Wednesday, December 26, 2012

5-year-old leopard enters house in Veraval town.

TNN Dec 25, 2012, 01.40AM IST
RAJKOT: Residents of Somnath Society in Veraval town of Junagadh district had an uninvited guest on Monday morning in the form of a five-year-old leopard. Its presence in a house under construction led to panic amongst the residents of the society.
"Local residents informed us about the leopard entering into the new house and we immediately rushed to the spot. We also called a team from Sasan (Gir) to rescue the wild cat. After an hour and a half rescue operation, it was tranquilized and sent to Sasan Animal Rescue Centre,'' said B V Padsala, Range Forest Officer, Veraval forest range.
The news about the leopard drew a large crowd to the site. Forest officials said that it may have come from Veraval bypass road towards the city area. While there were rumours about a woman being injured by a leopard, the forest officials said that they did not have any such information.
"There are leopard habitats beyond Veraval bypass road and it is likely that during the night the leopard may have come into the city area in search of prey," said Padsala. Forest officials said there are about 17 leopards in Veraval and Sutrapada forest ranges. There have been instances of leopards straying into Veraval town in the past.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Task force to monitor lions’ movement.

Rajkot: Senior forest officials from Junagadh Wildlife Division have reached Gadhada after reports of lions being spotted in Patna and other villages near Gadhada taluka in Bhavnagar district on Thursday night.
Some domestic animals were reportedly killed by Asiatic lions recently in a village in Patna and they have been spotted in Gadhada, which is about 190 km from Ahmedabad, for the first time.
"We are monitoring the movement of the lions. We are also ensuring they are not disturbed by human activities," said range forest officer, D C Zinjuwadia, Gadhada forest division. Forest officials said four lions were in the area and heading towards Gariyadhar and Palitana. "Lions may have come to Gadhada from Krakachh area of Amreli district via Derdi village. There were initially 30 lions in Krakachh," an official said.

Fancy owning a Gir cow?

Shishir Arya, TNN Dec 23, 2012, 06.27AM IST
NAGPUR: Hold it by the jaw and you can control it easily, explains Satish Doshi, a suave businessman, showing his rustic skills with a young bull. Iron and steel trader Doshi, who studied engineering, shares a passion with a few others from his fraternity of owning a Gir. For them it is as much as flaunting a sports car or a Harley Davidson, and a matter of ethnic pride as well.
For many it may not fit into their urban lifestyle, but for this group it is a fad indeed. "It's not just a cow, it's a Gir," they say.
Gir is a breed of cows originating from the Junagadh district of Gujarat, which also has the Gir forest - the last abode of the Asiatic lion. This is one of the best bovine breeds of the country known for its magnificent looks and distinct features like round-shaped head and red coloured coat as well as endurance. A good cow costs anywhere between Rs 50,00 to over Rs 1.5 lakh.
In the 1960s, the breed was exported to Brazil from where it spread to Mexico and around 20 other countries. In Brazil, Gir is synonymous to the cow but in India there are concerns that the pure breed might get extinct. This is what prompted the group, which can be styled as the Gir Cow Club, take up its breeding in Nagpur.
Going beyond the charitable cow-shelters which many businessmen sponsor, this group has been working on developing the Gir breed with each member personally allotting time for the cows' upkeep. "We are fascinated by the Gir breed," says Doshi, patting a bull which has sired many offsprings.
It all started with steel trader Atul Mashru who heard about the cow in a religious sermon seven years ago and sought out a breeder in Jamka village of Junagadh. He returned with the first batch of five cows and a bull and began roping in his friends.
As members increased, so did the activities. Phone calls over business affairs are liberally peppered with bits of trivia about their bovine possession. The discussion gets serious when the group gets together.
Mashru and his friends are rather fussy over the breed. You can see similar cows with the Gujarati herdsmen who have migrated to Vidarbha. "It's not Gir but a variation of the breed," said Mashru. "The head and the shape of horns of those animals are slightly different from the pure Gir," he adds.
Currently there are nine businessmen who own Girs cows and keep them at their factories or godowns, some even at their homes. "We are expecting a few more to be added to our club," says Mashru.
As members increased, so did the activities. Manoj Asawa, who had brought his cow for mating at Doshi's premises, says, "We had cows earlier, but now it is just a Gir." Gir owners love to flaunt their depth of knowledge and speak like expert veterinarians.
"We meet often to discuss Gir matters. We are choosy about new members. If an animal has to be given away due to paucity of space, we do not hand it over to just anyone," says Mashru. "The cows are not sold. Hence the person accepting the animal must have enough resources to maintain it and, more importantly, a passion to rear the Gir breed," he adds.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Study: Lion population plummeting as habitat continues to vanish.

The savannah habitat that sustains African lions has shrunk by 75 percent over the past half-century, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation, a dramatic loss that could threaten the species' survival.
The analysis by American, African and British researchers -- which suggests that the continent's lion population has declined from 100,000 to roughly 32,000 over 50 years -- provides a clear picture of where the animals now live and how major land-use changes and population growth have put them in jeopardy.
"It's a shock," said Stuart Pimm, a professor for conservation ecology at Duke University and one of the paper's authors. "Savannah Africa has been massively reduced. ... As people moved in, lions have been hunted out."
The findings come just one week after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it will study whether African lions should be listed under the Endangered Species Act, a move that would end the importation of trophies into the United States. Several groups petitioned the agency last year to list the species, though some conservationists argue that trophy hunting provides a source of revenue to local communities, which helps keep savannah habitat intact.
Thomas Lovejoy, a professor in science and public policy at George Mason University, said the paper's authors "have made a historical contribution" by showing how dramatically Africa's viable terrain for lions has declined in recent decades. Lions used to roam much of Africa and Eurasia but are now limited to sub-Saharan Africa. A small population of a separate species inhabits the Gir Forest National Park of India.
Mr. Lovejoy said the fact that savannah habitat loss is outpacing the decline of the world's tropical rain forests "is terrifying when combined with the prospects of population growth and land-use change in Africa."
To reach their assessment, the paper's lead author, Jason Riggio, who received his master's degree from Duke, assembled a team of graduate students to examine high-resolution satellite imagery of Africa from Google Earth to determine what could qualify as suitable lion habitat. They then compared that information with existing lion population data, concluding that there are only 67 isolated areas in Africa where lions might survive.
Part of the challenge lions face is that when they venture outside national parks, they may kill livestock and come into conflict with humans, Mr. Pimm said.
Mr. Lovejoy said he was optimistic that sufficient public pressure will build for U.S. officials to take action. The officials will decide within a year whether to list African lions as endangered.
"This is something the public can easily get," he said, adding that lions are the kind of "animal cracker animals" everyone has revered since childhood.
The study does not, however, answer one of the central questions federal officials must answer: whether trophy hunting helps or undermines the species' ultimate survival.
Jeff Flocken, Washington office director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said Americans are responsible for importing 64 percent of the lions hunted for sport in Africa and that the practice destabilizes prides.
But hunting groups such as Safari Club International and some environmental organizations say a trophy ban could have unintended consequences.
Luke Hunter, president of the wild cat conservation group Panthera, said that even though he finds lion hunting "ridiculous and abhorrent, as a scientist, I have to ask myself whether it can be a tool for conservation."
While current studies suggest African lion hunting "is unsustainable," Mr. Hunter added, ending it could accelerate the large-scale land conservation that poses the greatest threat to lions. "The danger is you stop that revenue stream, all those areas are up for grabs."

Read more:

Traveller's guide: Indian wildlife holidays .

