Saturday, December 14, 2013

A cop who hunted down hunters.

Keshav Kumar speaking at Sanctuary Asia annual awards function.
Keshav Kumar speaking at Sanctuary Asia annual awards function.

Friday, Dec 13, 2013, 11:29 IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
dna gets talking to the joint director of CBI, Mumbai, and Colaba-resident, Keshav Kumar, on his exceptional feat in a unique poaching case at Gir.
It is said that the main job of a policeman is to serve and protect the citizens. But here is a policeman who has gone not one but a few hundred steps further. He managed to capture the poachers involved in the killing of 10 Asiatic Lions at Gir National Park in Gujarat. He recently won the Wildlife Service Award at the Sanctuary Asia Awards 2013, held last sunday, for it. Keshav Kumar, joint director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Mumbai, was the police officer in charge of investigating the incidence of poaching in 2007.

One of India’s most respected police officers, his expertise lies in using forensic sciences and new age techniques and tools in criminal investigation. He received near perfect score for relevance, presentation, and content for the presentation he had given on “Convergence of Conventional Forensics and Wildlife Crime Investigation” to the Interpol’s Wildlife Crime Division.
Kumar has also delivered a series of lectures at the National Police Academy, Gujarat High Court’s Judicial Academy, the Rajasthan Police Academy and the Directorate of the Forensic Sciences and Laboratory in Gandhinagar. He was also presented the President’s Police Medal in 2012 for his inspiring service to the nation.

It was due to Kumar’s initiative that tools of conventional forensic sciences were used for the first time in India as far as wildlife crime is concerned. Kumar said, “I thought if we can solve murder cases with the help of conventional forensic sciences then why could we not use the same to track poachers. Earlier, as far as forensic in wildlife crime was concerned, it was related only to biology. The concept of using all the conventional methods of forensic, where physics, chemistry and pathology are also used, was new and more effective in tracking the crime.”

At the outset of the investigation, Kumar had no knowledge about wildlife crime in India, although he had 23 years of experience solving conventional crimes. “Before I started my investigation I knew nothing about wildlife crime, therefore I took help from various wildlife crimes experts, wildlife NGOs and of course the forensic. When we examined the culprits’ nails, lion blood was found on their nails. This was possible only because of polygraph and narco-analysis,” said Kumar. He also added that it was the first ever case in India, where lions were hunted for trade.

“Tigers are usually the first preference as each part is highly valuable. But with tigers disappearing from national parks and forests, the poachers planned to hunt lions instead, also it is quite difficult to differentiate between the parts of the two species,” clarified Kumar.

He also said that Belinda Wright, who heads the Wildlife Protection Society, gave him a very valuable piece of advice. “She told me to focus on the hazel-eyed Baheliyas, a tribal community of Madhya Pradesh, who specialised in poaching,” said Kumar. In all, 37 poachers, who were from Madhya Pradesh, were convicted in the wildlife crime case. This is the highest number of poachers that have ever been convicted together for the same crime. The forensic method changed the way wildlife crimes were solved in India and gave a new dimension to it.

Kumar is one of the key persons responsible for the creation of the CID Wildlife Crime Cell and he continues to be relied upon by states across the country to help them solve crimes relating to wildlife. His methods and inputs have already raised the conviction rates as far as wildlife crimes are concerned and there is no doubt they will continue to increase further.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Monday, December 9, 2013

Gir named best protected area.

TNN Dec 8, 2013, 01.43AM IST
AHMEDABAD: Gir Sanctuary has been recognized and awarded the best protected area by a Mumbai-based wildlife magazine. The awards were instituted in 2000, to recognize and draw national attention to the contribution of individuals working for the protection of wildlife and natural habitats in India.
This year, among various categories, Gir sanctuary was awarded for the best protected sanctuary. Chief conservator of forests R L Meena received the award on behalf of Gujarat. C N Pandey, the principal chief conservator of forests said: "The award was a recognition of the conservation efforts of the state and especially the people of Saurashtra who have protected lions as their family. It was because of this conservation that the population of lions increased to 411 according to the 2010 census."
Officials said that talk of relocating Asiatic lions from Gir meet vehement protests from local maldharis. Despite the wild cats preying on nearly 6,000 domesticated animals in the forest, satellite areas and villages, locals consider the lions to be a part of their family. Gir forest was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1965 with the main area declared a national park. Gradually, more lion habitats in adjoining regions were also declared sanctuaries and ultimately Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary was created in 2007. Several ecological studies were also conducted to identify problems and prepare a conservation project. This was followed by implementation of the Gir Lion Sanctuary Project in 1973 to resettle maldharis.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Wildlife Crime Bureau to issue alerts against smuggling.

