Sunday, September 30, 2012

In rains, Gir lions shift to ‘insect-safe’ zone.

Published: Friday, Sep 21, 2012, 16:03 IST
By DNA Correspondent | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: DNA
Difficult as it might be to digest but the fact remains that the king of the jungle at Gir Wildlife Sanctuary is often brought to his knees by lowly insects during the monsoon. Forest officials say that the nuisance value of insects and mosquitoes is such that it sends lions scurrying for cover in the rains.
According to forest officials, the sanctuary remains closed in the monsoons not just because it could disturb the mating lions, but also because most of them seek refuge from these pests by abandoning their usual low-lying habitat and shift to higher terrain.
“Even if one were to go into the sanctuary during the rains using the routes designated for tourists it would be very difficult to find a lion because most would have moved to higher ground to escape the flies and other insects,” said a forest official.
The chief trouble mongers are lion flies and another small species known as fusil in the local language. “The lion flies are named so owing to their big size. They are big compared with an average fly and are blood sucking parasites. Their bite has the potency to cause severe itching for a long duration,” said another forest official. Further, mosquitoes too pose a serious threat to the well-being of lions during the monsoon.

ITDC invites private players to build hotels.

New Delhi, September 28, 2012, DHNS:
State-run Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) is keen on roping in private players under the public-private-partnership (PPP) framework to build hotels in the unserved areas.

It also wants to partner with private entities to create new facilities like convention halls in its existing hotel premises where large tracks of land are lying vacant and untilised.

“We have plans to bring new hotels and upgrade existing properties in PPP mode. There are many unserved areas like Gir Forest in Gujarat, Bodhgaya in Bihar where we have such opportunities. We want to provide better accommodation and facilities to tourists in such areas,” ITDC chairman Shankarsinh Vaghela said after the corporation’s annual general body meeting held recently.

He said the ITDC closed the year with an all round increase in the performance as compared to previous financial years. “The turnover of the corporation has increased to Rs 423.06 crore from Rs 392.36 crore in 2011-12, which is an increase by 7.82 per cent,” he said. The corporation has faced a loss of 20.51 per cent in 2009-10 and 11.73 per cent in 2010-11.

Besides showing improvement in the turnover and profitability, the corporation made a significant improvement in its operational efficiency. The turnover of almost all the operational verticals went up during 2011-12, he added.

Vaghela said the corporation could not distributed dividend to its stakeholders due to operational losses during 2009-10 and 2010-11. “As during 2011-12, there was a profit, dividend is declared for distribution to the stakeholders of the corporation,” he added.

The ITDC chairman also said that the corporation wants to do better in the field of hospitality and tourism education.

The Ashok Institute of Hospitality and Tourism Management, is an ISO 9001 certified training consultancy of the ITDC, which is based in Delhi. Besides handling the ITDC’s in-house training needs, the institute conducts a four-year bachelor’s degree course in international hospitality business management and diploma in hotel operations trade among other courses relating to hospitality and tourism sector.

Guj: Lion cub crushed to death by train.

Last Updated: Tuesday, September 18, 2012, 16:12
Vadodara: A lion cub was killed after being run over by a train at a village near Gir National Park in Amreli district.

"The postmortem confirmed that the cub was killed in a train accident," deputy conservator of forest J M Makwana said today.

The body of the cub, around 5-6 months' old, was found lying near the Rajula-Pipavav railway track yesterday, Makwana said.

Spread over 1,412 sq kms of forest land, the Gir National Park falls under the jurisdiction of Junagadh and Amreli and houses 411 Asiatic lions, as per a census conducted in April 2010.


CBI to probe Gujarat RTI activist Amit Jethwa's murder.

