Thursday, June 30, 2011

21-yr-old Asian lion dies at Delhi zoo.

Nivedita Khandekar, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, June 29, 2011
Ghaghas, a 21-year-old Asiatic lion died due to old age at the National Zoological Park in the Capital on Wednesday. The Asiatic lion was not keeping well for last many months and suffered from paralysis a few days ago. “Ghaghas had been seriously ill for last few days and had showed signs of deterioration since this morning,” said a zoo official.
The average life expectancy for a captive lion is 18 to 20 years, zoo officials said. Ghaghas was brought from Junagarh sanctuary to the National Zoological Park, popularly known as Delhi zoo, when it was just seven years old.
Zoo officials said, except for the paralysis developed recently, Ghaghas was not ill otherwise but showed all signs of ageing. For instance, in absence of the famed strong teeth, the ageing lion was given boneless meat. Zoo staff took great care of the food intake and also fed tonic supplements for strength.
Ghaghas was not taken out of the cage and was provided all care within its cage itself. In winters, the cage had a heater right next to the lion while in summer the heater was replaced with a cooler.
After Ghaghas’s death, the Delhi zoo is now left with seven Asiatic lions (three male and four female). One male Sundaram and female Akila too have developed paralysis, zoo sources said.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

NRI family lost in Girnar jungle found by the forest department.

Junagadh, 26 June, 2011
Natively from Junagadh but presently citizens of the United Kingdom, the Doshi family was on Friday in dense forest of Girnar that also has presence of lions and leopards. After high drama of over an hour, the family was traced.
The Doshi family was in Girnar forest to visit the Ashram of Kashmiri bapu. But on their way back they got on the wrong path and ultimately ended up getting lost in the jungle.
The family consisting of Bhartiben Lakhani, Husband Arvind Doshi and Son Bijal doshi was carrying mobile phone, through which they called their family. Their family informed MLA Mahendra Mashru about the incident.
As soon as the issue was reported to the forest department, the forest officers Kishore Dethadiya, Jhalabhai and Kuvadiyabhai started looking for the family in the parts of the jungle located around the path to Kashmiri Bapu Ashram. After a search for over 1 and a half hour the family was found and was brought back to the city.

Thanks to NIFT, Siddi women carry a wallet of their own.

Source: Moulin Parikh, DNA   |   Last Updated 05:10(29/06/11
Ahmedabad: For the women of the Siddi tribe residing in Hadmatiya village in Junagadh district, the daily routine would involve cooking food for the family and then rushing to the farm to lend a helping hand to their husbands. Now, this routine is set to change after a team from NIFT, Gandhinagar, trained them in purse and wallet making.
An initiative by Development Support Agency of Gujarat (D-SAG), an autonomous society set up by the tribal development department of Gujarat, the project named 'Primitive to Contemporary, Siddis of Junagadh' was aimed to provide an alternate means of livelihood to the tribals. Thirty women were trained for a period of four months at Hadmatiya.
Siddi women visited the NIFT centre in Gandhinagar on Tuesday, to see their handicrafts put on display. Certificates were also handed over to the women by Ashwini Kumar, CEO, D-SAG and additional secretary, and by Sameeta Rajora, director, NIFT.
It was a proud moment for most of the women who had never ventured out of their village. "Initially, we were quite hesitant but soon started enjoying the various steps involved in purse making," said Sama Chotiara, a mother of two. "The village had become my new home and it is very satisfying to know that my efforts will help these families lead a better life," said Meghal Darji, who provided most of the training. While most of the women were illiterate, there were few members like Rihan Chotiwala, a class XII pass. "Despite being the most literate in my village, I did not have a major source of livelihood. With this training, I can now look forward to earning money by supervising these products before they go to the market."
Leader of the tribe, Hanifa Masgool said, "Our future generation cannot work on the farm and make money. They need to rub shoulders with the outside world and this is how it starts."
"The purses and wallets made by the Siddi tribe will be attached with a doll, which doubles up as the branding logo. The products will initially be made available at the Gir forest's souvenir shop," said NIFT's associate professor F&AD, Panchami Mistry.

Gujarat pushes centre for Rs.836 crore assistance for Lions.

By our special correspondent
Gandhinagar, 28 June, 2011

The Gujarat Government has demanded Rs.836.17 crore central assistance from the Government of India for the Lion conservation in Gir Sanctuary and National Park and for the unique Ring road surrounding it. The ring road will help in minimizing the man-animal clash and human activity in the region.
The State Government has recently pushed the central government again for these two ambitious projects.
The State Government in a formal communication wrote to the Ministry of Forest & Environment(MOEF) that,“ as per 2010 estimation Greater Gir area had about 411 Asiatic Lions.
Greater Gir, the only home of Asiatic Lion, needs to be intensively protected and managed with all out efforts in conservation of Asiatic Lions. In spite of successful conservation efforts over last four decades registering sustained increasing population trend the Asiatic Lion is still critically endangered on account of its total population being only about 411.Therefore the long-term attention for conservation of Asiatic Lion is required. In the recent times poaching of large cats for international market has imposed a serious threat to lions also.”
“The Government of Gujarat is taking utmost possible steps. Considering the need for additional resources and contribution of Government of India, the Government of Gujarat has submitted a proposal of “ THE LONG TERM CONSERVATION OF ASIATIC LION IN BRHUHAD GIR “. The project cost was Rs.262.36 Crore with Government of India’s share Rs.236.17 Crores and Government of Gujarat share of Rs. 26.19 Crore. The cost included the cost of relocation and rehabilitation of resident people and Gir Maldharies.
The proposal includes strengthening protection, habitat development, wild life health care and mitigating man-wild animal conflict situation, use of modern technology, eco development works, public awareness, eco tourism. “ wrote the state Government to the MOEF.
The MOEF has provided only Rs.120.46 lakh as financial and technical assistance to the State Government for protection and conservation of Asiatic Lions in Gir forest in last four years.
Gir National Park and sanctuary area is 1412.13 Sq. Km. Six State Highways and some minor roads pass through the Sanctuary and used by the local people. Existing Highways passing though the sanctuary affect movement of animals and Forest cover, increase Wildlife mortality with the volume of traffic and increase possibility of poaching. To reduce this traffic a project of “Garland/Ring road” around Gir forest has been proposed.
The State Government wrote to the MOEF that, “The proposed garland/ring road is estimated to be a length of 269 Km. The estimated cost of project is about Rs.600.00 Crores. The said project has been duly recommended by State Board of Wild life and is sent to Union Government on 2-06-2009 for consideration. The ring road proposed 14 over passes and 16 under passes on specific migratory path locations for safe passages to wild life while crossing Highways and immunize the protected area from traffic playing through human interference.’’