With the return of tiger tourism and the release of the film adaptation of 'Life of Pi', now is the time to explore the subcontinent's national parks, says Harriet O'Brien

Welcome to the jungle: it's a very Indian entity. The word derives from Sanskrit jangala, meaning uncultivated ground or scrubland, and was adopted by British traders in the mid-18th century. Thereafter it also acquired associations with steamy forest and wild beasts. India contains all the above natural elements in abundance, of course. It isn't only home to a good 17 per cent of the world's humanity – a great gamut of creatures inhabits its diverse jungle lands. Indeed, from the high slopes of the Himalayas to the Thar Desert of Rajasthan, the swamps of the Sunderbans in Bengal and the forests of the Western Ghats, this vast country supports a kaleidoscope of biodiversity.
There are 97 national parks and a good 440 wildlife sanctuaries. Some, such as Periyar National Park in Kerala, are easily accessible to tourists; others including Mouling National Park in the north eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, are challengingly remote. In many, elegant, black-faced langurs and thuggish rhesus macaque monkeys are ubiquitous; spotted deer (or chital), too. All of them are meals for a variety of predators. Meantime, even those who have never felt moved to pick up a pair of binoculars at home are inevitably entranced by India's bird-life, from eagles and hornbills to kingfishers, paradise flycatchers and scarlet minivets – the poetry of whose name is matched by the dazzling plumage of the males.
Across the country the Zoological Survey of India ( has recorded 92,037 species of fauna – a figure that includes four species of spider and 22 of frogs that were discovered only last year. It also includes 57 critically endangered animal species, ranging from the psychedelic-blue gooty tarantula to the pygmy hog being bred in captivity in Assam. The list of endangered animals in India runs from Asiatic bear, primarily inhabiting Himalayan regions, and Asiatic lion, now surviving only in Gujarat (see "Lion's share") to leopard (common, snow and clouded species) and wild buffalo – mostly found in Assam and with a recovery programme under way in Udanti sanctuary in the central state of Chhattisgarh. And then, of course, there's the tiger. On the last official count (in 2010), there were 1,706 Bengal tigers left in India.
As the release of Ang Lee's film version of Yann Martel's Life of Pi shows, our fascination with tigers is undimmed – and it would be impossible to overstate the tiger's importance to India's tourist industry. Yet this summer, tiger tourism was effectively banned in India. That was thanks to a ruling the Supreme Court made in response to a petition filed last year by an environmental campaigner. After much lobbying by the tourist industry and conservationists, the ban was lifted in mid-October. India's 41 tiger parks are now open again, although entry regulations are being redefined, to be ratified in April.
At Rajasthan's Ranthambore National Park – among the most celebrated of the tiger sanctuaries – one of the key considerations is tourist volume. "We're reassessing the carrying capacity of vehicles to determine how many people can potentially look at an animal at the same time," says Yusuf Ansari, conservationist and host at the stylish tented camp Sher Bagh (00 91 11 4606 7608; just outside the park. He adds that the known population of 56 tigers in the greater park area has swelled with a number of cubs this year. The hotel features as part of a week's private tour offered by Greaves Travel (020-7487 9111; from £2,150 per person, including flights, two nights in Delhi, and four nights and game drives at Ranthambore.
David Mills, managing director of tour operator Naturetrek, says that now is an excellent time to make a tiger trip. Because of the summer ban, many visitors cancelled their bookings so "the reserves are likely to be unusually free of tourists in the coming months". Among the small group trips arranged by Naturetrek (01962 733051; is a new "Tiger Direct" nine-day holiday combining Pench and Kanha parks (the latter was the inspiration for Kipling's Jungle Book) in Madhya Pradesh. The price from £2,095pp includes flights from Heathrow to Mumbai as well as all accommodation and game drives. Alternatively, Explore (0845 291 4541; offers a shorter six-day group "Tiger, Tiger" Trip in Ranthambore from £499pp, including two nights' accommodation in Delhi, train transfers, accommodation at Ranthambore, four game drives and a visit to Ranthambore Fort (£1,192 with flights).
Lion's share
Slightly smaller than their African cousins and with a more orangey tint to their fur, the world's only Asiatic lions live in Gujarat's Gir National Park in western India. In the mid 1980s, the population of this big cat was just 239; now there are more than 410. Numbers, in fact, are starting to be too great for the park and relocation of some of the animals is becoming necessary. See them with Cox & Kings (0845 527 9047; which features the park as part of a 13‑night private tour of Gujarat from £4,050pp with flights from Heathrow to Mumbai, excursions, accommodation and two nights at the Lion Safari Camp in Gir.
Wild elephants
With stupendous thickets of bamboo growing among teak, silver oak and sandalwood, Nagarhole National Park in Karnataka is one of the most striking reserves in southern India. And it is probably the best place to see wild elephants too.
There are an estimated 800 here – along with gaur (an Indian type of bison), wild dog, the odd tiger, leopard and much more. Audley Travel (01993 838300; offers a 15-day "Southern India Explored" itinerary that includes two days in Nagarhole as well as visits to Mysore, Sultans Battery and Ooty. The trip costs from £3,055pp which covers flights from Heathrow to Bangalore, private car with a driver/guide, and comfortable accommodation.
River and rhinos
The mighty Brahmaputra river is home to rare Ganges dolphin that move like quicksilver and occasionally arch right out of the water. (Blink, though, and you'll miss them.)
On the western bank of this great waterway, about halfway along its course through Assam, is the Kaziranga National Park. This watery world of lakes and marshes is inhabited by more than 1,500 one-horned rhino, as well as wild buffalo, otters and a fabulous range of birds. Happily, there's a great way of seeing all these creatures: the Assam Bengal Navigation Company ( operates cruises in atmospheric river boats that stop at the park.
Noble Caledonia (020-7752 0000; offers these cruises as part of a 17-night package to the Assam region. The price from £4,795pp covers flights from Heathrow to Kolkata via Dubai and onward air travel to Guwahati, all accommodation including 14 nights onboard the boat, most meals and game excursions in Kaziranga in 4x4s and on elephant back.
Leopard adventure
The rare snow leopards of the Himalayas are exceptional athletes, able to leap over great mountain ravines, making them extremely difficult to track. However, in February and March next year, Steppes Discovery (01285 643333; is taking two small groups on quests to look for snow leopard in the dramatic terrain of Ladakh in the north-west. Led by experts who have worked with BBC and National Geographic film crews, the trips are accommodated in a comfortable campsite from which you visit remote monasteries as well as make excursions to find snow leopard in Hemis National Park. The cost of £2,995pp includes flights from Heathrow to Delhi and onward air travel to Leh, all accommodation and guidance.
Hero of Uttarakhand
Jim Corbett, naturalist, author and conservationist, was a colonel in the British Indian Army who was born in India in 1875 and lived there until 1947. In 1936, he helped establish the country’s first national park in what is now the state of Uttarakhand in the north. Corbett National Park, above, is a little smaller than Britain’s New Forest and it backs on to other wildlife sanctuaries: together they form a vast protected area that contains a remarkable range of flora as well as tigers, elephants, sloth bears, hog deer and  more. A five-night stay is offered by TransIndus (020-8566 3739; as part of a week’s package costing from £1,898pp. The price covers flights from Heathrow to Delhi, two nights in the capital, transfers, accommodation at Jim’s Jungle Retreat in Corbett park and all game drives.
Jungle tips
Book your game drives well ahead of your visit, advises Hashim Tyabji, former chief warden of Bandhavgarh National Park and owner of Forsyth’s Lodge (, above, on the edge of the Satpura Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. The number of vehicles admitted to the reserves/parks at any one time is strictly limited. Bookings are made through tour operators (in the UK or locally) and hotels. Wear neutral colours, Hashim adds – many safaris are made in open-sided 4x4s or on elephant back, and bright colours will stand out particularly on these trips. Carry binoculars; even small ones will transform your experience. Speak softly and avoid sudden or quick movements. And, he emphasises, don’t pressure your guide and driver to conjure a tiger: you will see much more if they are relaxed and not feeling they have to race around. A five‑night stay at Forsyth’s is offered as part of a week’s trip with Indian Explorations (01993 822443; The price from £1,929pp includes flights from Heathrow to Delhi and onward air travel to Bhopal as well as all accommodation, most meals and game drives, guided walks and motor-boat safaris.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Lion Numbers Plunge as African Wilderness Succumbs to Human Pressure.