The suspected leopard claws seized by the Kerala Forest and Wildlife officials from Guruvayur. Photo: Special Arrangement
K. S. SudhiUpdated: December 7, 2013 11:20 IST

The suspected leopard claws seized by the Kerala Forest and Wildlife officials from Guruvayur. Photo: Special Arrangement

With doubts being raised about an international illegal wildlife trade racket operating between India and some African countries, the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, Chennai, may issue advisory to enforcement agencies to look out for such activities.
The forest officials of Kerala had this week seized around suspected 1,000 leopard claws from Guruvayur, which is said to have been smuggled in from Sudan. On analysis, the claws were found to have morphological similarity to leopard claws. It also had resemblance to leopard claws that were earlier smuggled in from Sudan in another case, said an official of the Bureau who inspected the contraband.
On inspection, bones were found missing in some of the claws seized in Kochi. Some others were in partly decomposed stage indicating that they might have been collected long time back. There existed the possibility of offenders shipping it from foreign countries than poaching leopards in India, he said.
One of the arrested in the case is also understood to have given a statement that claws were purchased for Rs. 45 a piece from Sudan. The seized samples would be send for DNA analysis shortly for confirming the species and genuineness of the samples, said an investigation officer.
Incidentally, the Chennai customs had seized 13.5 kg of elephant tail hair and 7kg leopard nails in 2011, which were couriered from Sudan. The consignment was recorded as rings in the shipping documents and its value was shown as $10, which raised the suspicion of the Customs officials, said an official from the Chennai Regional office of the Bureau who was involved in the investigation.
With large number of people from African countries frequently travelling to India for education and healthcare, the wildlife traders might attempt to establish their network. The enforcement agencies usually tend to look out for contraband like drugs, explosives and gold. Illegal wildlife trade seemed to have failed to catch the attention of the agencies. Advisory would be issued following the recent incidents, he said.
The Bureau regularly issues advisories and alerts to enforcement agencies to be on the vigil. Besides the officials of the customs and police, awareness and sensitisation programmes are being organised for personnel of the Central Industrial Security Force, staff of private airport and courier agencies. Specific alerts on the modus operandi of wildlife smugglers, including the ways in which they camouflage the consignments, are also issued, he said.

Friday, December 6, 2013

3 Gujarat bird species in 'endangered' list.

3 Gujarat bird species in 'endangered' listAHMEDABAD: The latest 'red list' of endangered bird species released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) includes 15 Indian bird species, three of which are found mainly in Gujarat. These include the Great Indian Bustard, the Indian Vulture and Siberian cranes. All three are in the 'critically endangered' (CR) category.
The great Indian bustard found mainly in Gujarat and Rajasthan in India is on the verge of extinction.
Several migratory birds that come to Thol and Nalsarovar have also been listed in the 'vulnerable' and 'nearly threatened' bird species. Officials said the IUCN red list is the list on the basis of which several countries and states form their strategies for conservation of birds.

Officials said that the 'International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Birds-2013' shows that 15 bird species in India continue to be in the 'critically endangered' category. Of these, three bird species are now in greater danger than before.

The decline in the population of these species is because of the growing human interference in areas where bird nesting and colonies exist, said the officials. Studies by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and other organizations, including Wildlife Institute of India, of factors most responsible for the falling numbers of several bird species reveal that like wetlands, most other habitats such as grasslands and forests, also face severe threat due to developmental pressures. The drastic loss of grassland habitat over the past decades has severely threatened species such as the Great Indian Bustard, Siberian Cranes, Bengal Florican and Jerdon's Courser.

While the extensive use of diclofenac by farmers for treatment of their cattle, had led to the fall in the number of Indian vultures, the destruction of deciduous forests has lead to the decline in the number of Forest Owlets. The presence of chemicals in the carcass of animals on which scavenging birds feed has affected their population adversely.

BNHS-India Director, Dr Asad Rahmani, said that on the basis of insightful scientific field research, there is an urgent need to conserve the remaining habitats and the species dependent on them. "Policies that ensure this through sustainable development should be framed and implemented at the earliest," Rahmani said.

Critically endangered species: The species falling in the critically endangered category in India include migratory birds.

Wetland species: Baer's pochard, siberian crane and spoon-billed sandpiper.

Non-migratory wetland species: White-bellied heron.

Grassland species: Bengal florican, great Indian bustard, Jerdon's courser and sociable lapwing.

Forest species: Forest owlet.

Scavengers: Indian vulture, red-headed vulture, white-backed vulture and slender-billed vulture. Himalayan quail and pink-headed duck.