Publication: The Times Of India Ahmedabad; Date: Jun 27, 2011; Section: Times City; Page: 5

Foresters Find Rescued Animals Often Return To Human Habitation Himanshu Kaushik TNN
Sasan: A four-year old leopard was caught from Ishwaria area in the Dedakadi range. It was among several leopards caught close to human habitats.
    When the attacks on livestock and big cats prowling close to human dwellings became frequent, foresters tagged this leopard with a micro chip before releasing it in Lipapani area. A month later the same leopard was rescued from a well in Kotdi area. After treatment it was released in Varvangada area in Sasan. Forty days later the beast was caught from Ankolwadi area from a field and was released in Gola area. Earlier this year, for the fourth time, the repeatoffender was again rescued from a field in Ankolwadi.
    Not just leopards, forest rescue staff have noticed over 24% of wild animals repeatedly going back to where people stay inside or around the forest. Among these ‘troublemakers’, a large number of them are big cats that are caught too close to spots from where they had been rescued earlier.
    State forest officials said in 2010-11, 208 animals were rescued by the Sasan rescue team. Of these, 113 were leopards, 63 lions and the rest crocodiles and pythons.
    Analysis of data by the rescue centre revealed that 76% animals were first timers. Of the remaining 24%, 16% were rescued twice while another five per cent animals were caught close to human habitats three times and at least three per cent were caught four times.
    The analysis further revealed that some cats were caught more than once from the same area. This was after they were released in the wild, far from the place where they created trouble. Citing an example, a forest officer said that the four-yearold leopard was caught for the third time from Ankolwadi area and was released about 30 km in Gola area. But nearly after a month this animal was again found in the same area.
    Deputy conservator of forest Sandeep Kumar said, “The department puts a micro chip in each animal rescued along with the date, place and even the time of the rescue. If the same animal is caught again the chip reader can tell the story.”
    He added that data analysis showed that many animals return to their own territory from where they were earlier rescued.
    Kumar said that after a rescue operation when an animal was released in the wild, by instinct they would climb a hillock and look for light and move in that direction. “Animals return to their territory only because of food habits. An animal that has been staying in or around the village would have tasted cattle and got used to it, which is why it returned to these places.”
    Additional principal chief conservator of forest H S Singh said animals have strong intelligence and as soon as they reach the area that they are familiar with, they prefer to be there.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Male lion killed in Gir national park.

PTI | 07:06 PM,Jun 26,2011 Vadodara, Jun 26 (PTI) A male lion was killed by another one in Hadala range of the Gir National Park, district forest official said today.Talking to PTI on phone, district forest official Manishwar Raja said that the postmortem of the lion has confirmed that it was killed by another one over territorial fight.The park, housing 411 Asiatic lions, is currently closed for tourists following breeding season of lions.Meanwhile, a 4 to 5 years-old lioness, rescued from a 60-feet deep well at Chotra in Khambha range two days back, will be released in the forest for breeding, Raja said. PTI cor

Thursday, June 23, 2011

'Flight diverters' to come to birds' rescue.

BHAVNAGAR: The Gujarat Electric Transmission Corporation (GETCO) will install bird flight diverters on the 66 km high-tension cables that pass through the marsh located at Kumbharvada-Nari road on the outskirts of Bhavnagar. Officials say this will prevent the electrocution of migratory birds, especially flamingos.
Officials say the bird flight diverter is an innovative device consisting of a bright orange disc swinging from a strong snap clamp, which can be fitted to conductors with a hot stick from the ground. Birds detect the movement or colour of the disc and veer away preventing bird strike.
They are made from durable materials and will not deteriorate in coastal areas and can withstand cyclones.
This technology is used in western countries. As large birds lack the maneuverability to avoid overhead power lines, the diverter simply makes the line look bigger, so that it gives the bird enough time to change direction and save its life.
TOI earlier reported the deaths of flamingos after they hit the 66 km high-tension cables of GETCO. The post-mortem of the bird carcasses confirmed the electrocution.
A meeting between GETCO and forest department officials was held recently to find out a long-term solution to this death trap.
"As an immediate step, we placed 'scarecrows' below GETCO's power cables where the birds were found dead and we have observed that no deaths were reported since then," said N P Maheshwari, superintending engineer, GETCO.
"Now, as a long-term solution, we will place bird flight diverters on our cables to prevent birds from hitting the high-tension cables. We have initiated the process," said Maheshwari.
However, GECTO officials say it is difficult to install the diverters because sewage has accumulated below the transmission lines. "As of now, we are unable to approach the transmission cable lines due to the depth of water. We have asked the Bhavnagar Municipal Corporation for help," said a source in GETCO.
"The decision of putting reflectors on high-tension cables is a viable long-term solution and is a welcome step to save birds. It should be installed at every spot where collision deaths of birds were reported in the state," B M Parasharya, ornithologist at Anand Agricultural University and a flamingo expert, told TOI.
Parasharya had visited the site in Bhavnagar and met forest department and GETCO officials to discuss the matter.