Only 32,000 Lions Remain out of 100,000 Roaming Africa in the 1960s

NGS Picture ID:164319
The king of the African savannah is in serious trouble because people are taking over the continent’s last patches of wilderness on unprecedented scale, according to a detailed study released this week.
A male lion feeds in South Africa's Kruger National Park. The Kruger Park area is one of only ten strongholds left for lions in Africa. National Geographic photo by James P. Blair.
The most comprehensive assessment of lion (Panthera leo) numbers to date determined that Africa’s once-thriving savannahs are undergoing massive land-use conversion and burgeoning human population growth. The decline has had a significant impact on the lions that make their home in these savannahs; their numbers have dropped to as low as 32,000, down from hundreds of thousands estimated just 50 years ago.
The study, funded in part by the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative, was published online in this week’s journal Biodiversity and Conservation.
Some 24,000 of the continent’s remaining lions are primarily in 10 strongholds: 4 in East Africa and 6 in southern Africa, the researchers determined. Over 6,000 of the remaining lions are in populations of doubtful long-term viability. Lion populations in West and central Africa are the most acutely threatened, with many recent local extinctions, even in nominally protected areas.

Population size classes of all lion areas. Figure used in the research study ,courtesy of Stuart Pimm and other authors/"Biodiversity and Conservation" journal.

“These research results confirm the drastic loss of African savannah and the severe decline in the number of remaining lions,” said Big Cats Initiative (BCI) Grants Committee Chair Thomas E. Lovejoy, University Professor for Environmental Science & Public Policy at George Mason University and Biodiversity Chair of The Heinz Center. “Immediate and major action is required to save lion populations in Africa.”

“Immediate and major action is required to save lion populations in Africa.”

African savannahs are defined by the researchers as those areas that receive between 300 and 1500 mm (approximately 11 to 59 inches) of rain annually. “These savannahs conjure up visions of vast open plains,” said Stuart Pimm, co-author of the paper who holds the Chair of conservation at Duke University. “The reality is that from an original area a third larger than the continental United States, only 25 percent remains.” In comparison, 30 percent of the world’s original rain forests remain.
Lions in West Africa are at highest level of risk, Pimm and the other researchers found. “The lions in West Africa are essentially gone,” said Pimm. “Only a radical effort can save them at this stage.”
Stuart Pimm is also a member of the Big Cats Initiative Grants Committee and a regular blogger for National Geographic News Watch. We interview him here about the research released this week.
Your study found that the population of wild lions in Africa plunged by two-thirds in 50 years. What’s the methodology to determine the populations then and now?
Scientists estimated that 50 years ago, approximately 100,000 lions made their home in Africa’s iconic savannahs. This estimate was made using rough calculations of the size of remaining habitat and lion density. Our research suggests that lion populations have experienced a dramatic decline, and numbers have dropped to as low as 32,000 individuals. We compiled all of the most current available estimates of lion numbers and distribution – continent-wide reports, country-specific lion conservation strategies and action plans, and newly published lion population surveys. To fill in any gaps, we drew from the knowledge of the co-authors and colleagues working across Africa to conserve lions.
Lion cubs (Panthera leo) surround a patient lioness, nipping and playing, Londolozi private game reserve, South Africa. National Geographic photo by Chris Johns.
Counting carnivores is a tricky business. Individual identification is a tremendous challenge and requires high-resolution cameras or good, unobstructed views in person. They are often shy and cover large distances. Lions are difficult to count even though they are social and sleep most of the day. Only a very few lion populations are known at the individual level, such as Liuwa Plains National Park, Zambia. Individual recognition of every lion in an area requires intense study, significant resources, and low numbers of individuals. Therefore, researchers use a variety of other imperfect techniques to estimate lion population size in all other lion areas. Some more common estimation techniques include spoor tracking or call-up surveys.
What are the main causes of lion decline?
There is a variety of factors leading to lion decline across their range. One of the most important things we identified was habitat loss. People usually think of savannah Africa as being comprised of wilderness, vast open grasslands stretching to the horizon in all directions. However, our analysis showed that from an original area a third larger than the United States, only 25% remains. In comparison, 30% of the world’s original tropical rainforest remain. Most of this reduction has come in the last 50 years due to massive land-use conversion and burgeoning human population growth. Besides habitat loss, another major driver of decline is human-caused mortality. This includes poaching, retaliatory killing, and trophy hunting.
How many of the remaining 32,000 wild lions in Africa are in stable populations in viable habitat? Where are the strongholds?
Our analysis identified only 67 largely isolated areas across the entire African continent where lions might survive. Of these 67 areas, only 10 qualified as strongholds where lions have an excellent chance of survival. These strongholds are located across East and Southern Africa, but importantly no areas in West or Central Africa qualify. Unfortunately this means that for the remaining 32,000 wild lions in Africa, only approximately 24,000 are in populations that can be considered at all secure.  More than 5,000 lions are located in small, isolated populations, putting their immediate survival in doubt.
What’s the prognosis for wild lions? Extinction?
The drastic reduction in lion numbers and habitat highlighted by our research is certainly alarming from a conservation standpoint. Yet, African lions are not in immediate danger of extinction. Substantial lion populations exist in large, well-protected areas such as the Serengeti or Kruger ecosystem. Many of the remaining lion populations in East or Southern Africa are in well-protected areas such as national parks and game reserves (although some of these allow hunting). Nevertheless, this should not be used as a blanket statement; there are populations and even countries in these regions that have few or no lions remaining. Overall, lions in West and Central Africa are in the gravest danger of extinction. More than half of the populations vital to lion conservation in these regions (as noted by the IUCN) have been extirpated in the past five years, with several countries losing their lions entirely. According to our research, fewer than 500 lions remain in West Africa, scattered across eight isolated sites. This is of serious concern as these populations contain the most genetically unique lions in all of Africa and are most closely related to the Asiatic lion.
Why is it important that we try to sustain the survival of wild lions in Africa?
Large carnivores play valuable ecological roles in “top-down” structuring of the ecosystem. For instance, removal of lions may allow populations of mid-sized carnivores to explode which would have cascading impacts on other flora and fauna. From an ecological perspective, large carnivores are crucial for balanced, resilient systems. However, the lion is so much more than just the largest carnivore in Africa. It is a powerful cultural and political symbol. Attempting to list all the uses of lions in African proverbs, symbols, names etc. would be a nearly impossible task. Finally, lions are vital to the tourism trade, which in turn is economically critical for many African nations.
How does your study help conservation of the big cats?
You cannot protect what you do not know you have. This is a simple but true adage. Our compilation needed to occur in order to prioritize areas for conservation action. With a good map, numbers, and some understanding of connectivity between the lion areas, we now know which populations are threatened with extinction or conversely, which are well connected and well protected.
How is the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative helping the situation for lions?
The Big Cats Initiative has quickly become a major player in lion conservation. We have sent nearly U.S.$800,000 into the field of which nearly all is in Africa and over half is dedicated directly for lion conservation. However, we are not doing this alone. Other international organizations like Panthera also contribute. We have developed collaborations with these types of groups to identify and execute important work, and many BCI grantees have contributing funds from other organizations. However, because we focus on actual conservation efforts and not research, we fund many projects that do not have a chance elsewhere. We identify innovative projects that halt lion decline, bring them to global attention, and help them to increase in size. This stepwise process of giving start-up money and then escalating funds to increase scale is unique and the only way to meaningfully contribute to halting lion decline across large swaths of Africa.
We have two excellent examples of this process. The Anne Kent Taylor Fund operates in the Masai Mara region of Kenya. This program collaborates with locals to strengthen livestock corrals, or bomas. The boma fortification is so successful that demand is outstripping supply of chain link fencing and many locals are copycatting and experimenting with their own designs. This is the hallmark of a successful program.  Another fantastic operation is the African People & Wildlife Fund that works on the border of Tarangire National Park, in northern Tanzania. Their flagship activity is building stronger bomas, but they employ a large variety of tools and methods to interrupt the circle of retaliatory killing of cats. They work at all levels of the community from the schoolchildren to the leaders. Their long-term commitment is helping build a community that sees tangible benefits from preserving big cats, and a culture where retaliatory killing or poaching is unacceptable.