Gujarat | Updated Sep 25, 2012 at 04:46pm IST

Ahmedabad: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will take over the probe into the murder of Right to Information (RTI) activist Amit Jethwa. The case has been transferred to the CBI after the Gujarat Police gave a clean chit to BJP MP Dinu Solanki in February 2012.
The court observed that investigation by the Gujarat police in the Jethwa murder case was far from satisfactory and to instil the confidence and sense of justice in the probe, the court is compelled to transfer it in the hands of CBI.
The court asked the CBI to carry forward further investigation and directed all officers who were involved in the probe so far to cooperate with the agency. The court also asked the earlier investigating officer to provide all probe-related papers to the CBI within 10 days.
CBI to probe Gujarat RTI activist Amit Jethwa's murder
After the pronouncement of the judgement, the government pleader requested for a stay of three weeks to challenge the order in the higher forum, but it was rejected by the court.
Amit's father Bhikabhai Jethwa had sought a CBI probe alleging that Solanki was behind the murder. Amit was shot dead near the Gujarat High Court in July 2010.
Bhikabhai had approached the High Court saying that the state police had not properly investigated the case. He had alleged that Junagadh BJP MP Dinu Solanki was behind the murder but the state government was shielding him.
Gujarat police had arrested six people in the case including BJP MP Dinu Solanki's nephew Shiva Solanki and sharp shooter Sailesh Pandya, who had fired at Jethwa.
During the course of hearing in the case, Bhikhabhai had alleged that police had not conducted any investigation in the alleged involvement of Solanki in the murder of Amit.
Following this, the court had directed for further probe in the case to be done by the then Superintendent of Police, Surendranagar, Raghvendra Vatsa, and ordered him to specifically probe the role of the BJP MP.
After his probe, Vatsa had concluded that he did not find any evidence of Amit Jethwa being murdered at the behest of olanki and had given a clean chit to him.
RTI activist Amit Jethwa was killed on July 20,2010 near the Gujarat High Court by unidentified men. Ahmedabad police official said that some unidentified men on a motorcycle fired at Jethwa killing him.
Amit was reportedly coming out of a building after meeting his lawyer and was about to enter his vehicle when he was fired upon. Even though he was hit in the abdomen by the bullets, he tried to grapple with his assailants, who fled from after leaving behind their motorcycle.
He had filed several petitions in the Gujarat High Court against the Forest Department and had also filed a public interest litigation (PIL) on the illegal mining in the Gir forests of Junagadh district which is considered the last abode of Asiatic lions in the world.
(With additional information from PTI)

Centre seeks Supreme Court nod to bring cheetah

Utkarsh Anand : New Delhi, Wed Sep 19 2012, 06:02 hrs
Four months ago, the court stayed proposed move to get cheetah from Namibia
Asserting that an opinion of the National Board for Wildlife was only “advisory” in nature and “not mandatory,” the Centre on Tuesday urged the Supreme Court to lift its four-month-old stay on implementation of the Cheetah Reintroduction Programme, through which the Ministry of Environment and Forests sought to get the feline from Africa.
In an affidavit filed in pursuant to the court’s May 8 stay order, the MoEF has refuted the proposition that the NBW’s opinion was a legal requirement — one of the prime contentions that had led the court order. “The NBW is primarily an advisory body to the Government of India on matters relating to wildlife, as mandated under the Wildlife (Protection) Act. Section 5C or any other provision of the Act does not make the opinion of the NBW mandatory for the government to take a considered decision on management and conservation of wildlife based on scientific information,” stated the affidavit.
It added that the proposal regarding reintroduction of cheetah was placed before the NBW in March 2010 and none of its members had raised any objection to it nor had they sought a discussion during the subsequent meetings.
A Forest Bench had restrained the government from going ahead with its project following objections over lack of positive opinion from the NBW, expected expenditure, prey base, and other aspects relating to the feasibility study.
The issue of relocating cheetah from Namibia came up during a hearing on reintroduction of Asiatic lions from Gujarat’s Gir National Park to Kuno Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. The affidavit, submitted by government’s counsel S W A Qadri has sought permission to reintroduce the extinct species in its historical range, claiming cheetah and lions have historical coexistence in the proposed area.
“It will be ensured that the cheetah reintroduction in Kuno would in no way be allowed to delay and affect the lion reintroduction therein,” the MoEF undertook.

Staking claim to the same pie.

Sunday 30 September 2012
News updated at 1:03 PM IST

Sasan Gir National Park in Gujarat is still the last bastion of the Asiatic lion, and the local Maldharis have lived peacefully with the wild cat. What is upsetting the fragile natural balance is the increasing livestock population that is competing with the wild ungulates for the same forest sources, observes Atula Gupta.
Sasan Gir National Park in Gujarat is a conservation success story. What was 45 years ago a crumbling forest with the entire population of the Asiatic lion on its deathbed, has bounced back today into a verdant, self-sustaining ecosystem.

