain the area to be covered for the census. During this initial estimation, a head-count is also taken. The sources said that the leopard population has shown a satisfactory growth. Forest officials said that the increase in leopard population is uniform across the state.
Forest Officials said that in Saurashtra, especially in Gir sanctuary and nearby areas, an increase of 10-15 per cent in leopard population has been recorded. Forest officials said leopards were spotted more near sugar cane fields, outside protected areas. This, they said, have turned out to be the new home for these big cats.
Sugarcane fields are now more like isolation zones for the big cats and hence these fields have turned into breeding grounds.
Experts involved with the census feel that the leopards are moving out of the protected area because of various factors like increasing presence of cattle that graze in the forest area.
Another senior official from the department said that the natural habitat of wildlife was shrinking because of the denudation of the forest.
The state government`s decision to allot land to adivasis in the forest areas has also driven away the prey base for the big cats into the open area and this has resulted in big cats moving out of the sanctuary.

No hotels within 2km of Gir sanctuary.

Himanshu Kaushik, May 14, 2011, 07.15am IST
AHMEDABAD: Hoteliers eyeing business opportunities around Gir sanctuary may not have many options left. The state forest department has banned such activities within the two-km radius of the sanctuary.
The department recently issued a notification restricting setting up any new hotel business in the two km periphery of the Sanctuary. The decision is aimed at giving Asiatic lions free access to the Sasan Gir sanctuary and to protect their natural corridor.
Forest officials said, however, those hotels and farmhouses which are already in business would continue to do so. He said after the tourism department's advertisement featuring Gujarat brand ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, there was a mad rush of the tourists to the sanctuary. Sensing opportunities, businessmen started buying land in the area. This forced the state forest department to come out with the regulation.
SK Nanda, principal secretary, forest and environment department said the restriction on the hotel industry was only to give free excess to the lions. He said that the movement of the lions was getting restricted because of the developments happening around the sanctuary. Nanda said the department has also asked existing hotel owners to have their flood lights would not affect the movement of lions.

Lioness dies of snake-bite at Gir sanctuary.

May 11, 2011, 01.21pm IST
VADODARA: A seven-year-old lioness has died due to a snake-bite at the Sayna Vasiya village in the Una range of the Gir National Park.
Manishwar Raja, divisional forest officer, east zone, said the lioness, who was from a group of three, consisting of two lions, died last evening.
The body was sent to a veterinary hospital at Jasdar for post mortem.
Gir is the only place where Asiatic lions are found. As per the 2010 census, their number was 411.

3 lion cubs born at Rampara Vidi, foresters jubilant.

Rajkot, 8 May, 2011
Foresters of Rampara vidi of Saurashtra are in celebration mood after three lion cubs born to a pair of lions brought here from Gir sanctuary.
Forest officials say the two females and a male were born on Thursday and are the first lions to be born in Rampara vidi.
Five Asiatic lions and three lionesses of selective gene pool were brought to Rampara vidi from Gir sanctuary for creation of a new settlement of Asiatic lions. They are now kept at Rampara vidi with utmost care in observation of experts.
Local forest official are excited about success of this new settlement cum breeding centre. They have declared Rampara vidi as prohibited area. New born cubs, their mother lioness ‘Asha’ and father lion ‘Babaro’ are under CCTV camera vigil round the clock. 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Foresters to have a field day counting leopards.

AHMEDABAD: Sugar cane fields are the place to be if you are hunting for leopards. Foresters who are gearing up for the three-day leopard census starting from May 16 said that the sugar cane fields will be the main area of focus outside the protected forest areas. Leopards, they said, seem to have developed a liking for these fields.
Leopard population in Gujarat is the fourth largest in the country. Additional principal chief conservator of forest H S Singh said that the leopards in Gujarat have moved out and are making the sugar cane fields their home because of increasing grazing pressure on the forest area. Because of the isolation, these fields have turned into their favourite haunt and breeding ground.
Singh said that there are about 12,000 Asian leopards in the country. Of these, Uttarakhand has the maximum population of over 2,100 leopards followed by Madhya Pradesh (2,000 leopards).
He said that Gujarat, which has the population of 1,070 leopards as per the 2006 census, is next to Chattisgarh which has the leopard population of 1,500.
In the state, leopard population is spread in 17 districts. Singh said apart from the sugar cane fields, granite rock mines in Devgadhbaria and Mandvi in south Gujarat are also major breeding grounds of leopards.
Forest officials said that the tried and tested method of direct sighting will be followed in the 2011 census. They said that in the direct sighting an animal would be sighted and its height, weight, length would be recorded and also some unique identification marks would be noted on paper. However, this will be only for one leopard if it is found in a group.
Officials said there is a possibility that the same group could move from one territory to another and hence, these marking would help them eliminate duplication.
The parameters set aside for the census include the ear and nose, the face mark, the tail and the size of the leopard apart from other details. Apart from these, pug mark method will also be employed considering the fact that leopard is a fast moving animal. The officials will also depend heavily on the information provided by the villagers and those working in the fields.