A lion pushes on through a gritty wind in the Nossob Riverbed, Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, South Africa. National Geographic photo by Chris Johns.

Research Paper: The size of savannah Africa: a lion’s (Panthera leo) view
Published online journal Biodiversity and Conservation: 2 December 2012
Abstract: We define African savannahs as being those areas that receive between 300 and 1,500 mm of rain annually. This broad definition encompasses a variety of habitats. Thus defined, savannahs comprise 13.5 million km2and encompass most of the present range of the African lion (Panthera leo). Dense human populations and extensive conversion of land to human use preclude use by lions. Using high-resolution satellite imagery and human population density data we define lion areas, places that likely have resident lion populations. In 1960, 11.9 million km2 of these savannahs had fewer than 25 people per km2. The comparable area shrank to 9.7 million km2 by 2000. Areas of savannah Africa with few people have shrunk considerably in the last 50 years and human population projections suggest they will likely shrink significantly in the next 40. The current extent of free-ranging lion populations is 3.4 million km2 or about 25 % of savannah area. Habitats across this area are fragmented; all available data indicate that between 32,000 and 35,000 free-ranging lions live in 67 lion areas. Although these numbers are similar to previous estimates, they are geographically more comprehensive. There is abundant evidence of widespread declines and local extinctions. Under the criteria we outline, ten lion areas qualify as lion strongholds: four in East Africa and six in Southern Africa. Approximately 24,000 lions are in strongholds, with an additional 4,000 in potential ones. However, over 6,000 lions are in populations of doubtful long-term viability. Lion populations in West and Central Africa are acutely threatened with many recent, local extinctions even in nominally protected areas.
Authors: Jason Riggio (1, 14), Andrew Jacobson (1, 14), Luke Dollar (1, 2, 14), Hans Bauer (3), Matthew Becker (4, 5), Amy Dickman (3), Paul Funston (6),  Rosemary Groom (7, 8),  Philipp Henschel (9), Hans de Iongh (10, 11),  Laly Lichtenfeld (12, 13) and Stuart Pimm (1, 14).  
(1) Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA
(2) Department of Biology, Pfeiffer University, Misenheimer, NC 28109, USA
(3) Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford, Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Tubney, OX13 5QL, UK
(4) Zambian Carnivore Programme, PO Box 80, Mfuwe, Zambia
(5) Department of Ecology, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717, USA
(6) Department of Nature Conservation, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa
(7) Department of Zoology, University of Johannesburg, PO Box 524, Auckland Park, 2006, South Africa
(8) African Wildlife Conservation Fund, 10564 NW 57th St., Doral, FL 33178, USA
(9) Panthera, 8 West 40th Street, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10018, USA
(10) Institute of Environmental Sciences, PO Box 9518, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
(11) Department Biology, Evolutionary Ecology Group, University of Antwerp, Groenenborgerlaan 171, 2020 Antwerpen, Belgium
(12) African People & Wildlife Fund, PO Box 624, Bernardsville, NJ 07924, USA
(13) Department of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511, USA
(14) National Geographic Society, Big Cats Initiative, Washington, DC, USA

Ministry of Environment and Forest nod to master plan of lion safari project in Etawah.

TNN Dec 6, 2012, 04.36AM IST

LUCKNOW: Things couldn't have moved faster for the lion safari project in Etawah. The technical committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), GoI, granted the approval for the master layout plan of the project on Wednesday.
The master layout plan, which is the blueprint of the project, had got the nod from Central Zoo Authority (CZA) earlier. After getting the consent of the technical committee, the master layout plan is full and final.
The sources in the CZA said that the master plan of the project, which talks about the implementation of the project, will be debated for the first time by the internal committee of CZA on Thursday.
Things have already moved ahead at the level of the state government after Rs 89 crore being sanctioned for the ten-year long lion safari project in Etawah. The government has also fixed UP Awas Vikas Parishad as the construction and executing agency for the lion safari.
The officers in the UP forest department have already written to zoos in Hyderabad and Rajkot to bring Asiatic Lions of pure genetic bloodline under exchange programme. Till the safari comes into being, lions will be housed in the zoos.
Considering the 'social' behaviour of lions, and the fact that cubs born to the same mother, or those born to different mothers but brought up at the same place, do not mate, department will also set up a lion breeding centre. It will help add lions to the safari, in order to allow lions to mate.
After being in limbo for more than seven years, things on lion safari project started moving after SP came back to power in March this year. The ambitious lion safari project was conceived in 2005-06 by the Mulayam Singh Yadav government. But, Mayawati, after coming back to power in 2007, had put the project in the cold storage. The project, however, was revived quickly after SP swept the power this time.
Nearly 150 hectares of land in Fisher Forest on Etawah-Gwalior national highway, close to the Chambal Sanctuary, was acquired and notified as lion safari in 2005. But, work never progressed due to BSP being in power.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hand-fed Asiatic lion cub is healthy.

Lawrence Milton, TNN Nov 20, 2012, 07.15PM IST
MYSORE: Mysore zoo, which suffered heavy casualties of animals in captivity since April this year, successfully revived an Asiatic lion cub which was abandoned soon after its birth in July. The cub is now three-and-a-half months old.
When Gowri and Shankara failed to care for their little one, it fell to the Mysore zoo staff to hand-rear it. At first, it appeared the lion and lioness were getting on with the job of rearing their first offspring in captivity, but two days later, they abandoned the cub. Lion cubs are usually rejected by the mother.
Worried zoo authorities went that extra mile to protect the cub and feed it, guided by experts from Gujarat. It's rare for a hand-fed lion cub to survive, and techniques adopted by the zoo are bound to turn into an example for other zoos where animals are bred in captivity.
Zoo Authority of Karnataka chairman M Nanjundaswamy told TOI the cub is healthy and has been started on solid food too. "We're giving it chicken and soup to improve its resistance to infections. Though cubs develop great resistance power when they are weaned by parents, we are trying our best to improve the cub's resistance," he said.
The cub has slowly started displaying its instincts, which is a good indication. It's getting special attention, and is being monitored round the clock at the zoo hospital, Nanjundaswamy said.
"The temperature in the holding room at the hospital is kept steady. The cub's intake of solid food and cow's milk has increased. But the zoo has to decide to continue with hand feeding. Its gender is yet to be known," a staffer said.
"Gowri may have abandoned it as it is her first cub. It's natural for lions to reject their cubs soon after birth even in the wild," Nanjundaswamy explained.
It was because of former cricketer Anil Kumble's intervention that the Gujarat authorities spared a pair of Asiatic lions for Mysore zoo, which is the only zoo in Karnataka to have this species. Gowri, 5, and Shankara, 6, arrived from Sakkarbaug Zoo of Gujarat last year.

Two lions kill 140 goat, sheep in Gujarat.