Great Indian Bustard: The great Indian bustard found mainly in Gujarat and Rajasthan in India is on the verge of extinction. In Gujarat, its population was not more than 50 birds. Officials said that the IUCN assessment blamed "ill-defined land distribution policies" and "encroachment" of its habitat as major threats to the bird. On its part, the forest department had last year sanctioned an increase in the size of the Bustard Sanctuary from 2 sq km to 37 sq km. The last survey in 2007 pegged its population in the Naliya grasslands of Kutch - its sole habitat in Gujarat - at 48, while an assessment by the Birdlife International for the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) red list of endangered species pegs the population in Kutch at less than 30.

Indian Vulture: The population of the Great Indian vulture has been declining sharply in the state. The headcount of long-billed vultures in Gujarat has gone up from 265 in 2010 to 361 in 2012, an official statement said.

However, the white-rumped vulture population has decreased from 793 in 2010 to 577 in 2012. Officials said that the 2012 census had put their total population in the state at 1,043. Even in the cities, there has been a sharp drop in the number of vultures. Recently the population of these scavengers has been found to be decreasing because of the use of diclofenac by farmers as medicine for cattle.

Scavenger birds feeding on the carcass of these animals tend to die. This is also affecting the environment adversely. Gujarat was the first state in 2004 to ban diclofenac but, despite the ban, the use of the medicine continues to be used.

Siberian cranes: Nowadays, the winged visitors are not spotted in larger flocks in Gujarat. These birds visit the Little Rann of Kutch, especially the Chari Dand area, and Nalsarovar and Thol. Many of these migratory birds did not only because of the high level of water in the wetlands but also because of the pesticides found in the food they eat. It was in December last year that at least 23 Siberian cranes were found dead in Bhudia village near Jakhau in Kutch. A postmortem of the dead birds had revealed the presence of pesticides in their blood and vital organs.

Caracal trapped in wild weed rescued by Gujarat forest department.

 Himanshu Kaushik,TNN | Nov 30, 2013, 02.59 PM IST

AHMEDABAD: The forest department rescued a female caracal (a wild cat known for its reclusive behaviour) that had got trapped in gando baval weeds in Jatavira Village of Nakhatrana taluka in Kutch district on November 25. This is perhaps the first instance of a caracal being rescued after it got stuck in wild weed.

Caracals usually venture out of their lair at night. There are around 50 of them in the state and are found only in Kutch. One of these wild cats was last spotted by the officers of the Gujarat forest department in 2006. The Conservator of Forests DK Sharma said that the rescued caracal was female and around three years of age.

When the rescued animal was found on November 25, it had injuries on its front left feet. "On getting information about it, officials rushed to the spot. After clearing the bushes, the caracal was brought to Nakhatrana for veterinary care. The services of two expert veterinary doctors were taken to cure the animal," said Sharma. He further said that the animal had got stuck in thick thorny dry bushes while trying to capture a prey.

Deputy Conservator of Forests Pravinsinh Vihol said that the species is considered rare in India. It has also been listed in annexure-I of the CITES ('Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora', also known as the Washington Convention) and is also a schedule-I animal under the Wildlife Protect Act.

According to Dr Naveen Pandey, veterinarian of the Corbett Foundation who treated the rescued animal, said the paw of the caracal's left forelimb, had mild abrasion between the second and third fingers of the toe, but there were no external injuries anywhere on the body.

Vivol said the animal was released in the same area from where it was rescued after the swelling on its left foot lessened, its overall health improved and the wild cat showed no signs of pain.

The Caracal belongs to the cat family and is highly secretive and shy animal. It is a protected species protected species under Wildlife Protection Act. The Caracal is widely distributed across Africa, central Asia and southwest Asia, but in India the species is believed to be surviving in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh region only.


Scientific Name: Caracal caracal

Physical Characteristics: Caracals are flat-headed and brownish-red in colour, with tasseled black ears.


Head & body: 60-75 cm.

Tail: 22-30 cm.

Height at Shoulder: 40-50 cm.


Male up to 17 kg

Females up to 14 kg

Lifespan: 17 years

Characteristics: While the cheetah is the fastest animal on earth, the caracal is undoubtedly the quickest. Hissing is their means of communication.

FOOD: Caracals are a little more flexible in their diet. They feed on a variety of rodents, lizards, ground birds and even small antelope They have been recorded as eating grass, vegetables and fruits in the wild.

NAME: The name "caracal" comes from the Turkish word, 'karakal', which means "black ear."

