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.