Published: Monday, Dec 3, 2012, 15:42 IST
By DNA Correspondent | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: DNA
Two lions killed 100 sheep and 40 goats of a farmer in Chodvadi village of Bhesan taluka in Junagadh district. The village borders the Gir forest. The incident happened in Gir North range.
Sources in the department confirmed the killings. “The incident happened early in the evening when the farmer had locked up his herd and gone to the main village to attend a function,” said the source. He said that the herd had been milked and left in the pen. On return, the farmer found his herd under attack and gathered the villagers. “Together they scared away the lions although we don’t know whether it was a lion or a lioness,” said the source. He said that the beasts might have jumped the wall to reach their prey. “In all, the farmer had 210 sheep and goat in the herd. Of this 15 goats and 5 sheep have been severely injured,” said the source.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Paignton Zoo's rare Asiatic lion cubs celebrate half-birthday.

Monday, November 26, 2012
FOUR rare Asiatic lion cubs born at Paignton Zoo are celebrating being six months old.
One of those with the responsibility for their first months is senior keeper of mammals Lucy Manning.
  1. RARE:   The lion cubs and Indu at Paignton Zoo
    RARE: The lion cubs and Indu at Paignton Zoo
Lucy (pictured) has been at Paignton Zoo for eights years and the team she leads also looks after Sumatran tigers, mandrills, black rhinos, cheetah, maned wolves and, the least dangerous species in their care, coati.
Lucy said: "I particularly like the diversity of species on our section. All our animals have distinct personalities.
"No matter what else is going on in your life, they always have a way of making you smile and lifting your spirits.
The Asiatic lion is a species on the edge of extinction. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the wild population is about 350 animals, with just 175 of them mature adults.
Poaching incidents in the Gir Forest, in India, are on the increase.
Meanwhile, there are about 100 Asiatic lions in European zoos and another 300 worldwide.
Paignton Zoo supports the international conservation efforts by being part of the European Endangered species Programme, or EEP, for the species.
In 2011, three males and six females were born in the EEP, while 19 cubs were reared in 2010.
So the four cubs at Paignton Zoo are a real boost to the efforts to save the species.
Lucy: "Young animals are all cute and the lion cubs are awesome — it's fantastic to see them doing so well.
"It's very tempting to want to be more hands on, but Indu is doing great on her own and that is how it should be. Lions should behave like lions and not be petted and humanised."
Looking after the lions usually involves cleaning the outside paddock first thing in the morning and then getting the animals outside so that the keepers can clean the dens.
"In the evening the animals come in to be fed and are shut in safely overnight.
She added: "Indu is usually friendly and likes the company of keepers. She was less keen when she first had the cubs and wouldn't let us near her or even look in the dens. She is more relaxed now — she lets the cubs come up to us at the fence.
"The cubs are well aware that we provide the meat and are very keen to come over and see if we are going to feed them. So long as mum is close by they are very confident.
"Mwamba doesn't like Indu being near us and will tell her off if he sees us together — he will come to us to take food but mostly stays well away or jumps at the fence to shout at us."
She said it was quite scary working with big cats at first, adding: "When you start it can be quite scary, but as you get used to them you find you can predict what they are going to do, so you don't get a shock when they jump up.
"You never get complacent — you follow the protocols with locks and slides. I check it's safe 20 times before I go out into the paddock."

Religious fervour grips Mount Girnar, lakhs join Lili Parikrama.

TNN Nov 26, 2012, 03.31AM IST
RAJKOT: More than eight lakh devotees thronged Mount Girnar in Junagadh for the annual 'Lili Parikrama', which began on Saturday night.
At least four lakh have already completed the 36-km-long 'Parikrama' around Mount Girnar, sources said, adding that one devotee, however, died of cardiac arrest while undertaking the pilgrimage. He has been identified as Chandu Parkhiya, 60, a resident of Gondal in Rajkot district.
Water is a major issue for Junagadh district administration this time around. The surroundings around Mount Girnar in the previous years had turned lush green after the monsoon. However, this is not the case this time.
"Water scarcity is there. However, this has not stopped the devotees from taking part in the annual 'Lili Parikrama'. Lakhs of people have reached Mount Girnar from across the state. The district administration has made arrangements to ensure that there is adequate water for those taking part in the 'Parikrama','' said Pravin Savaj, a volunteer.
About 30 special water supply points have been set up on the 'Parikrama' route to meet the drinking water requirement of the devotees, who are walking the 36-km stretch. At least 40 'anakshetras' (free food zones) have been set up by the voluntary organizations. The 'Parikrama' route begins from Girnar Taleti. The participants will walk through Jinabava Madhi, Sarkadiya, Malvela and Bordevi before returning to the starting point on the fifth day. Police have made tight security arrangements for the 'Parikrama.'

Friday, November 23, 2012

Lili Parikrama to be held under shadow of water scarcity.

RAJKOT: This year the annual Lili Parikrama of Mount Girnar will be held under the shadow of water scarcity. Unlike previous years, when the Girnar mountain turns lush green at the time of the parikrama after the monsoon, water is a major issue being tackled by Junagadh district administration this time around.
Officials said that 30 special water supply points have been set up on the parikrama route to meet the drinking requirements of the devotees, who will be walking the 36-km stretch. While the parikrama is formally scheduled to begin on November 24, almost 20,000 devotees have already undertaken the religious journey. "Earlier, we used to set up only 17 water supply points but this year we have increased their number. All the necessary arrangements have been made by the district collectorate, police, forest department, health and water supplies department and other voluntary organizations to ensure smooth conduct of the five-day event," said an official.
Many voluntary organizations have also come forward to ensure an uninterrupted food supply at regular intervals and have started annakshetra (free food) services. Every year around 10 lakh people from various parts of the state and the neighbourhood undertake the parikrama. This time, it will start on Saturday from Girnar Taleti and the participants will walk through Jinabava Madhi, Sarkadiya, Malvela and Bordevi before returning to the starting point on the fifth day.
Police officials said that CCTV cameras have been installed on the route as a security measure. Junagadh Municipal Corporation will be installing street lights and ensure cleanliness on the parikrama route. The state transport department has decided to run an additional 150 busesfrom various parts to Junagadh.

One with Nature.

S. Mohammed Ali, founder of Natural History Trust in Mettupalayam, Pollachi and Tirupur works for the cause of environment conservation. Photos: S.Siva Saravanan