Leopard census to start from May 16.

May 4, 2011, 11.50pm IST
AHMEDABAD: The much-awaited leopard census will be held for three days from May 16. Along with this leopard census, the state forest department officials will also conduct a census of the sloth bear in the state during the same period. The 2006 census had revealed a leopard population of 1,070 in Gujarat; the number of sloth bears then was only 247.
Forest officials said the census, which is conducted every five years, was due this year. According to forest department sources, on May 16 and 17 a primary count would be taken up, while the final one would begin in the evening of 17 and end on 18.
Officials said, the 2006 census revealed that there were 360 leopards in four national parks and 22 sanctuaries, while another 563 (around 50% of the big cat's total population) were in the forest area and the remaining were in the revenue area.
Meanwhile, the 2002 data showed that there were 999 leopards in the state. Officials said that all eyes were now focused on the census as there were more leopard attacks in south Gujarat and even in Saurashtra. This was an indication that the number of leopards living close to human habitats might have increased. In 2006, the number of leopards close to villages and suburban zones was 147.
Officials of the forest department said that according to a rough estimate there was a possibility of over 30-40% rise in leopard's population in areas where humans stay. Officials said that even in Gir Sanctuary there was a sizeable increase in the leopard population. They said that this was evident from the capturing and citing of leopards in the sanctuary. The officials added that unlike the previous year, when 50 odd leopards were rescued or captured, 2010 saw a jump of over 100%. They daid that around 100 leopards were rescued or taken in captivity in 2010.
For the forest officials the recent trend of killing leopards in south Gujarat was worrisome and required intervention. Such man-animal conflicts are bound to increase as population keeps rising and moving out in the revenue area.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Nift trains Sidi women to make souvenirs.

Dayananda Yumlembam, Apr 28, 2011, 06.41am IST
AHMEDABAD: Samina Bajrani, 30, a Sidi woman from Hadmatiya in Junagadh district in the state, is now looking forward to an opportunity for earning a regular income. Bajrani, who had been depending on seasonal incomes till now, has not only learnt how to stitch and sew using machines but also make handbags, purses and similar items.
The National Institute of Fashion Technology (Nift) in Gandhinagar has trained 30 women of the Sidi Community in Junagadh to make various kinds of carrybags so that they could be sold as souvenirs to tourists visiting Gir forest, and Somnath temple.
Nift has not only provided the women various designs of such bags but also planned a way to brand crafts made by the Sidi community. The institute has designed a unique, colorful doll that resembles a Sidi girl. One such curly haired dolls will dangle from every product made by these Sidi women.
"The idea was to ensure that while the training helps provide a means of regular income for the Sidi women, it also helps in forest conservation," said the director of Nift Gandhinagar Sameeta Rajora, who had been a forest conservator in Madhya Pradesh prior to her association with Nift.
Till now, participants have learnt how to make various kinds of bags and the samples of the same will be exhibited at Nift, Gandhinagar, in May.

Giant squirrel, bison to be displayed at Sakkarbaug zoo

Apr 30, 2011, 10.45pm IST
RAJKOT: Visitors to the state forest department-run Sakkarbaug zoo will have some more species to watch. Forest department officials say that from May 1, Swarnim Gujarat day, a bison and a giant squirrel that have been brought from Mysore zoo will be on display for public view.
According to V J Rana, director of Sakkarbaug zoo, six bird species have been brought to the zoo from Mysore in exchange for a lion and a lioness. We will put the giant squirrel and the bison on display from May 1 and the rest will be displayed in the near future," Rana added.
Sakkarbaug zoo is major attraction for wildlife lovers and children with a variety of wildlife species available on public display, including cheetahs. Sakkarbaug zoo is the only zoo in the country which has cheetahs, which were brought from Singapore in exchange for Asiatic lions.

Range forest officer suicide case accused ‘missing’.

Published: Tuesday, May 3, 2011, 14:14 IST
By DNA Correspondent | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: DNA

It's been exactly three weeks since Gujarat Ecological and Education Research (GEER) Foundation's range forest officer (RFO) Yadavendrasinh Chauhan allegedly committed suicide, but Chauhan's three superiors, charged with abetment of his suicide, are yet to be even questioned. In fact, police say that the accused are nowhere to be found.
"The mobile phones of the three accused are switched off. They are not at home for past many days, and they haven't even been discharged after their transfer orders," Adalaj police officials, investigating the case, said. Officials said that the accused are nowhere to be found.
"The police have visited the accused person's houses and office at GEER foundation, but they were missing," Adalaj PI Mukesh Chaudhary, who is investigating the case, said.
The dead body of Chauhan was found by Adalaj police in Narmda canal on April 13. Soon, the alleged involvement of three senior officers of GEER Foundation, including of director Bharat Pathak, deputy director NK Nanda and DFO Suman Gurjar, came to light.
The police were initially reluctant to register a FIR, but it was registered after Chauhan's parents raised hue and cry about the incident. However, no action has been taken by the police yet.
Three weeks have passed by, but police are yet to even record statements of any of the accused.
In between, two of the accused, deputy director NK Nanda and DFO Suman Gurjar, were transferred from GEER foundation.
Further, the accused filed an anticipatory bail application with Gandhinagar sessions court but their plea was rejected. Meanwhile, the deceased's family is unhappy with the tardy pace of investigations.
"It's been over three weeks but there is no development in the case. The accused are being given protection by senior officials. I have talked to the police, but all they said was that the accused are missing from their offices and houses," said Chauhan's father, Chandansinh Chauhan.