Gir witnesses increase of 1 lakh tourists, Rs 1 cr income in a year.

Junagadh, 19 June, 2011
Amitabh Bachchan’s hugely publicized ads for Gujarat have been beneficial to the state in many ways, from which Gir seems to be benefiting the most. Gir has witnessed a huge increase in number of travelers in recent months.
According to the figures between June 2009 to May 2010 Gir National Park and Gir interpretation center of Devaliya both were visited by 5166 foreign tourists and 200800 Indian tourists; which is a total of 205966 tourists. From which the Gir interpretation center had 213 foreign and 134005 domestic tourists while the Gir sanctuary had 4953 foreign and 66795 domestic tourists.
But this year the number has increased by 98,861 tourists. According to forest department officials in Sasan Gir; 239 foreign tourists and 1,70,350 domestic tourists, totally 1,70,589 tourists have visited Gir interpretation centre and 6061 foreign tourists and 1,28,177 domestic tourists, totally 1,34,238 tourists had visited Gir sanctuary between June 2010 and May 2011.
Last year Gir Interpretation center made an income of Rs 1,20,46,155; whereas Gir sanctuary made Rs 87,20,000. In total the forest department made an income of Rs 2,16,66,840. While this year with 98,861 more tourists, Gir sanctuary has made Rs 1,66,49,950; whereas Gir Sanctuary made Rs 1,56,91,726. In total the forest department made an income of Rs 3,23,41,676 which is Rs 1,06,74,836 more than previous year.
Apart from that the hotels and other hospitality resources near the National Park are benefiting from the increase in the number of tourists. Take an example of local car operators. While one Gipsy car driver was getting 70-80 tourist trips of Gir sanctuary in 2009-10, in year 2010-11 the same driver got 120-150 trips.
But the real hospitality the tourists will never forget is the one offered by the small farm owners in the villages nearby, the tourists feasted on delicious Kathiyawadi food like Bajra No Rotlo, Kadhi, Khichdi and Olo.
The Lion King has not only blessed the forest department but also the small scale cottage industry and numerous individuals who depend on them.

Pangolin rescued from irrigation well in Gir.

Himanshu Kaushik, TNN Jun 22, 2011, 01.12am IST
AHMEDABAD: How uncommon the pangolin is, was evident from a rescue operation that the forest department carried out in Gir forest after villagers tipped them off about a crocodile falling into an irrigation well.
The rescue team lead by Dr R K Hirpara set out ready to save a crocodile but when they reached the site at Surajgadh village, 8 kms from Sasan, they realized that it was a pangolin, a mammal belonging to the scaly anteater species.
Sandeep Kumar, deputy conservator of forest (headquarter) who had earlier captured a pangolin's encounter with lionesses on his camera, told TOI that the team from Sasan found the animal curled around the pipe used to draw water from the well.
One of the team members tried to save the animal by manually getting down in the well. But the difficulty of the operation increased as the pangolin kept going further down and there was a possibility that it could have drowned.
Finally, the rescue team lowered a net over the water. As the pangolin found the net a safe place, it slipped on to the net and the team pulled the pangolin out.
Later, it was brought to the Sasan rescue centre. The animal was in deep stress as it had consumed a lot of water. It was kept under observation and was finally released on Monday night.
Kumar said that it was a male pangolin, around three years old and 3 feet long, weighing over 7.5 kg.
In the last few months, sightings of animals like pangolin, and rusty spotted cat, which are otherwise rare, have increased considerably in Gir National Park and Sanctuary, said Kumar.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Forest dept to plant 13 crore saplings during monsoon.

TNN Jun 17, 2011, 01.04am IST
AHMEDABAD: No less than 13 crore saplings will be planted by the state forest department during the monsoon season in various cities, suburbs and villages of Gujarat. Of these, around one crore saplings would be high-quality clonal saplings, said a forest official.
This is for the first time that the forest department is planning to use taller saplings to ensure better survival rate. Till date, all the tree plantation drives have achieved a survival rate of 30-35 per cent.
H S Singh, additional principal chief conservator of forest (social forestry) said, "We want to improve this survival rate to at least 40 per cent. For this, we have chosen saplings that are at least 2.5 feet tall; we will also plant high-quality clonal saplings."
The department plans to distribute nine crore saplings to the public for a massive tree-plantation drive which will be taken up during the monsoon season, said the officer.
The remaining 3.5 crore saplings will be planted by the department. "We have plans to have 5,000 clusters of trees in various villages," a senior forest official said.
This year, the forest department will conduct a tree plantation drive in Pavagadh.
"This is part of our annual programme - to green one tourist spot," said a forest official. Around 12,000 saplings will be planted during the plantation drive in Pavagadh.
To check salinity ingress along the coast, a mangrove plantation drive will also be taken up.
A forest official said this mangrove plantation drive will be taken up across 10,000 hectares.

Three arrested for killing blackbuck in Gujarat's Velavadar Sanctuary.