It is still the last bastion of the regal predator, but the human population here has made peace with nature and allowed the wild cat to reign and expand its brood. What is though beginning to shake the fragile natural balance is the increasing livestock population that is competing with wild ungulates for the same forest sources. Resultantly, the prey-predator dynamics of the region are starting to change.

Panthera leo persica or the Asiatic lion is a distant cousin of the African lion. But while the African lion has acres and acres of jungles and savannah under its territory, its Asian counterpart has had a turbulent history with ever-shrinking habitat and gun-friendly royalties killing the beast for pleasure and pomp.

It indeed was the Nawab of Junagadh who finally bestowed on the jungle king, the respect it deserved and banned hunting in his private landholdings. This and the declaration of Gir as a sanctuary and a national park in 1965 ensured that the Asiatic lion had a safe 1400 sq km of land to itself, if not a vast empire.

But the semi-arid region of Junagadh is also home to a pastoral community called the Maldharis. This community has long endured losses in livestock and human life, while many of their grazing practices and traditional customs have contributed to human-lion altercations. When it was first planned to create a protected area in Gir for the lions, stabilisation of the species population and the reclamation of its dwindling habitat focused on maintaining a workable human-lion co-existence.

Distorted food cycle

In a study conducted by Bombay Natural History Society, Smithsonian Institution and Yale University called the ‘The Gir Lion Project’ in 1970, it was found that about 21,000 domestic livestock grazed within the sanctuary and this number doubled or tripled during the dry season.

The research noted there was a very low population of wild herbivores as the competing cattle grazed in the forest grassland and left little for the deer and sambhars. Naturally, lions fed “almost exclusively” on Maldharis’ livestock in the absence of their natural prey. Consequently, to avoid future conflicts, Maldhari families were shifted between 1970 and 1985 and a rubber wall built to keep the livestock away from the forest. Wild herbivores were also bred to increase their population.

Today, there are more than 400 lions in Gir, and the population is steadily growing. The prey population of chital, sambhar, nilgai, wild boar, four-horned antelope, langur and chinkara have increased dramatically and their total population now stands at nearly 70,000. This is good news for the forest and a sustainable working scenario.

But with the number of domesticated herbivores like cattle and sheep beginning to increase once again, potential distortion of the food cycle and rise in human-lion conflict is a certainty.

According to a veteran forest department official, “Livestock population has reached the 1970 levels again, and there is increasing competition between domestic and wild herbivores, leading to degradation of patches in the forest area and more cases of carnivores attacking the Maldharis’ livestock.” The only possible solution is planning another re-location drive, but even experts realise that it is not an easy task to accomplish.

Conservation dilemmas

On top of the list are the financial costs that will be incurred to move and re-settle thousands of humans and tens of thousands of animals.

There will also be need for a vast new settling ground and an equally huge rehabilitation package give to each member of the community. Between 1972 and 1978, 588 families were shifted out of the Gir protected area. Each relocated family was given eight acres of cultivable and grazing land, 600 sq m of residential plot and Rs 6,050. A total of 257 families were not shifted and there were the 87 families that returned in spite of the relocation.

If relocation is planned yet again, the package size will be ten scales larger than what it was in the 70s. There is also no guarantee that the human dwellers of the forest will be gone forever. They might wish to return to their roots as before.

It is the same piece of land that the Maldharis and the Asiatic lions are laying their claim on. But while for the lions, it is literally the last place in the world to call home, for the other forest dwellers, the timing might just be right, to understand the criticality of the situation and willingly look for green pastures outside. It is but a small price to pay to secure, not just their own future but also of the land they love so much.

The last post at Gir.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The last post at Gir
If you want to see an Indian lion born free, and living free, you have to visit Gir, in Gujarat, and keep your fingers crossed
Hugh & Colleen Gantzer

Taking care of the lion has a ripple-down effect. Smaller animals too thrive
Taking care of the lion has a ripple-down effect. Smaller animals too thrive

More than 412 Asiatic lions roam free in the 1,412 sq km of protected wilderness at the Gir National Park
More than 412 Asiatic lions roam free in the 1,412 sq km of protected wilderness at the Gir National Park

Deer sense the arrival of a lion much before it actually appears
Deer sense the arrival of a lion much before it actually appears