Gujarat Ecology Commission comes up with Coral Atlas of Gujarat.

Published: Sunday, May 1, 2011, 15:16 IST
Place: Gandhinagar | Agency: DNA

The Gujarat Ecology Commission (GEC), in technical collaboration with Bhaskaracharya Institute for Space Applications and Geo-Informatics, has come up with a first of its kind Coral Atlas of Gujarat. The atlas was released by state forest and environment minister Mangu Patel on Saturday.
"The atlas has been prepared after complete mapping of coral reefs in the 350 sq km area along the state's coastline. It will make it easy to identify areas of corals which are most adversely affected by various natural and anthropogenic factors," E Balagurusamy, member secretary, GEC, told reporters.The information in the atlas will help in formulating an area-specific conservation strategy. It will also help in identifying potential areas for coral transplantation.
Minister Mangu Patel said that the study report will enable the state to ensure management of the coastal zone in such a way that the natural resources can be protected in spite of rising development activities in coastal areas.
SK Nanda, principal secretary, forest and environment department, said that GEC was conducting pre-feasibility study for transplanting of corals from Lakshadweep and other places in coral areas along Gujarat's coastline.
"Positra, Parwada and Narara in Jamnagar are the three sides where the pre-feasibility study is being undertaken for transplanting corals. The study will be completed in another two-three months," Nanda said. The principal secretary also informed that for the first time corals, outside the Gulf of Kutch, along the coastline of Umargam, Porbandar, Bhavnagar and Diu have been mapped.The official conceded that industrial pollution could cause irreparable damage to the corals, but added that the government will initiate steps to conserve and protect the corals. Earlier, the forest minister had also launched a website on the Integrated Coastal ZoneManagement (IZCM) project.

Remnants of Mauryan-era stupas found in Girnar forest.

Manas Dasgupta
Union Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh has asked Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to undertake a thorough archaeological survey of the Girnar reserve forest and the Gir sanctuary in Junagadh district in the Saurashtra region of the State.
In a letter dated April 21, Mr. Ramesh said he was giving the advice on the suggestion of a noted historian from Delhi University Nayanjot Lahiri, who recently visited the reserve forest and found the remnants of two “stupas” which she believed could be of the Mauryan dynasty.
Mr. Ramesh said Dr. Lahiri located one of the stupas, locally known as Lakha Medi, near the Bhordevi temple inside the forest.
The historian reckoned that the stupa must have been about 50 feet high. Its core was of solid bricks, similar to the “Sanchi Stupa – I” (Madhya Pradesh) and the “Stupa at Piprahwa” (Uttar Pradesh), believed to be of the Mauryan era.
She had also found many loose bricks around indicating there could have been other stupas in the vicinity. But what was more alarming was that the bricks from the stupas were being taken away by the locals for renovating the temple.
“Therefore, it is urgent, that there is a complete survey of the stupa with accurate line drawings and photographs followed by careful archaeological conservation,” Mr. Ramesh said.

Better stupa

The historian located another “stupa,” locally called “Rathakot,” near another temple known as “Jina Baba ki Madi,” beyond Hasnapur dam in the Girnar reserve forest. This stupa was found to be in a much better condition.
Mr. Ramesh said Dr. Lahiri believed that if a proper survey was carried out, the reserve forest and the sanctuary could become famous for not only being the only abode of the Asiatic Lions, but also of the country's “historic heritage.”
The survey would require close cooperation between the State Forest Department and the Department of Archaeology.

‘Coral Atlas'

Meanwhile, a first comprehensive “Coral Atlas” of the State — giving not only the figures and extent of the coral reefs across the State's coastline, but also the details of the habitat scenario in each of the reefs — has been released by the State government. The Atlas was prepared by the State-owned Gujarat Ecology Commission with technical assistance from the Bhashkaracharya Institute of Space Applications and Geo-Informatics.
According to Principal Secretary of the State Environment and Forests Department S.K. Nanda, the Atlas would serve as an important baseline in the preparation of the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan for Gujarat initiated by the Union Environment Ministry. “It is also a contribution to the State's earnest efforts towards sustainable development,” he said.

Website launched

Along with the Atlas, a dedicated website on Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project was also launched by the State government. The Atlas was the second publication of the GEC after the “Mangrove Atlas of Gujarat” last year featuring thematic maps of mangrove distribution along the State's coastline.
“The initiative by GEC is an attempt to come out with the baseline documentation on the natural heritage in order to ensure effective management of the coastal zone in line with the rising developmental activities on the coastal belt,” GEC member-secretary E. Belaguruswamy said.