  • K. JESHI
    The Hindu S. Mohammed Ali, founder of Natural History Trust in Mettupalayam, Pollachi and Tirupur works for the cause of environment conservation. Photos: S.Siva Saravanan
  • Kaattuir, a montly magazine edited by S. Mohammed Ali, founder of Natural History Trust in Mettupalayam
    The Hindu Kaattuir, a montly magazine edited by S. Mohammed Ali, founder of Natural History Trust in Mettupalayam
  • S. Mohammed Ali, founder and president of Natural History Trust has authored eight books on wildlife and nature.
    The Hindu S. Mohammed Ali, founder and president of Natural History Trust has authored eight books on wildlife and nature.
  • A collection of book on wildlife authored by S. Mohammed Ali, founder of Natural History Trust in Mettupalayam
    The Hindu A collection of book on wildlife authored by S. Mohammed Ali, founder of Natural History Trust in Mettupalayam
S. Mohammed Ali, founder of Natural History Trust, author of eight Tamil books on wildlife, and editor of Kattuir magazine, tells K. JESHI that understanding Nature, and wildlife is the first step towards conservation
Recently, at a classroom in Gobichettipalayam, S. Mohammed Ali, founder and president of Natural History Trust, let out a water snake from his bag, much to the alarm of students. Worse, the snake bit him, and blood started oozing, but he continued talking. “The students ran out when they saw the snake moving,” he laughs. “I demonstrated it to take their fear away and to tell them that water snakes are non-poisonous. Out of 250 species of snakes in India, only four are venomous,” he mentions.
At his home in Mettupalayam, over endless cups of chaai and some tasty home-made biscuits served by his wife, it is enriching to listen to Mohammed Ali. He quit his job with the postal department in 1980s and turned a full-time conservationist from then on. “Mettupalayam, the place I live is surrounded by forests and wildlife. And, I started exploring,” he smiles.
Initially, Mohammed Ali, along with nature lovers Dr. Vasanth Alva from Pollachi and Dr. K.Yoganand from Mettupalayam, formed Wildlife Lovers Association, which later became Natural History Trust (NHT). “Science is taught in schools always with an eye on marks. There is no connect with every day life. Many students define Nature from what they read in their text books. We took the students outdoors.”
They approached government-run schools and colleges with slide-shows on wildlife. Later, they took the students into the forests in the Nilgiris and Mettupalayam. Sitting on boulders inside the forests, with butterflies and dragonflies fluttering around, students got lessons in Nature. NHS started with 100 students in Mettupalayam and now covers over 100 schools across Pollachi, Tirupur, and Erode.
Scorpion in a match box
Once, he brought a skink (aranai or long lizard) to a classroom. At another time, it was a scorpion, which he carried in a match box. “I let the scorpion climb on my hand to indicate that it stings only when it senses trouble when your hand moves. Black scorpions, considered the most poisonous, never initiate the attack. I share such information with students,” he says.
He has plenty to say about lizards. “They are harmless. In our own backyard, we have the bark gecko (marapalli), house gecko (house lizard) and blue-tailed skinks. The garden lizard (veli onaan) is an insectivore and keeps the garden clean. Such lizards, including udumbu (monitor lizard), and snakes, are vital to a garden’s ecosystem. They keep the pests out, including the mosquitoes. But we spray chemicals and chase them away,” he says. Superstitions are a deterrent too. “When an Indian Pipistrelle (fruit bat) enters homes, it is considered a bad omen. But, the truth is that it keeps the garden and house free of small pests.”
NHT camps with school children have been highly successful. But they lack support from the government. “There is no funding. We invest our money and run it. We have 20 active members, totally dedicated to the cause. In Tamil Nadu, we have about 500 members now.”
Mohammed Ali, who has just completed a two-day awareness camp for SHGs in Trichy, says it is easier to convey the message to those at the grassroots. “We talk at clubs, meet parents, NGOs, LIC agents and tell them to cut down on water usage, use less oil on their hair, less shampoo…everything helps in environment conservation.” He then adds with a straight face, “Instead of long tresses women should opt for shorter haircuts.”
The conservationist is irked by exaggerated accounts of wildlife. “Encounters in the wild are normal,” he says and shares an incident at Gir National Park. “Our group spotted a male lion 60 ft away from the car. After we took 10 steps forward, the lion woke up. Then, it gave a warning roar and stayed right there for 30 minutes. A simple experience like this is turned into a dramatic account.”
He gives another example. “At Thengumarhada, we camped in the forest to identify a tiger which was feared to be a man-eater. As it turned out, the tiger was in pain as a porcupine spine had pierced its foot. That was the reason it was growling. And a writer would probably describe this incident and title it ‘Killer on the prowl!’”. The misrepresentation extends to elephants and bears too, says Mohammed Ali. Elephants are the most misunderstood mammals, he says regretfully. “It never stamps a living being as often reported. It just chases you out of its way, and maybe attacks with its tusk. Man-bear encounters are described as karadiyudun thotta vaaliban katti purandu sandai. It is so misleading. But at our meetings we make it a point to give the real picture.”
Mohammed Ali has authored eight books on Nature. His book Iyarkaiyin Seidhigalum Sindhaiyum packs 1,500 news items, facts and figures about Nature, and has been acknowledged by some as one of the best compilations in a regional language. It is considered an as an Encyclopaedia on Nature.
One of his books is dedicated to ornithologist Salim Ali, whose life story inspires him. “I so yearned to own a gun like him in my younger days,” he recollects. “Salim Ali shot a yellow-throated sparrow, and took it to his father to identify it. His father sent him to BNHS. A European curator, opened the doors of the museum (home to 1000s of stuffed birds) to the young Salim Ali. And, he went on to become one of the greatest ornithologists ever.”
Conserve with care
Mohammed Ali has strong opinions about ‘blind conservation’, where tree plantation drives are carried out without proper research or understanding of the environment. “I visited the Savannah grasslands in South Africa. For millions of years, there have been no trees there, yet the ecosystem supports a rich bio-diversity. We go on tree planning sprees and it affects the balance of Nature. It is important to promote endemic trees such as poovarasu, vembu and teak.”
Street campaigns
NHT now conducts street awareness campaigns. Mohammed Ali cups his palm in the form an imaginary megaphone and demonstrates the cleanliness campaign they conducted at Khaderpet in Tirupur. “The area is dirty with all the spitting and betel leaf stains. We asked people there, ‘Do you spit inside your homes?’. We spoke for an hour each at three locations and no one protested, which is a good sign. We plan to address locality specific issues through such campaigns.”
Mohammed Ali quotes from Sangam literature where references are made to wildlife and nature. He mentions the poem kurunthohai thaaisaa pirakkum pulli karuvandu’ which describes the pulli karuvandu (spotted crab that carries eggs on its belly).The poet living in Sathimutram thousands of years ago has spoken about the migratory pattern (one of the first written works) of white storks from Siberia and Russia (naarai naarai sengaal naarai…thenthisai kumari aadi, vada thisai eeiguveer aayin…) “Such honest descriptions are lacking in literature now,” he rues.
He tells youngsters, “Look at the forests, they are always clean. Have you seen a spotted deer? How beautiful they look, do they apply any make-up?”
His books
Neruppu Kuzhiyil Kuruvi is a critical take on politicians, writers, conservationists, and poets.
Yaanaigal: Azhiyum Paeruyir is a handbook on elephants
Paluyiriyam is a Q&A format on bio-diversity
Paambu Enrall is a guide on snakes
Vattamidum Kazhugu
Adho Andha Paravai Pola
Rare sightings
NHT has spotted the European bee eater in Sirumugai forest (1991), Black buck (1986) and King Cobra (1988) on the marginal forest near the River Bhavani. All the sightings have been recorded with BNHS

Kamal the lion at Bristol Zoo has died.

Thursday, November 22, 2012
Bristol Zoo has announced that Kamal, their male Asiatic lion, has died.
Kamal, 18, was extremely old for a lion.
    Kamal the lion
  1. Kamal the lion
Consequently he suffered from arthritis and age-related deterioration of his vision.
Zoo vets also suspected that he may have had a tumour.
He had been receiving constant care and treatment from the keepers and zoo vet team who had been closely monitoring his condition.
However, due to the recent deterioration of his health, the decision was made for him to be put down yesterday.
Kamal was born at Helsinki Zoo, Finland, in 1994 and was hand reared by keepers. He arrived at Bristol Zoo in February 2008, where he has lived since. Kamal sired two cubs with our lioness, Shiva, in December 2010. They have since grown up and moved to other European zoos as part of a managed conservation breeding programme. Kamal was greatly loved here at the zoo and had a gentle and tolerant temperament.
Asiatic lions are critically endangered, with only approximately 300 left in the wild, living on a small reserve in the Gir Forest in western India in an area smaller than the New Forest.
Zoo staff will contact the co-ordinator of this important breeding programme to inform him of this sad event and will be making plans to receive a new lion, when the time is right, as a new mate for Shiva.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Age of Endlings.