Sidhi descendants of African immigrants share the wealth of wildlife in Gir
Sidhi descendants of African immigrants share the wealth of wildlife in Gir
THEY are the universal symbols of royalty. Their names have become titles of courage and are the commonest surnames in India. Singh, Sinha, Singha, Narasimha — all mean lion: specifically the Indian lion. Once upon a time, they had roamed the whole of West Asia, down through northern India and as far as the Narmada. Their ferocity, fearlessness and regality inspired the heralds of England to emblazon them on the crest of their kings. Ironically, 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, more than 411 Asiatic lions roam free in 1,412 sq km of protected wilderness in Gujarat’s Gir. Clearly, now, the so-called Asiatic Lions should rightly be called the Indian lions.
This year, when spring was warming into summer, we drove into the green campus of the Gujarat Forest Department’s Sinh Sadan in search of these magnificent animals. A roaring lion is the state emblem. Gujarat is so proud of its lions that it refuses to allow them to be relocated in any other state.
If you want to see an Indian lion born free, and living free, you have to visit Gir. But even then, though your chances of seeing the king of the beasts in the wild are high, you can’t be sure. Make up your mind to enjoy the wilderness and its inhabitants, even the smallest ones, and keep your fingers crossed that luck will be on your side and you will see one of the Great Royals of Gir.
Spring was the right season. Most trees had shed their leaves and forest workers were sweeping them up and burning them to prevent forest fires. Consequently, visibility was 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. There are 46,000 chital in Gir, more than enough to ensure that the predators, including the 311 leopards, are able to keep fit hunting for their natural prey. When we first visited Gir, an over-enthusiastic Governor had decided that the lions should be fed so that they would appear at the ‘Lion Show’. They began to lose their ability to hunt. We objected to this in our writings and, eventually, that travesty was stopped. The ecological balance of Gir was restored.
Eco balance
On this visit, to our relief, we saw something that confirmed this: langurs had teamed up with the spotted deer, dropping leaves and fruit to the chital grazing on the forest floor. From their high view-point atop trees, the langurs 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. The birds, clearly, were not bothered about the presence of lions. Lions, unlike leopards, don’t like scaling up trees. We saw the usual assortment of doves, wood-peckers and garrulous babblers, 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. We also saw a pair of stone curlews, informally known as ‘Thicknees’. They looked as if they had arthritis but were as agile as curlews are expected to be. They are ground-nesting birds and they were guarding their scooped-out property on the forest floor.
Outside the park, we met a group of Sidhis. They are descendants of Africans reputedly brought to this area by the former Nawabs of Junagadh. They have integrated seamlessly into the ecology of Gir, while maintaining many of their customs and traditions. They told us that one of their villages was still in the National Park "But the lions don’t trouble us and we don’t trouble them. We live in harmony as our ancestors in Africa must have done. If, sometimes, an accident happens..." our informant shrugged, "we accept it."
Spotting the king
When we returned to Sinh Sadan, we met a family from Mumbai who were jubilant. They had spotted 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 that might have happened but that didn’t dampen her enthusiasm. "Then why don’t you visit the Interpretation Zone?" she persisted, "You’re bound to see lions there. We did" We told her we had been there and even photographed a lion confronting our jeep on what he obviously considered was his personal road. The Interpretation Zone, however, is a large, fenced-in facility in which the lions live in limited freedom and where the Forest Department also has cages for old and infirm lions. We wanted to see lions living free in the wilderness of the National Park, hunting and fending for themselves.
That afternoon we were put 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.
Maldhari herdsmen
We passed a Maldhari herdsman grazing his buffaloes just outside a rather make-shift village. The Maldharis have lived in Gir, with their cattle, for many generations. Their settlements, called nesses, are protected by thorn fences which, apparently, lions avoid. But when they take their herds into the forest their bovines are likely to be attacked by lions and leopards: a ‘tax’ that most Maldharis seem to accept! They get paid for every one of their cattle killed by a jungle predator, and the natural fodder in the forest is so plentiful that it makes up for the loss. So they prefer to assert their right as forest dwellers, and stay on.
We met a Maldhari and his herd in the forest. He said a lion had been seen not far from his settlement this morning and his buffaloes were restless. A little later we spotted nervous chinkara, leaping away like ballet dancers. But their nimble-footed performance could have been triggered by our presence and not, necessarily, by an approaching predator. 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-yap! of frightened spotted deer. They stood just off the road, a little ahead of us. We drove up and saw that they were tense, 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. Ketan’s eyes were better trained than ours. Also, generations of survival in Gir have given lions a camouflage. Slowly, after our pupils had adjusted to the half-shadows of the forest floor, we saw her. There, stretched out in regal ease, was a magnificent lioness. She turned her head and looked at us with serene arrogance as the sunlight glowed in her amber eyes.
And, in the UK, the stylised icons of her ancestors still, very proudly, rule Britannia.
The Core Issue
The Government of Gujarat and its Forest Department have, very clearly, struck an exemplary balance between the rights of humans and wildlife in the use of forest resources. Not only do the Maldhari herdsmen and the Sidhi descendants of African immigrants share the wealth of the Gir National Park with its wildlife, but pilgrims, too, have access to the temples of Kamleshwar, Kankai, Banej and Tulsishyam during the festive seasons of these shrines. All this has had no adverse effect on the lions. Th Forest Department of Gujarat has not gone into an overdrive banning visitors from the National Park. It seems to have realised that no Forest Department will ever have enough funds to patrol its domains adequately. Some states have used tourists as a force-multiplier. Controlled entry of visitors deters poachers whose illegal activities are spotted by alert tourists. Forests belong to the people of India. So does its wildlife. Forest Depts do not own the forests and wildlife; they help to conserve them. It is a participatory effort between people and forest office
Getting There: Nearest Airport from Delhi: Ahmedabad
Railway Station: Sasan Gir or Junagad - 58 kms.
Road: Ahmedabad - 385 kms ; Junagad - 58 kms.
Accommodation: Sinh Sadan, Sasan Gir (Most convenient - run by Forest Dept.)
Tel: (02877) 285540;
FAX: (02877) 285508
Some other accommodation in surrounding area
Park opens in October after the monsoons.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Exploring forest and tribal culture in Saputara festival.