Reproduction: Caracals can reproduce round the year. They reach sexual maturity in less than 2 years. First litter have been recorded at 18 months of age. The gestation period is 69-79 days. Litter sizes vary from 1-6 with an average of 2-3.

Friday, November 29, 2013

65 S Gujarat villages declared eco-sensitive.

TNN Nov 23, 2013, 12.20PM IST
SURAT: Mining of natural resources can't be done in the 65 villages of the three districts of Dang, Navsari and Tapi of south Gujarat. No township and industrial estate can be set up in these villages, not even a thermal power station. The construction projects will have to be smaller than 20,000 sq metre now on in the 40 villages of Dang, five in Vasda taluka of Navsari district and rest of Songadh, Utchal and Vyara talukas of Tapi district as they have been declared eco-sensitive by the Forest and Environment Ministry of the Union Government on November 13.
"This step is to protect the Western Ghats areas that fall in six states. This will help improve environment in these 65 villages of south Gujarat, which too are in Western Ghats," an official of Forest and Environment Ministry said.

Navsari district collector Sandhya Bhullar said, "We are yet to receive the Union ministry notification."
Dang district collector GR Chaudhary too said he has so far not received any communication in this regard declaring the villages in the district as eco-sensitive.
This announcement has created discontent among some sections of rural and tribal population in the three districts. "There is not much development in Dang compared to other districts. Now if some villages in Dang are declared eco-sensitive, then the youth would be forced to migrate from there to some other place for employment opportunities. The issue of migration for employment is already acute in Dang," a young tribal from Ahwa said.

Curative petition gives lifeline to Gujarat.

Thursday, Nov 21, 2013, 11:48 IST | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: DNA
DNA Correspondent 

The Supreme Court disposing of Gujarat government’s review petition in the lion translocation matter has not come as a surprise to many forest officials. In fact, according to them the decision was expected.
They, however, also believe that all is not lost as the government now plans to file a curative petition along with the new International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) guidelines, to turn the tide in their favour.
“The SC rarely reverses its decision, as is seen in 90% of such cases. But the curative petition may hold some hope. Unlike the review petition, the court will have to hear both the parties before pronouncing its verdict. Also, the IUCN guidelines will exert pressure in form of stringent measures preceding the translocation,” said a forest department official, requesting anonymity.
Former chief wildlife warden of Gujarat, GA Patel, too, agreed that dismissal of the review petition was not a surprise. “That is how most of the review petitions end but we can still prove our point in the curative petition. Also, the new IUCN guidelines demand fulfillment of certain conditions.  In this case, as far as I know, Madhya Pradesh will fall short of fulfilling these,” said Patel. A wildlife activist also agreed about the IUCN guidelines role as the clincher. “Even the SC in its verdict agreed that IUCN guidelines need to be followed which are not being fulfilled in this case. This may help Gujarat’s cause,” said the activist.
Lavkumar Khachar, a prominent member of the state wildlife board, said that in the debate, the main question of the safety of the lions is being ignored. “Today in Gujarat, the lions have grown in numbers and spread beyond their original territory and are yet safe. Will that be possible in the Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary? I doubt, because had that been the case, tigers would have been spreading out in Madhya Pradesh, which is not happening,” said Khachar.
He further added that he was not happy with the way lion conservation programme was being handled in Gujarat. “It can still be improved. In fact the wildlife institute of India should be helping the Gujarat government help conserve the lions better,” he said.

Gujarat to question MP's claims on prey base.

TNN Nov 21, 2013, 04.29AM IST
AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat government plans to file a curative petition seeking another look at the Supreme Court order of Tuesday which rejected the state government's review petition against the April 15 apex court order allowing the translocation of some of Gir lions to Madhya Pradesh.
The basis of Gujarat government's curative petition is likely to be its argument that the Madhya Pradesh forest department's data claiming that the prey base in Kuno-Palpur was growing was not reliable. The Gujarat forest department wants to pose a question before MP officials that if the prey base in Kuno-Palpur had increased manyfold, why was the population of predators not increasing?
Sources in the forest department said on Wednesday that the signed order of the Supreme Court's Tuesday verdict had not been received, either by the advocate or the department officials. After it gets a signed order, the department will send it for the opinion of a senior advocate. The opinion of a senior advocate is mandatory before filing of a curative petition.