Published: Thursday, Jun 16, 2011, 15:52 IST
By Mahebub Kureshi | Place: Bhavnagar | Agency: DNA
Following constant complaints of killing of male blackbuck in Velavadar National Sanctuary, the forest department kept a watch on activities there and on Wednesday they nabbed three persons who were preparing to celebrate with blackbuck's meat in the sanctuary.
While on the trail, forest department officials noted that one blackbuck was sick and could not run according to her capacity. She came under the scanner of forest guards and on Wednesday at 10 am Range Forest Officer (RFO) RP Jadeja started off in search of the ill animal.
After much effort and after searching almost every corner of the sanctuary, they could not locate her. But Jadeja sighted marks of a motor bike—and half a kilometre away residents of Sanes (Bhal), Hasmukh Premji Chudasama, Anil Gordhanbhai Chudasama and Kanti Devjibhai Chauhan were caught red-handed with the carcass of a male blackbuck.
The three accused were nabbed when they were in the process of separating the meat, skeleton, legs and head of the animal.
After primary interrogation, the forest department found that the accused were planning a party on the animal’s meat, and intended to sell the head and skin of the blackbuck.
Sources in the forest department said that in the grey market the head could fetch Rs.10,000 and skin double that amount. The three accused were presented before magistrate IA Pathan and sent to jail.

Gir shuts its doors on tourists this monsoon.

Published: Wednesday, Jun 15, 2011, 16:32 IST
Place: Vadodara | Agency: PTI

Gir National Park, the only home to Asiatic lions, will remain closed for tourists during the monsoon season owing to the breeding of wild cats and conservation efforts being undertaken at the sanctuary, forest officials said.
“Its (Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary) closing is being done to provide some privacy to wild animals like lions, leopards and birds like peacocks etc during their mating season as the four months of monsoon period are considered the best for their breeding season,” divisional forest officer, Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, Sandeep Kumar said.
The Gir sanctuary, located at Sasan in Junagadh district, is only home to pure Asiatic lions and attracts a large number of Indian as well as foreign tourists.
“Since we supervise the conservation efforts, we want to prevent any disturbance in the conservation activities, which could also be caused by the tourists. So we close the sanctuary,” Kumar said, adding that the park would be closed from June 16 and will reopen only in October after the monsoon season is over.
As per the 2010 census, the total number of lions in Gir sanctuary has risen to 411 from 359 in 2005. With a total area of 1,412 sq km (about 258 sq km for the national park and 1153 sq km for the sanctuary), the park is considered as safe haven for the lions and other species.
“It is also a natural habitat for leopards and antelopes like sambar, spotted deer, blue bull, black buck, and wild boar, jackal, hyena, langoors, porcupine, bear and crocodiles and over 250 species of birds,” Kumar said.
The officer also added that the roads in the park are kachcha and get damaged during monsoon. They need to be repaired before allowing tourists to visit (the park) after its closure period is over, he said.
“Not only that we have to monitor the movement of wild animals during rains and in case of heavy rain in the area, we have to chalk out a rescue plan and taking them to safer places,” added Kumar.
In addition, if big cats fall sick, we have to make arrangements for their treatment and that is why the closure of the park during monsoon season is required, he said

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Volunteers travel 6,000 km for vulture conservation.

Vijaysinh Parmar, TNN Jun 11, 2011, 01.08am IST
RAJKOT: If you find young volunteers in scorching summer on district roads meeting people and forest officials, then they must be members of Nature Club-Surat. They have been travelling to each district of the state to spread awareness about vulture conservation. They try to convince chemists and veterinarians against the use of Diclofenac, one of the reasons behind fast vanishing of endangered species.
Use of Diclofenac in animals has almost wiped out the vulture population in the Indian sub-continent. Vultures eat the carcasses of livestock which have been administered veterinary Diclofenac and are poisoned by the accumulated chemical. The mechanism is probably renal failure, a known side-effect of the medicine.
Volunteers have already travelled more than 5,000 km, covering more than 16 districts in the state. The tour is said to be the longest distance-wise ever taken out for the conservation of a bird species in the state.
On Tuesday, the members arrived in Rajkot district. "The yatra is aimed at convincing chemists, veterinary officers and other officials concerned to not prescribe Diclofenac for animal treatment as it is banned.
"One of the major reasons for vanishing vultures, the rare and endangered species, is Diclofenac,'' said Viral Prajapati, one of the members of the club. "There is an urgent need for co-ordination between forest department, animal husbandry, food and drugs control department and local volunteers to conserve vultures and stop the use of Diclofenac in the state. These three departments are inter-connected when it comes to vulture conservation and various notifications in the past have been issued by the government department concerned. We wanted them to implement it more strictly and consistently and we have received very good response from them,'' said Ruchi Dave, a vulture conservationist and honorary wildlife warden, Bhavnagar district.
Dave is currently doing her doctoral thesis on 'Conservation of gyps species of vulture in Saurashtra' from Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Mumbai.
"We wanted to create a bridge between various stakeholders. We have also contacted local volunteers who are working in this field in their respective districts for this purpose. The constant monitoring, effective implementation of various government notifications and creating food chain for vultures will help in their survival,'' Dave said.
"Their major source of food is carcasses dumped at cattle sheds (panjarapol). But, we have observed that in north Gujarat panjarapol have given contracts for carcasses and as such there is no food for vultures. This kind of problem needs to be addressed urgently,'' said Viral Prajapati.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

IUCN classifies GIB 'critically endangered'.