Jay Mazoomdaar

We can only imagine the loneliness of the last of a species. But can we be immune to the consequence of the loss?
Jay Mazoomdaar
Independent Journalist
Living on the edge Few, if any, pure Asiatic wild buffalo survive in the wild
Photo: Getty Images
REMEMBER UNCAS in The Last of The Mohicans? His death marked the end of a tribe on which James Cooper developed his theme of great loss. The Mohicans were an imaginary tribe based on the Mohegans and Mahicans who still survive in two autonomous reservations of the US. But dozens of plant and animal species go extinct every day. Few are recorded, even noticed. The last of a species — the endling — is identified in still fewer cases.
Much has been written about Truganini, the last surviving Tasmanian Aboriginal, whose tribe was exterminated by the Europeans who colonised Australia at the end of the 18th century. Truganini became an endling in 1874, three years before her lonely death. Around the same time, another nameless endling passed away thousands of miles away. But if you never heard of the Quagga, it is not your fault.
Final countdown The last Tasmanian tiger in the Hobart zoo

Imagine a half-zebra with the stripes in the front fading in the middle to disappear into a plain brown coat in the rear. Once abundant in the grassland of South Africa, the Quagga was hunted to extinction for its hide and meat nearly 130 years ago. By the 1870s, the wild stock disappeared and zoo specimens became rare. The Quagga endling died at Amsterdam’s Artis Royal Zoo in 1883.
Martha the pigeon and Incas the parakeet died in the Cincinnati zoo in 1914 and 1918 respectively. Martha’s death marked the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon, a species that crowded the continent in billions till the new world was discovered. Incas was the last Carolina Parakeet, North America’s only parrot species.
The Heath Hen, a majestic grouse and a variant of the Greater Prairie Chicken, was nearly extirpated due to poaching by the end of the 19th century. The endling — named Booming Ben — lived alone for four years in a small Massachusetts island called Martha’s Vineyard until a forest fire killed it in 1932.
The kangaroo had a cousin that resembled a wolf. The Tasmanian tiger, the largest marsupial (animals who keep the newborn in a pouch) carnivore of our time, was killed as a vermin and vanished from the wild by 1930. Benjamin, the endling of undermined sex, died in the Hobart zoo in 1936.
The latest in the list of known endlings was Lonesome George, a male Pinta Island tortoise. Rescued to the Charles Darwin Research Station in the Galápagos, the giant spent four lonely decades in captivity before dying this June. While endlings of less-evolved life forms may not feel as much, did Benjamin or George realise they hadn’t seen anything quite like them for a really long time?
Boa knew that absolute loneliness. And she sang to herself to dispel it, in a language that had no more speakers left in the Bo people, one of the 10 Great Andamanese tribes. With Boa, died her language and the tribe in 2010. A few months earlier, another ancient language of the archipelago — Khora — had died with Boa’s neighbour Boro. In line are the 50-odd remaining members of the other Great Andamanese clans and only two surviving languages.
Boa’s story was written by linguist Anvita Abbi who knew the octogenarian in her final years. The only endling I came across may not qualify as one, but she suffered the same fate. Rajasthan’s Bharatpur did not have any tiger since the last one was shot in 1962. But in 1999, a barely-adult Ranthambhore tigress wandered out, followed the course of the Gambhir river and landed up in the wetlands of Ghana.
Final countdown Booming Ben, the last heath hen; a captive Quagga female in London zoo in 1870; the last four Tasmanian Aborigines, Truganini is at the extreme right
The tigress settled down among ample prey in the grassland and, thanks to the then conservator of Bharatpur Shruti Sharma, was protected from poachers who would soon butcher the big cats of Sariska and Ranthambhore. Unusually reclusive, she was in her prime when her remains were found in the summer of 2005. For six long years, she did not have a partner or a competitor. She still sprayed to mark her territory.
Tigers continue to flourish in many pocket reserves. The Asiatic cheetah, though, went extinct in India with the last three gunned down by a maharaja one night in 1947 under the glare of his royal vehicle that blinded the animals. While experts plot to fly in the African variety, the populations of several other species — the great Indian bustard, Jerdon’s courser, gharial, hangul, Nilgiri tahr, river dolphin, dugong and numerous amphibians — have dwindled below the critical level since.
The most imminent threat of extinction, however, is facing the Asiatic wild buffalo of which a handful remain in the wild. While the official count stands at 2,900, more than 98 percent of the population is confined to the Northeast where they routinely breed with the domestic ones. The only other population is in central India where their numbers may not add up to 40. In the absence of rigorous genetic verification, there is no certainty how many of them are purebred.
The small populations in Indravati and Pamed remain unprotected as the administration has little access to the insurgency-ridden forests. Chhattisgarh’s Udanti now has eight animals after Asha, the lone, diminutive female, gave birth to a calf in 2009 in captivity. While she is encumbered again, the bulls in the wild have no option but to woo the domestic females on the outskirts of the sanctuary.
ONCE DEAD, species cannot be recovered. Theoretically, breeding back is possible by proper selection if a very closely related species is found. Since 1987, the Quagga project has been trying to recreate the species from the plains zebra, but so far it has succeeded in partially retrieving only the genes responsible for the unique stripe pattern. In India, repeated claims of cloning the extinct cheetah have remained on paper since 2000.
The wild buffalo is the ancestor of the domestic variety and its survival is the only insurance against fatal weakening of the domestic gene. The government, the court and NGOs have repeatedly committed to saving this majestic species that weighs 900-1,500 kg with horns spreading up to 2 metres. But the executing agency, the Forest Department, is not even confident about the species’ identity.
The eight wild buffaloes of Udanti are routinely referred to as bison (or gaur) by the forest staff. In Karnataka, when the government decided to set up a breeding centre for the infinitely less-endangered bison last month, top zoo and forest officials told the media that the facility was meant for wild buffaloes, a species absent in the state.
Once she became an endling, Truganini had a prophecy. “I know that when I die, the museum wants my body,” she told a priest. After her burial, Truganini’s body was exhumed and put on public display at the Tasmanian Museum during 1904-47. But having accelerated the natural extinction rate at least by a 1,000 times, we may have already run out of space in that gallery. Anyway, there will be no one to preserve the endling species of the earth.
Jay Mazoomdaar is an Independent Journalist. 

‘Nympho’ lioness turns the heat on males in Gujarat.

(Strange behaviour of a lioness…)

Vijaysinh Parmar, TNN Oct 24, 2012, 04.51AM IST
RAJKOT: Strange behaviour of a lioness has raised curiosity among wildlife activists and forest officials in Savarkundla, Amreli district of Gujarat.
The lioness, believed to be 10 years old, is seen mating with lions much more frequently, a behaviour that is far from normal. Unlike normal lioness, who do not mate for 12 to 18 months after the mating season, this lioness is seen in the act every fortnight.
According to sources — who have seen this lioness in forest near Savarkundla of Amreli district — unlike other lioness, this lioness comes into the heat regularly. In fact, eyewitnesses say they see this lioness coming into the heat every fortnight.
"Locally this lioness is called 'Varol'. There are three lions and one lioness in the area. Few months ago we first spotted the lioness mating with a lion and after few days she was again seen mating with another lion. We continued to monitor her and we were surprised that she comes into the heat regularly. This is extremely unusual,'' a wildlife activist from Savarkundla said. Forest officials confirmed the behaviour of the lioness. "This lioness is nymphomaniac," a forest official, who worked in Gir for close to eight years, said.
Wildlife experts said those lionesses who are unable to conceive after the mating show such characteristics. "In such cases, the lioness comes into heat every 14 days. There may be fertility issue, but it is a rare a case. In 2003, one lioness with such behaviour was spotted in Tulsishyam forest range in Gir east division. However, this is not a disease or any problem,'' head, conservation biology and animal ecology at Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India, Dr Y V Zhala said told TOI.

Foreign nations patenting Indian plant, animal species.