Payal Gwalani, TNN Sep 4, 2012, 01.31AM IST
NAGPUR: What do you do when you have a state's landscapes as diverse as a hill station and a desert, the pride of being the only home to the Asiatic lion along with a rich cultural heritage? Gujarat decided to show it to all the world and improve the lives of some of its marginalized citizens in the deal.
Continuing the tradition that was started by the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Limited (TCGL) with the introduction of fests like Tarnetar, Navratri, Ranotsav and the International Kite Festival, the state agency concluded another festival called Saputara Monsoon Festival. The only hill station of the state, that is at the peak of its beauty during the season, was thronged by lakhs from both Gujarat and Maharashtra as well as many from as far as Kolkata and Bangalore during the second edition of this just concluded monthlong fest.
"Monsoon is generally a slack period with regards to tourism in the state. So, we decided to tell people that we have a beautiful, deciduous forest, which is mentioned in both Ramayana and Mahabharata, that they can explore. This year, there was a 29% growth in the number of tourists who visited the town during this festival," said Dineshbahi Dasa, a member of the board of directors of TCGL. Most of these tourists are from Maharashtra, he added.
Everyone associated with the festival as well as the locals do not get tired of singing praises of chief minister Narendra Modi, who they say was foresighted enough to understand the importance of tourism in boosting the economy of the region and the state. The list includes local coordinator for the festival SV Patel.
"The state has also planned various projects worth Rs110 crore for rest houses, sunset/sunrise point and many such points of attraction. The lives of the locals, the Dang tribe, have also changed after more tourists have started pouring in, with most of them working at the hotel, lodges, etc," he said.
The festival also encouraged the tourists to get to know the district's rich folklore, tribal culture, music and dance, and handicraft. Every evening from August 4 to September 1, there were different cultural events like puppet shows, dances, musical programmes, Gujarati ghazal show, laser shows among other activities. Several of the visitors said they have been trying to attend the festival earlier but could not do so as no accommodation were available in the entire town. Several locals vouch for the improvement in their standard of living due to tourism.
If only Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) could learn a lesson from neighbours like Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh and bank upon the immense scenic beauty and acres of forested land within its jurisdiction, things would be much better for many a tribe of the state.

Nifty outfits for Gujarat forest officials.