NAGPUR: Great Indian Bustard (GIB), the majestic bird of the Indian grasslands, locally known as Maldhok, has now been classified as 'critically endangered', the highest level of threat as per the criteria of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The IUCN Red List 2011 of threatened birds released by UK-based BirdLife International has also observed that big birds suffer the most due to growing human disturbance, habitat loss and hunting.
Speaking on the issue, Asad Rahmani, director, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), said, "There is an urgent need to start 'project bustard' on a long-term basis, based on scientific recommendations of studies conducted by BNHS and Wildlife Institute of India ( WII)."
Rahmani also suggested that GIB conservation breeding programme should be started with the help of national and international experts. BNHS is the India partner of BirdLife International and has been studying GIB for more than a decade.
GIB faces a myriad of challenges in the form of habitat loss and fragmentation of habitat, apart from hunting. Grasslands, which are GIB habitats, have been the most neglected habitat in India. Already most grassland has been converted into agricultural lands or has been degraded by excessive cattle grazing.
Rahmani says the burgeoning population and the resultant pressure on land due to 'developmental' works is the main reason behind the habitat loss. Standing one metre tall and weighing about 15kg, GIB was once widespread across the grasslands of India.
It is estimated that the total number of GIB in India at present is not more than 250. Of this, one-fourth of the population is stated to be in Maharashtra. In Vidarbha, 8-10 birds were recorded in Warora tehsil and Nagpur district during the annual survey conducted last year. In bustard sanctuary, Nannaj, there are 30-35 birds. 
However, expert Dr Pramod Patil says, "We are not getting proper records of GIBs and chicks for the past three years in the sanctuary. This is disastrous and we need to act before it turns out to be another Sariska for GIB."
GIB conservationist Gopal Thosar says the biggest threat GIBs face in Warora is from the flurry of mines and power plants that are coming up in the area. "It's high time the wildlife wing of the forest department chalks out a comprehensive action plan to save the endangered birds," Thosar felt.
Thosar added that the GIBs are taking to farm lands as its habitat is vanishing fast. Farmers protecting these birds on their land need to be honoured and benefited.
At present GIBs are found only in scattered populations across Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
The gradual disappearance of GIB from the already diminishing Indian grasslands further shows the bad state of its habitat. The Asiatic Cheetah had become extinct from the Indian grasslands even before independence.
With the destruction of grasslands other dependent species such as other members of the bustard family - lesser florican, houbara bustard and great bustard - and animals such as blackbuck, chinkara, Indian wolf, golden jackal, Indian fox and nilgai also are under threat.

30 bird species from state fly into endangered list.

MUMBAI: In a worrying development, nearly 30 bird species from Maharashtra find a place on the endangered list prepared by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (also known as the IUCN Red List or Red Data List), a total of 144 bird species from India are at risk. Of these, 30 are found in the state, including Mumbai.
"We need to take serious measures to protect habitats which sustain these species," Atul Sathe, public relations officer of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), said.
The report also lists the Great Indian Bustard, which was earlier classified as 'endangered', under the 'critically endangered' species, the highest level of threat according to the IUCN criteria.
Prompted by the alarming trend, naturalists have called for long-term breeding programmes to boost the country's diminishing bird population. "Research has shown that breeding bustards is not very difficult. We need to seriously think about a project that will help conserving the remaining bustard population," director of BNHS Asad Rahmani said.
Besides the Great Indian Bustard,
The IUCN's endangered list includes several bird species found in Mumbai, including the Lesser Flamingo, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Black-headed Ibis, Pallid Harrier, Black-bellied Tern and White-rumped Vulture.
Even the state bird of Maharashtra-the Forest Owlet-has been listed under the "Critically Endangered" category. It is believed to be endemic to Satpuda range which includes states like Maharashtra, Orissa, Gujarat , Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Bird experts state it is another example of how the species has suffered due habitat destruction.
"Encroachment of forest land and indiscriminate felling of trees are responsible for the decline in the Forest Owlet population.
Unfortunately, it is not among the priority species under the National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-16)," ornithologist Girish Jathar said. He has closely studied the Forest Owlet in Toranmal Reserve Forest in Nandurbar district of Maharashtra
However, the trend in the bird population is worrying even globally. Experts are worried that almost a whooping 1,253 bird species that amounts to nearly 13% of the total number are threatened. "It is an indication that we need to act now, before they become extinct," said Jathar.
The IUCN Red List evaluation considers 144 bird species across India to be at risk, of which 30 are found in the state including Mumbai. Experts stated that the main threats for the birds in the country include hunting, disturbance, habitat destruction and also fragmentation.
Feathered Friends In Threat Zone
Lesser Flamingo: It's a migratory bird with pink wings and breeds on mudflats, usually far from the shore in large lakes. Every year, it migrates to the mudflats in Mumbai in search of food from Gujarat's Rann of Kutch region. It's listed in the "Near Threatened" category.
Great Indian Bustard: Found in many states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. It has been classified as "Critically Endangered".
Black-headed Ibis: It's not commonly found in the city and has been spotted in Uran, Thane creek and around lake areas. It's listed in the "Near Threatened" category.
Long-billed Vulture: This large, sandy brown bird with a pale underbody has been spotted in Khopoli, Karjat and Murbad. It is listed as "Critically Endangered".
Lesser Florican: Also known as Leekh, this large bird from the bustard family is found in several parts of the country, including Maharashtra. IUCN has listed it under the "Endangered" category. 

Map country’s forest cover every year:Jairam to ISRO.

By Japan K Pathak
Ahmedabad, 9 June, 2011

Union minister of state for Environment and Forests(Independent charge) Shri Jairam Ramesh while delivering an address at Ahmedabad’s Space Application Centre(ISRO) asked scientists at Space Application Centre to start mapping the forest cover in India once in a year now on instead of present practice of doing it once in two years.
“Presently we do mapping of forest cover once in two years in India through ISRO. In Brazil they do it once in six months, and in designated areas they even do it once in quarter,” Ramesh told scientists of SAC-ISRO.
“If we can’t do it as frequently as Brazil does(once in six months), we can at least map our forest cover once in a year, and in important areas like western ghats or north-east we can perhaps do it once in six months if not quarter like Brazil,” ha added.
Ramesh said all violations pertaining to coastal area should be mapped. He also asked scientists to check expanding trend of deserts in the country through satellite mapping.