"Since the department has to depend on the same arguments as it had put forward in the previous petitions, the curative petition would like to catch the MP government on its own turf - its claim that prey base in Kuno-Palpur was growing. During the hearing in the apex court, the Madhya Pradesh government had claimed that the prey base in Kuno-Palpur was more than that of Gir protected sanctuary. The April 15 Judgment has noted that prey base, including feral cattle, has increased from 63.97 animals per sq km in 2006 to 85.91 in 2011," he said. This was an increase of about 23 animals per sq km.
Gujarat officials say that the MP forest department has claimed that the population excluding feral cattle has increased from 17.5 animals per sq km in 2004 to around 70 animals in 2013. Officials said that the department will raise a question that if the prey base was increasing, why was there no permanent population of leopards and tigers in the Kuno Sanctuary? Kuno was earlier known for tiger and leopards.
The officials further said that the behaviour of lion pride would be given importance in the curative petition. The officials said that the department will also reply on the recent report of two members of the Supreme Court-appointed committee set up to monitor translocation. Citing this report, the department will again emphasize on Kuno's gun culture and drive home the point that lions are not safe in Kuno Palpur.
Apart from arguing about the new translocation guidelines of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Gujarat government will also reply on the Wildlife Protection Act. The government intends to put forward a technical argument that the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act-1972 had been violated.
The act says that no translocation process can be started without the permission of the chief wildlife warden of the state where the animal belongs. The permission has to be sought even if one animal has to be shifted for research. The Gujarat government alleges that no such permission was sought and yet the Madhya Pradesh government had started investing in Kuno-Palpur.
Gujarat forest officials said that they will also quote from the study, 'Genetic variation in Asiatic lions and Indian tigers' jointly prepared by the Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad; Zoological Survey of India, Kolkata; and Center for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, Hyderabad.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Soon, action plan to conserve threatened plant species in Gujarat.

Himanshu Kaushik, TNN Oct 31, 2013, 09.10PM IST
AHMEDABAD: The state is starting to prepare its own list of threatened and near extinction plant species. The state forest department and the Gujarat Ecological Education and Research (Geer) Foundation have begun putting together a list of the 40 most threatened species.
Gujarat has around 2,400 plant species. The state's threatened plant species have already been listed by the Botanical Survey of India and even the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
"The department has decided to have its own list for wild angiosperm plants of the state. Once our own list is ready, we will prepare conservation assessment and management plan for the plant species which are on the verge of extinction or are threatened," says principal chief conservator of forest C N Pandey.
The department will gauge the value and usefulness of the plant and draw up an action plan. If the usefulness of the plant for the people is more it would be preferred during the various tree plantation drives. The others would be grown in the botanical gardens to be set up in the state.
As concern for environmental degradation increases, the need for conservation action has become imperative, an official says. What species to conserve and how and where to conserve, are some of the issues that need to be addressed urgently.
Earlier similar attempts at conservation were based on research conducted by individual scientists or botanists and confined to a few species. The process of red-listing is long and time consuming and involves in-depth and intensive field studies of each species.
Geer Foundation director Bharat Pathak says, "We have identified 272 species which are threatened. Now with the help of experts, we are going to shorten the list and then prepare a complete report on each of the plant species, its importance and other aspects included in the count. Once this is completed, the department will prepare a final list of 40 species."
According to international guidelines, regional assessment of threat status of species has to be carried out, thus prompting conservation action in every geographical region. For the 40 species that are put on the list, information on range distribution, extent of occurrence, trade, habitat specification, forest cover and its loss will be collected and compiled from different sources.

Plastic invades lion’s abode.

Supreme Court dismisses review plea on shifting of Gir lions.

Wednesday, Nov 20, 2013, 11:53 IST | Place: Gandhinagar | Agency: DNA
Sumit Khanna

Curative petition is now the only legal resort left with the state govt to try and retain its pride of Asiatic Lions.
- Shamshad Alam/DNA
While the chief minister may be roaring loud across election rallies in Madhya Pradesh, the Supreme Court, however, turned his government’s roar, seeking a review of its April order on translocation of Asiatic Lions, into a whimper recently. It dismissed the state government’s plea to re-evaluate the apex court’s April order to shift the big cats from Gir to MP’s Palpur-Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary. Undoubtedly, the court’s decision dealt yet another blow to Gujarat’s hopes of not having to part with its pride.
The SC had in April dismissed Gujarat government’s petition opposing translocation of lions. It had noted that the species was under threat of extinction and needed a second home. The court had given six months time for the translocation. However, the government had filed a review petition in the Court, which too has now been dismissed. “The review petition was rejected by the Supreme Court in the first week of November. The Bench did not find merit in the petition and rejected it,” said a senior official.
HK Dash, additional chief secretary of forest & environment department, confirmed that the review petition has been disposed of by the Supreme Court, but said that they haven’t received the detailed order.
Asked about the future strategy of the government as far as the case is concerned, Dash said, “The state government will take the required action after holding consultations with experts in the field.”
Officials said that the state government still has the option to file a curative petition before the Supreme Court as a last legal resort to avoid parting with the big cat.
According to officials, there are around 400 Asiatic lions in the Gir sanctuary currently.
The search for a second home for Asiatic lions was started in the early 1990s over concerns of losing the entire lion population to an epidemic or a natural calamity. The Wildlife Institute of India had carried out a survey in 1993-94 and zeroed in on Palpur Kuno for translocating some of the lions. Even as MP readied the sanctuary, Gujarat was reluctant in sharing the lions, as a result of which, the dispute landed in court. In court, Gujarat government had opposed shifting of lions to MP, saying they would not be safe there as the central state had failed to conserve its own tiger population in the Panna reserve forest. It had also contended that it had sufficient infrastructure and will to conserve the lion population and it was not advisable to translocate them. However, the government seems to have been left with limited choice after the twin setbacks in apex court.
After the Guj govt lost the battle in the SC in April, its manner of handling the issue had drawn criticism from various quarters. Many wildlife experts had opined that Gujarat’s pitch in Apex court had shifted from scientific arguments to emotional ones, particularly by equating the Asiatic Lions with Gujarati Pride.