The 11th World Conference of Parties —II (COP–II) was organised in Hyderabad from October 1 to 19 where 193 nations had joined. The main focus was on ecological diversities and their safety.
India is the first nation which raised voice for conservation of biological diversities in the Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi convinced the world leaders on the importance of conservation of biological diversities. For the first time, the world recognised that the ecological assets should be given due attention so far as their conservation is concerned.
First, an international treaty was signed among 193 countries to protect the global biodiversities. India was also a signatory to it.
The biodiversities was given a global identification beyond national boundaries.
The conservational success of India are Asiatic lions in Gir forests of Gujarat, Gharials of Chambal valley and horned Rhinos of Kajiranga in Assam which attracted the attention of the Hyderabad conference.
These species are now given the status from critically endangered to endangered species. Thanks to the efforts of the respective State administrations, now these species are safe. There is distinct geographical distribution of plant and animal species. It depends on the habitat and climatic conditions. So protection measures ought to include the protection and conservation of habitat and its environment.
When we speak about ecological biodiversities, we always mean terrestrial ecology but the oceanic biodiversities are much wider and vaster. The conservation measure should save and explore the new world of biodiversities which are still unknown. Due to mismanagement of terrestrial as well as oceanic world, many species are on the verge of extinction. So the details of biological complex of each country should be known to every human member nation and the property right of each species should be clearly specified.
In the recently held conference, the member nations were confused over the geo-climatic origin of many species and hence the property rights over them. There was much confusion over the property rights of the nation over species like Ongole Bull, Punganur cow, Pulsa fish and Red sanders, among others. These animal and plant species belong to Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.
The species occupy the Eastern Ghat and western corridors of India specially influenced by the Bay of Bengal and several hills. Ongole Bull is very famous for its delicious roast. Now Brazil claims the property rights over the species. Again Punganur cow, whose milk contains only 8 per cent fat, is claimed by the western countries. The Pulasa Fish is generally found in the river mouth of the Godavari. It is an estuarine species. The fish is also found in the river mouth of the Mahanadi. But due to wanton pollution of water, its population is dropping fast. Further, it has recently been found by the Japanese that this fish cures cancer and other fatal diseases. The oil of the fish is also very useful. Taking the weakness of the Indian Administration, the Japanese Government is attempting to claim property ownership of the species. The fish is as delectable as hilsa.
The most amazing thing is that Red sanders, generally noticed in the foothills of the Eastern Ghat, is soon going to be slip out of our hands. It is an endemic tree of the Deccan plateau, found most luxuriantly in AP and Gajapati district of Odisha. This species is found at 1,500 ft altitude and needs deep mineral-rich soil. Its wood has medicinal properties. The Maharajas of Gajapati used to supply Red sanders for use of Lord Jaganath. Its wood is very valuable and takes good carving and polishing as compared to other species of the family.
Its sister species is Piasal. The massive trunk of Red sanders attracts the western countries, which are now trying claim property right over it. Similarly, Basumati rice and turmeric which are indigenous Indian products are now being claimed by the some western countries as theirs.
Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who first advocated for Jibe Daya (compassion for wildlife) pitched for the protection and conservation of ecological diversities across the globe. The Indian Government should be very cautious about our property right on animal, bird and plants. If we do not object to the claims by foreign countries on our local species, it will be a great loss.
(The writer is a former senior forest officer and an environmentalist)

Gir records its highest daily number of tourists.

Himanshu Kaushik, TNN Nov 17, 2012, 06.52AM IST
AHMEDABAD: Gir sanctuary, the last habitat of the Asiatic lion, is turning into a star attraction. The sanctuary recorded an its all-time high in terms of number of tourists visiting in a single day.
The sanctuary received a record 9,384 tourists on Friday. This is 27% higher than highest recorded number in the past few years. The previous best was 7,356 tourists in a single day last year. Sources in the forest department said it that the forest department was forced to call for additional 20-seater buses because of the rush.
"Since the number of individual permits was only 150 a day, it was not easy to meet the rush and it was decided to have 20-seater buses. Last year, two such buses were pressed into service, but this year 12 were pressed into service in the Gir Sanctuary and another 14 buses at the Devalia interpretation zone," said the officer.
Deputy conservator of forests Sandeep Kumar said that so far the highest number of tourists visiting the sanctuary was 7,356 tourists and on Friday, this record was broken with 9,384 tourists entering on Friday.
Sandeep Kumar said in the last four days of the Diwali festival revenue grew about 22% as compared to the last Diwali festival. He said there was a 139% increase in the number of foreign tourists in these four days and Indian tourists registered an increase of 21%. Officials said that this year, when the sanctuary closed in May end, the number of tourists had shot up by about 40% compared to last year.
Footfalls at Gir and Devaliya safaris crossed 4.11 lakh between June 1, 2011 and May 25, 2012 - an increase of 1.16 lakh tourists -the highest ever.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Paignton Zoo lion cub keeps his eye on ball.

Monday, November 05, 2012
This rare Asiatic lion cub had no difficulty in keeping his eye on the ball during a playful session at Paignton Zoo.
The cub delighted crowds with his antics at the special development session, during which him and his siblings were introduced to solid balls for the first time – all of it captured by photographer Richard Austin.
Showing a quick grasp of basic skills, the cub mastered trapping and dribbling the ball like he was playing for England. However, the training session clearly proved to be a tiring one and it wasn't long before the youngster was sitting back and ready for a nap.
The cub was one of four born in May to mother Indu and father Mwamba at the zoo. The cubs are two males, Jari and Sabal, and their sisters Maliya and Zarina.
Asiatic lions (Panthera leo persica) are threatened by hunting and habitat destruction. Fewer than 400 survive in the wild in the Gir National Park in India. There are conservation breeding programmes in zoos, including a European Endangered Species Programme.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Leopard that killed child is trapped.

Express news service
Posted: Nov 04, 2012 at 0717 hrs IST
Ahmedabad Forest officials have caught a leopard believed to have killed a two-year-old child at a village near Kodinar in Junagadh on Friday evening.
Dr Sandeep Kumar, deputy conservator of forests (DCF) at Gir (Sasan) said over phone that the leopard, a female believed to be about five years old, was caught in a trap laid by forest staff around 1.30 am on Saturday. He added the leopard was believed to have been responsible for two or three attacks on humans in the area earlier. The leopard will be sent to Sakkarbaug Zoo, Kumar said.

Madhya Pradesh to emulate Gujarat model for safety of tigers.

PTI | Nov 05, 2012, 04:40AM IST
Bhopal: Tiger state Madhya Pradesh may follow Gujarat's model for safety of the big cats by not recruiting "aged and more qualified" forest guards for its reserves.
A proposal in this regard is under consideration of the state forest department.
The move comes after recommendations of a three-member committee on several measures to protect tigers, including one to ban gathering of people in forest areas near tiger reserves where the big cats have been seen.
"No matter what the minimum qualification is but it has been experienced that getting good marks in the test is no guarantee that the aspirant may be mentally and physically suitable to be appointed as forest guard. The guards need to be fit in such a way that they can roam around the forest and live in its far flung areas.
"It will be only possible when the recruitment rules are made on the lines of those formed by Gujarat state to keep suitable person for the job. The conservation of forest is not likely to be done by over aged and over qualified guards," the committee, comprising senior Indian Forest Service officers, said.
As per present recruitment rules, a person has to be Class Xth qualified, secure 70 marks in the written exam and about 9 marks in the interview.
The report also noted that illegal activities like ration shops and cooking gas distribution centres were taking place in the core areas of tiger reserves.
The committee found that none of about 60 forest circles have so far formed "rescue squad" to act in case of emeregency, despite several reminders from the government.
The panel has also suggested measures to check 'picnic' activities near forest areas to avoid "man and wild animal conflicts."
Taking note of the committee's recommendation, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Dr P K Shukla, has moved a proposal to recruit suitable persons for appointment as forest guards, as is being done in Gujarat.
As many as 295 posts, including 222 for forest guards, at various levels are lying vacant in six tigers reserves of Madhya Pradesh.