Wetlands under threat from real estate, industry, says Ramesh

BS Reporter / New Delhi June 09, 2011, 0:30 IST
Wetlands are under severe threat from the real estate lobby and industry as they are easy to lease out, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said in Ahmedabad on Wednesday.
Ramesh was at the Space Application Centre (SAC) at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) campus in Ahmedabad to deliver an address on ‘National Wetland Inventory and Assessment Project’ (N
“Wetlands have ecological and social value. But a large area of wetlands in India is under threat from real estate lobby and industries such as highways, cement plants and power plants. Now, with a database on the inventory of wetlands being available with the help from the SAC, the Centre can take action on its own to designate important wetlands in the country based on the satellite images,” said Ramesh. Ramesh’s comments on wetlands come at a time when the Gujarat-based industrial group Nirma had to stop the construction of its proposed cement plant near Bhavnagar in Gujarat as per the Supreme Court (SC) directives.
An expert panel under the MoEF had moved the SC while maintaining that the plant was located on the wetland and environmentally sensitive area and hence required to be shifted from there.
The NWIA project findings noted that the total wetlands area in the country is estimated at 15.26 million hectares, 4.63 per cent of the total geographic area of the country. Of this, Gujarat holds the largest area under wetland with over 3.47 million hectares of area, about 18 per cent of the state’s total geographic area. Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Maharashtra are some of the other states having more than one million hectares of area under wetlands.
Ramesh also claimed that his views on the debate over the melting Himalayan glaciers were vindicated when a study on snow and glaciers of Himalayas conducted by the SAC found the average pace of retreat of the glaciers for the past 15 years at 3.75 per cent. The study found 75 per cent of the Himalayan glaciers retreating, eight per cent advancing and 17 per cent stable.
“This is the first time that a large number of glaciers have been studied by any agency in the world. And it reveals the same what I was criticised for in 2009,” Ramesh said adding that at such linear rate, it would take about 400 years to completely melt Himalayan glaciers. This comes in stark contrast of the claims made in the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) headed by Dr Rajendra Pachauri stating that that Himalayan glaciers might vanish by 2035. However, after strong opposition, they had to withdraw the report.
Commenting on the Nuclear Power Project being planned at Mithi Virdi in Bhavnagar, Ramesh informed that the state-owned nuclear power producer, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NCPIL) had undergone a site selection process, as a part of which they had selected Mithi Virdi as a site for the proposed Nuclear Power plant. “Had that been a forest land or a wetland, MoEF could have intervened. Even if it is an irrigated fertile land, this is the land which the state government had offered for the power plant,” said Ramesh.

Usha Breco bags Girnar ropeway project.


Lt Col (Retd) Rakesh Sharma
Usha Breco Limited (UBL), a part of the Usha Martin Group Company, has bagged the contract for the Girnar Ropeway project in Gujarat and is expected to provide value addition to the region in tourism. In an exclusive conversation with Express TravelWorld Lt Col (Retd) Rakesh Sharma, Executive Director of the company, informed that this is the company’s sixth project and would be a critical one as it is expected to change the dynamics of tourism in the region.
“Girnar Hills have its pilgrimage value not only in-and-around Junagadh in Gujarat but also is one of the most visited pilgrimage locations in India. It is considered Vaishno Devi of Gujarat. Apart from that, it lies in the vicinity of Gir forest. Hence, the ropeway will play a major role in giving an impetus to the region,” Sharma said. The company is already operating a few ropeway projects – Udan Khatola – on BOT basis, Maa Mansadevi and Chandidevi ropeways in Haridwar, Malampuzha in Kerala, Maa Ambadevi in Ambaji and Maa Kalidevi in Pawagarh.
Though initial focus of the company has been around religious destinations, but the Kerala project is a leisure project.
The ropeway business is capital intensive and therefore, UBL wants to increase its repertoire of options in the leisure segment too for which it is sounding out its ideas to various state governments. Though the breakeven period has reduced to three - four from the earlier seven - eight years a few years ago. Sharma explained, “With domestic and religious tourism going up, we want to promote this fact that ropeway is a strong tourism product, which not only develops a region but allows more tourists to come and experience a place and indirectly address the issue of
According to Ashish Kumar, management advisor – tourism for Usha Breco – the company is focused on promoting the concept of ropeways. “The Girnar Ropeway in Gujarat will be, for example, state-of-the-art, innovative yet heritage-friendly concept. The place is not only visited by pilgrims from India, even tourists from various countries fly down to this locale for wildlife adventure, mountain climbing and temple architecture. We are awaiting the environmental clearance following which the work will begin,” he added.
Further, UBL would look at non-pilgrimage and adventure projects for commissioning ropeways. It has till now successfully commissioned 16 industrial and 10 passenger ropeways and carried more than 7.7 crore passengers to date, clocking an average annual passenger traffic in excess of 45 lakh. “We want to integrate the entire value chain for pilgrims and create the necessary infrastructure to fulfill tourists' religious aspirations,” Sharma said.
Additionally, the company formed a travel division, Usha Indian Destinations, a few years ago to arrange tour packages starting with places where they were operating ropeways. “Tourism was a natural progressive step after ropeway operations, which ensured promotion of tourist inflow to such destinations. Till now, for obvious reasons, the packages revolved around religious destinations like Chardham Yatra, 84 Kos Yatra, Dwarka Somnath Yatra, Amarnath Yatra and Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. Now, we would be looking at some new religious circuits,” informed Kumar.
The company has mapped new circuits offering 15 circuits based on Vaishnodevi Yatra, Banke Bihari Darshan, Hemkund Sahab Yatra, Mahastra Jyotirling Darshan, Ashtavinayak Yatra and Tirupati Darshan. UBL has tied up with, Travelboutique online and Interserve for B2B alliances;, and Yatra Online for B2C Alliances and with Indigo Airlines and IRCTC in the transportation segment.