Protecting Gir's lions: Kuno's gun culture worries experts.

AHMEDABAD: Two lion experts, Ravi Chellam and YV Jhala, have expressed concern in their report over the gun culture, anti-social activities and poaching that is rampant around Kuno wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh where some of the Gir lions are to be shifted.

The report, 'Action plan for the reintroduction of the Asiatic lion in Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary Madhya Pradesh,' recommends that the gun culture in the region needs to be dealt with appropriately without disturbing local socio-economic customs.

"A large majority of the people in the area own weapons, mostly licensed guns," says paragraph 19 of the report. It states that people from lower economic strata depend on livelihoods based on forest products. These people have to be provided with alternative livelihood options.

The report says that 40% of the revenue generated from the lion reintroduction project should percolate to local marginalized communities if anti-social activities are to be reduced and gun culture restricted. "This will substantially prevent them from joining in anti-social activities. Deliberations should be made to dissuade the local gangs of dacoits and poachers and rehabilitate them in the mainstream of society," the report suggests.

The report raises concerns over poaching incidents.

Experts said that Kuno has people who, on an average, eat meat once a week or once a month. A large number of residents eat meat daily, the report says. People in the area own guns, bows and arrows and catapults. "If the natural prey base [for the lions] is to be enhanced, poaching activities will have to be controlled," states the report.

It further says that a proper rehabilitation plan for awarding market-based compensation against the death of livestock and destruction of crop have to be designed.

Chellam and Jhala have said that there are chances of people getting severely injured or killed during the initial years of reintroduction of the lion as the local community in Kuno does not have any memorable experience of living with either lions or tigers.

"Gir lions attack and maul humans in accidental interfaces. An ex gratia compensation scheme has to be introduced and revised regularly so as to circumvent hostility among local communities," the report says. It goes on to suggest that victims of a lion attack or their kin have to be provided employment with the forest department.

Kuno lion translocation report mum on conservation.

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat is being forced to share its pride - the Gir lions - with Madhya Pradesh just so that the neighbouring state becomes a more attractive tourist destination, and not to protect this species from extinction. This is how experts are reading the latest 50-page report by two wildlife experts who have been asked to draw up a protocol for the translocation. The report focuses on benefits from tourism and conservation of other flora and fauna in the region.

The Supreme Court had approved the translocation to Kuno Palpur sanctuary to preserve the lions. The first line of its April 15, 2012 order states: "We have been called upon to decide the necessity of a second home for Asiatic Lion, an endangered species, for its long term survival and to protect the species from extinction..."

Page three and four of 'Action Plan for the reintroduction of the Asiatic Lions in Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh', prepared by two lion experts Y V Jhala and Ravi Chellam, lists six aims for translocation. But conservation is missing.

In fact, it gives 'developing capacities of local communities to coexist with wild animals' as one of the aims, implicitly admitting that villagers there aren't used to large carnivores next door. TOI had reported earlier that the villages around Kuno Palpur have some of highest guns per capita in the country.

Chellam told TOI, "This is a draft report. We are open to suggestions. The report was prepared under tremendous pressure and certain points may have been missed."

An expert, who is part of the 12-member committee appointed by the SC for translocation said, "The committee should have listed conservation as the main and long-term aim, instead of talking of tourism and benefits to local people."

He further pointed out that the report talks of 3,330 sq km area as a landscape for the lions, but the current area at Kuno Palpur is just around 345 sq km. No one has a clue where the additional 2,980 sq km will come from.