Published: Monday, Sep 3, 2012, 17:46 IST
By Smitha R | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: DNA
Tailors in and around Junagadh will learn about the proper cut and fit, thanks to National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT). The institute is thinking of training some of them, particularly those who specialise in stitching uniforms, to ensure that new uniforms designed for forest and range officers of the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary have the best finish.
“The design is ready and the cloth will be sourced from Gurjari. Tailors who have already been stitching uniforms will be given preference for the training,” said Sameeta Rajora, director, NIFT.
She said that about 800 pairs of shirts and trousers will be made for the 400 officials working at the sanctuary. “The idea is to ensure proper cut and size for the uniforms,” said Rajora.
She said that the forest officials were also asked for their feedback at the time of designing the uniform. “They told us about the pocket cuts, the belt size and even the buttons that could make it more comfortable,” said Rajora.
The institute has also designed the accessories that the officials need to carry with them. “They carry arms, wireless sets, rope, etc. The accessories are designed keeping in mind the variety of things they carry,” she said.
Vishal Gupta, coordinator for the project and associate professor, said that the uniform colours for the field and range officers have been chosen as per their work and the amount of time they spend in the field.
“For winters, light and heavy jackets will be given. We have also suggested thermals in khakhi colour for extreme winters,” he said. Gupta said the best thing would be that with the uniform, the forest officials will have an identity of their own, whereas earlier they were confused with the police.

Asiatic lion cubdies at city zoo.

Sayantanee Choudhury, TNN Aug 21, 2012, 05.36AM IST
PATNA: A newly-born Asiatic lion cub died at the Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park, better known as Patna zoo, on Sunday night while another is being treated at the park's veterinary hospital.
The two Asiatic lion cubs were born on August 15. According to zoo authorities, it was the first time the lioness, Saraswati, had given birth to cubs. She was, however, unable to take proper care of the cubs. The lioness was not breastfeeding them. The Asiatic lion couple is young and inexperience of the lioness led to death of the, according to the zoo authorities. The lioness and the cubs were kept in a night shelter with a dark room and a night vision-enabled close circuit television camera was installed there to monitor them.
The Asiatic lion couple was brought here from the Hyderabad zoo in August 2011.
The zoo authorities have put another cub in an incubator due to physical injury caused by the lioness. Veterinary doctors are feeding Lactogen to the cub as supplementary milk instead of breast milk. They are also using buffalo milk to balance the nutrition level of the cub.
"Our prime focus while bringing any new animal here under exchange programmes is to check their health and age. We try to bring animals approaching adulthood. All the animals which we have brought under the last four exchange programmes are between 2.5-5 years. Animals of such age can easily adapt to any kind of changes in surroundings, which helps in breeding of animals," said Abhay Kumar, director, Patna zoo. However, 23 animals have died at the biological park since 2010. They include one tiger, two giraffe cubs and the newly-born Asiatic lioness cub.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tourism in core areas ban will up poaching, fears forest minister .

Bagish K Jha, TNN Sep 2, 2012, 12.38PM IST
INDORE: Tourism acts as shield for wild animals. Tigers and other wild animals are safe only because of tourism. "As such, a complete ban on tourism in core areas of reserve forests will increase poaching," fears Madhya Pradesh forest minister Sartaj Singh. The minister was in the city to inaugurate a girl's hostel of forest department for its employee's kids, on Saturday.
Singh said that his ministry has taken several measures against poaching and it was bearing good results of late. "Presence of tourist and forest department officials helps keep a day-to-day watch on the number of tigers and wild animals and their movements. Their absence, however, will encourage poachers. It will not be possible to station a forest guard in every corner of the forest," Singh said.
Singh said that as of now, the matter pertaining to ban on tourism in core areas of reserve forests is with the Supreme Court and the apex court has directed the union government to come up with new guidelines for tourism in the core areas. "We have filed our reply on August 29 and next hearing is on September 27 when the court will decide its further course of action. We have submitted our suggestions to the committee of union government which will formulate the new guidelines of tourism in core areas," he said.
He said that forests and reserve forests in MP are in better shape and the number of tigers is increasing. "Buffer zones of reserve forests across the state have been notified. The buffer zone notification of Panna National Park has been done on August 13 as per the guidelines of the court," he said.
Taking a dig at Gujarat government that had denied to shift a lion of Gir alleging rampant poaching in Madhya Pradesh, Singh said that Gujarat government was raising the issue of poaching as it did not want MP to have the lion. "We have contented that for survival of the species, it would be good to have their presence in different geographical areas," he said.
Tiger tourism is one of the main attractions of tourism in MP and is one of the major sources of revenue generation for Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (MPSTDC) that owns several hotels and guest houses in and around the forest areas. It also provides direct and indirect employment to a large number of people across the state.