More leopards moving in to human neighbourhoods.

Himanshu Kaushik, May 31, 2011, 05.16am IST
AHMEDABAD: Of the total 1,160 leopards in the state, 207 are staying outside jungles, close to people. What`s more, this number is constantly going up. The recently concluded census found that this number of leopards shifting out of the jungle has risen by more than 40 per cent since the last census conducted in 2006.
Of the 207, 136 were found in Junagadh district alone. This is 65 per cent of the total leopard population in areas close to human habitations. And this was mainly because of the Gir Sanctuary and Girnar sanctuaries in the district. The state forest department officials said that in 2006 there were 73 leopards close to human habitat in Junagadh, this was 49 per cent of the 147 leopards spotted close to human habitat in the state.
Confirming the same, principal secretary S K Nanda said that the total increase of 60 leopards in the areas close to humans habitation was limited to Junagadh in Saurashtra and Mandvi in south Gujarat. He said that with the growing population of lions in the Gir Sanctuary, leopard have been elbowed out. Moreover, leopards love sugarcane fields and with the increase in cultivation of this crop in Saurashtra and Mandvi, the leopard has found a safe refuge.
A forest official said that the leopards were moving out of the protected area because of the increasing cattle grazing pressure on the forest areas. He said that the natural habitat of the wildlife was shrinking because of the degradation of the forest.
Additional principal chief conservator of forests H S Singh said, "Man-animal conflict was increasing not only in case of leopard but also sloth bear. And this because the wildlife population is increasing." Sharing the leopard rescue data, he said that the number of leopard rescue operations over the last ten years has increased by five times. He said that the habitat has remained the same and the population was growing and this was the reason why the animals were moving out.
Principal conservator of forests Pradeep Khanna talked about a case where a leopard in Mandvi had to be killed as it had turned man-eater. "In the past two more leopards had to be killed in Baria in Saurashtra after they were found to be disturbing other animals," Khanna said.
In December last year, Yuvraj of the erstwhile state of Utelia near Dhandhuka, Bhagirathsinh Vaghela, shot dead a leopard that was believed to have turned man-eater. Forest officials believe the leopard killed three people in Mandvi taluka of Surat. The killing was done at the behest of forest officials.
Whose pug mark is it anyway?: The enumerators were puzzled between the leopard pug marks and the lion pug marks. Additional principal chief conservator of forest H S Singh said that the pug mark of one-year-old lion cub are similar to that of the leopard. This problem was faced more in the Gir area. Singh said that after the initial observations, the enumerators were told that a lion cub cannot be alone and hence they should look for other pug marks also. "A lion cub of one year cannot be alone and will always have a male or a female lion close by. So we were able to avoid the possible error," said Singh.

Bachchan to promote more tourist destinations in Gujarat.

Himanshu Kaushik, May 24, 2011, 06.01am IST
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.

Govt grants Rs 50cr for Gir's upkeep, higher compensation for tribals.

AHMEDABAD: The union environment ministry has earmarked a Rs 50 crore project for the upkeep of greater Gir area on the periphery of the sanctuary - an abode of Asiatic lions. It has also decided to increase the compensation package for tribals and Maldharis living within the sanctuary from Rs 1 lakh earlier to Rs 10 lakh per family. 
"The 1,200 families, which include the Maldharis, demand land instead of money as compensation. We are in touch with the state government on this. In fact, in the Gir project, we have a special garland road developed around the protected sanctuary for the wildlife," said the union environment minister. 
The Gir project, according to the state environment and forest sources, is worth Rs 200 crore and would be implemented in various phases. 
Ramesh said that a biotechnology lab with a special cryogenic facility for preserving genetic material of endangered species of the state would be set up in the state soon. 
"I have read Gujarat's proposal and I am quite satisfied with it. There are a few technical details which need to be ironed out. The secretary environment has already apprised us of the project. In the long run, this will help preserve the gene pool of the Asiatic lions and other endangered species in the country," Ramesh said. 

Realtors push for hsg projects in Gir.

Himanshu Kaushik, TNN, Jun 6, 2011, 06.15am ISTAHMEDABAD: Gujarat's upwardly mobile citizens would love to live in the company of wild Gir lions. Or at least that is what many realtors seem to believe. As many as 28 applications for housing projects in the vicinity of Gir sanctuary and other lion abodes in the region, are pending with the forest department.
The proposals have come at a time when the central government had just approved eco-sensitive zone around Gir, the only home of the Asiatic lion in the world. This severely restricts any fresh development in a five-km radius around the sanctuary. The forest department has to give a no-objection certificate before the collectorate gives the final stamp of approval to the projects. "Buy a home in the grand lion villa." This is now some of the builders are promoting their high-end schemes. This trend has alarmed environmentalists and wildlife activists. They point out that lions were moving out of the sanctuary to reclaim lost lands. The May 2011 census had put their population at 411 in the region.
TOI posed as an investor and spoke to several developers. Paresh Sakhiya, who has his project in Mendarda taluka's Amrapar area says, "The price of a 300-yard residential plot is Rs 2,150 per sq yard. The area has a sizeable lion population and is about seven km from Gir sanctuary." Sakhiya called his scheme a good holiday home as it was close to the sanctuary.
Realtor Jayesh Patel, too, has a project near Mendarda, with each villa spread over an acre and priced at Rs 75 lakh. There would be 12 farmhouses equipped with CCTV cameras and swimming pools. HS Singh, Gujarat additional principal conservator of forests, said, "We are studying housing projects and will disallow them if they infringe on the eco-sensitive zone." AM Parmar, Junagadh collector said, "We have not approved any project."