--Provide adequate security to local flora and fauna --Better protection of the habitat within Kuno sanctuary. This will enable conservation of other endangered species --Build capacity of MP forest department in habitat and prey management --Generate benefits for local people through development of wildlife tourism and ancillary activities --Develop capacities of local communities to coexist with wild animals

Junagarh zoo to provide two pairs for Lion Safari.

Faiz Rahman Siddiqui, Nov 4, 2013, 10.07AM IST
KANPUR: The Lion Safari in Etawah will soon get four more lions. The Sakarbaug Zoo of Junagadh in Gujarat has decided to part way with two pairs of Asiatic lion for Samajwadi Party supremo's dream project.
The two pairs would arrive at Lucknow Zoo in next few days. With this, the state capital zoo would house three pairs of Asiatic lions."We have already procured two pairs of Asiatic lions from Hyderabad and Rajkot zoos. While a pair is kept in Lucknow zoo and the other is house in Kanpur zoo.
Soon we will get four more lions from Sakarbaug zoo in Junagadh. These lions will be initially kept at Lucknow Zoo and would be shifted to the breeding centre at the safari by January next year. The work at the Lion Safari is in its final stage of completion," said Lion Safari director, Gurmeet Singh.
Plantation of grass, trees and plants is already complete. "We have planted 'Deenanath', 'Kareel' and 'Khair' grass to develop Lion habitat. Similarly, a good number of saplings of 'neem', 'sheesham', 'chokhar' and 'ardu' have been planted to keep the foliage as realistic as possible to the lion's natural setting," said another senior Forest department official while talking to TOI.
Once the Safari gets developed, the state government would open the place for tourists, he said further. It would be the second-of-its-kind project after Gujarat with world-class facilities for the upkeep of royal beast. Once the facilities are in place, visitors can drive through a thoroughfare, spotting royal animal roaming in the safari.
Meanwhile, the development work at Lion Safari is in full swing these days for Asiatic lions. Some 150.83 hectares in Fisher Reserve Forest area on Etawah-Gwalior National Highway was acquired and notified as Lion Safari, in 2005.
However, it was shelved by Mayawati government in 2007. It was again revived after Samajwadi Party returned to power in March 2012. The Union ministry of Environment and Forest approved the master layout plan of the project in December 2012.
The state government had sanctioned Rs 89 crore for the Lion Safari project. The government had authorized Uttar Pradesh Awas Vikas Parishad for the construction and execution of the Lion safari.Facilities for visitors: Parking, toilet, ticket counter, children park, interpretation center, bus stay, rest-shed, cafetaria, rain shelter and souvenir centre.
Facts: The Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica), also known as the Indian lion, is a lion subspecies that exists as a single isolated population in Gujarat State. It is listed as Endangered by IUCN based on the small population size.

Wildlife photographer paralysed for 4 months, now healed.

Sunday, Nov 24, 2013, 9:46 IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
Somita Pal

Bhushan Pandya undergoes successful craniovertebral fixation operation in Lilavati Hospital after a fall in the Gir forest in July.
Pandya at the Lilavati Hospital in Bandra.
Pandya at the Lilavati Hospital in Bandra. - Puneet Chandhok/DNA
Wildlife photographer Bhushan Pandya, 58, is back on his feet after being bedridden with paralysis since July. The Rajkot-resident had a fall in Gir forest in July this year. Now, an operation and subsequent medical treatment at Lilavati Hospital later, and he is all set to walk out of hospital a healed man.
“When he was air-lifted to the hospital, he had zero power in all four limbs. His head was hanging. It was a tough and critical operation,” said Dr Atul Goel, his consultant neuro-surgeon.
“The impact of the accident was so bad that the bones in the cranio-cervical region (the junction of the skull and neck) was in pieces.”
He further added that they used the technique of ‘craniovertebral fixation’. “This technique was first described by me and Dr V Laheri in 1988 and now used worldwide. We use plates and screws to fix the broken bones. In Pandya’s case it was the toughest task to hunt the broken pieces of bone and fix them,” said Dr Goel.
Talking to dna, Pandya said that he believes he was there at right place at right time that helped him get a second lease of life. “I was on my way to Sasan-Gir in my car to shoot. It was raining heavily that day. My car slipped and toppled. Luckily there was someone behind me who called an ambulance and rushed me to hospital. Seeing my condition, the doctors referred me to Dr Goel as no one wanted to take up such a risky surgery,” said Pandya.
Pandya has been a wildlife photographer for three decades and has been doing conservation-related photography since 1994. “I spoke for the first time after one and half months, after the accident. My family was in tears. For the last two weeks, I am able to walk with support and within weeks I should be able to walk on my own,” said Pandya.
Dr Goel was all praise for Pandya’s willpower. He said, “80 % of people with this kind of injury don’t survive. But Pandya has come out of this and now dreams of playing badminton again and clicking photographs.”