In search of those amber eyes.

Hugh & Colleen Gantzer
We went in quest of lions. Very special lions — the rare Asiatic breed, which once roamed the whole of West Asia from Northern Turkey through Arabia to northern India up to the Narmada.

rare sighting A lioness relaxes in the safe environs of Gir. photo by authorsBut the dedicated ‘sportsmen’ of the Raj reduced them to just 12 by the end of the 19th century. Then, the Nawab of Junagadh called a halt. Today, 411 Asiatic lions roam free in 1,412 sq km of protected wilderness in Gujarat’s Gir. And because they are protected, a whole ecosystem is alive and thriving.

This year, when spring was warming into summer, we drove into the green campus of the Gujarat Forest Department’s Sinh Sadan. The accommodation was no-frills comfortable; the meals in the dining hall were vegetarian and sustaining; and because many visitors had flocked into the hamlet of Sasan Gir, we had to take the second round that morning, missing our favoured dawn tour.

Night hunters
Lions prefer hunting at night, settling down to sleep when the sun begins to rise. So though we didn’t expect to sight a lion on that forenoon safari, we drove around anyway. We’re glad we did. The other jeeps had returned to Sinh Sadan and apart from the forest workers and a few Maldhari herdsmen, who have some encampments called nesses in the forest, we had the thorn-scrub jungle to ourselves.

This is the right season for wildlife spotting. Most trees have shed their leaves and forest workers were sweeping them up and burning them to prevent forest fires. Consequently, visibility is clear for fairly long distances. We realised, once again, that when an animal at the top of the food chain is protected, then everything lower down also thrives. There were herds of chital, their speckled coats flickering through the sun-dappled forest, drinking at the water troughs set up and filled by the Forest Department.

Clans of langurs had teamed up with the spotted deer, dropping leaves and fruit to the chital grazing on the forest floor. From their high viewpoint atop trees, they would also spot predators approaching from far away. Their hooting warning would alert the deer to flee, flashing the white on their tails as danger signals to other animals. This late in the morning, however, most of the predators were asleep and even peacocks, with their beautiful and ungainly tails pecked at their breakfast with the deliberate fastidiousness of gourmets.

This is the best time to do bird-watching  and though most of Gir’s forests had the usual assortment of doves, woodpeckers and garrulous babblers, we did see a spotted owlet, fluffed up like a sage in a downy coat, a brace of fat partridges, who seemed as curious about us as we were about them, and a brilliantly painted kingfisher. He glittered in a spring-green valley, perched on a branch above a chortling jungle stream. If it hadn’t been for the lions, the trees would probably have been cut for firewood, the stream would have dried and the birds would have found their way to greener pastures.

But we still hadn’t seen any lions though.  When we returned to Sinh Sadan, a family from Mumbai were as bubbly as champagne. They had seen and photographed a whole pride of lions — a full-maned lion, two lionesses, and three cubs. “I wanted to get out of the jeep and cuddle them,” gushed 10-year old Sania, “but their mother might have bitten me. No?” We agreed that it might have happened but that didn’t dampen her enthusiasm one little bit!

The well-informed Dr Sandeep Kumar, IFS, deputy conservator of forests and boss of Gir, assured us that we would probably have better luck in the afternoon. He put us in the hands of guide Ketan, who was also a photographer, and driver Ashish. We were told that they were very lucky — in animal spotting, luck plays a major role. And it seemed to change immediately.

We passed a Maldhari herdsman grazing his buffaloes just outside a rather makeshift village. He said a lion had been seen not far from his settlement this morning and his herd of buffaloes was still restless. In spite of having their herds attacked by lions and leopards, many Maldharis prefer to claim their right as forest dwellers and stay on. They get paid for every one of their cattle killed by a jungle predator, but the natural fodder in the forest is so plentiful that it makes up for the danger.  Source:

If a lion had been seen in the morning the chances were that it had not wandered too far after dawn. We passed a nilgai bull standing stock-still against a huge, overshadowing banyan tree. It wasn’t grazing but was as immobile a blue-grey boulder. We wondered, for a moment, if it had seen a big cat, but then it moved and began to nibble on some leaves. Clearly it had been wary of us and had frozen: normal bluebull strategy.  A little later, we spotted nervous chinkara, leaping away like ballet dancers. But their nimble-footed performance could have been triggered by our presence. They needn’t, necessarily, have sensed a predator approaching.

The sun was quite low in the sky, the light had softened, and we were giving up hope of ever spotting one of the lions of Gir when we heard the yap of a frightened spotted deer. Three of them were just off the road, a little ahead of us. We drove up and saw them standing rigid, their ears swivelled forward. Danger lay in front of them and they were ready to scoot.

We raced ahead. Ketan mentioned a wooded ravine as a likely spot. We drove into it. Stopped.

There, in the half-shadows of the forest floor, stretched out in regal ease, was a magnificent lioness. She turned her head and looked at us with serene arrogance, the sunlight glowing on her amber eyes. Then, when we had taken all the pictures we wanted, she rose, and very languidly vanished into the protected forests of Gir.