Lioness found dead in suspicious circumstances near Gir forest.

Press Trust of India  |  Amreli 
Last Updated at 22:21 IST

The body of a six-year-old lioness was found in a well in Fifat village of Savarkundla taluka of the district near the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, with forest department officials suspecting foul play in the death.

"The body of a lioness was found in the well of a farm at Fifat village. Injury marks were found on her body after it was inspected," state forest department officials said.

"It was revealed that the animal's neck was caught in a trap laid by the farm owner to stop wild animals from entering his field," officials said.

"The body was later dragged to the well and thrown inside it to make it look like an accidental death due to drowning," officials said.

The forest department has registered a case and started probing the issue, they said.

Four arrested for illegal stay and entry in Gir.

Himanshu Kaushik, TNN Nov 19, 2013, 12.25PM IST
AHMEDABAD: Increasing tourist pressure on Gir Wildlife Sanctuary has also led to increase in the incidents of illegal entry and stay within the protected area. On Monday, the forest department arrested four tourists, including two women, from Amreli. They had had not only entered the sanctuary illegally, but also stayed at Suvardi Nes.
According to a forest official, this is not the first incident of this type. Ever since the tourist inflow increased from Diwali on November 3, there has been nine incidents of illegal entry into the sanctuary. The forest department has caught these tourists and has also collected a fine of Rs 74,000 from them.
Deputy conservator of forests, Gir west, Kasuladev Ramesh, said, "On Monday, the department arrested four persons, including two women, who spent night in the protected area. These four, who were in a car registered in Amreli, were identified as Nikunj Jikani and Nainaben Jikani, residents of Bagasara, Gopal Pipaliya and Sheetal Pipaliya, residents of Jamkandorna. They were arrested and produced in the court."
He said in the past eight cases of illegal entry, offenders have been arrested and a fine of Rs 74,000 has been collected from them. "During the festive season, seeing the inflow of tourists, the department increased patrolling and erected watch towers on sanctuary borders to prevent illegal entries. We also kept a vigil on guesthouses and farmhouses, which have earlier been involved in such activities," the deputy conservator of forests added.
Officials also said that when a tourist failed to get a permit, he/she was approached by many local residents, who were either guides or forest staffers. "Aware of the location of lions, these staffers or locals took the tourists on a night safari. In majority of instances, this was outside the sanctuary, while in areas in Talala and Sasan, it was inside the sanctuary. With just limited issuing of permits by the department, there was utter chaos and people had to stand in line from midnight," the officials added.
Similarly, on Dhari-Tulshiyam Road, which connects Diu, about 80,000 permits for four-wheelers were issued by the department. This was an indication of the increased pressure on the sanctuary during the festive season, an official said.

Devotees litter parts of Gir forest; admin to launch clean up.

Last Updated: Sunday, November 17, 2013, 19:51
Vadodara: The Department of Forest and Junagadh Municipal Corporation will jointly begin a cleanup drive to remove garbage from parts of Gir sanctuary, dumped there by devotees while on pilgrimage to Mount Girnar.

"Around 7.73 lakh devotees from various parts of the country participated in the four-day 'Lili Parikrama' which concluded at Mount Girnar today. However, in the process, devotees left behind liquor pouches, gutkha packets, water bottles and other debris," said Aradhna Sahu, Deputy Conservator of Forest (Junagadh Range).

As part of the drive, which is expected to kick off in next two days, a huge quantity of plastic (estimated about 200 tonne) will be removed from the 36-km route of the 'Parikrama', which passed through the sanctuary that houses Asiatic lions she told.

The officer said the number of devotees who participated in the 'parikrama' increased this year.

"This year, we installed dustbins enroute the parikrama and appealed to people to not litter the ground. Police department even distributed bags to devotees for storing garbage so as to maintain cleanliness of the sanctuary route," Sahu added.

She cited previous instances where plastic bags were found in the stomach of several herbivores like Chital, Sambhar and Nilgai which died in the forest. "They are main prey base for big cats," she added.

"Plastic waste when consumed by herbivores clogs their intestine which results in their death. Lions usually don't eat plastic but the fear of them consuming it while feasting on the prey, is always there," Sahu said.

Junagadh Municipal Commissioner Vipra Bal is monitoring the cleanup operation in the area for which 50 scavengers, 15 containers, tractors, dumper and other machinery is being deployed.

Children from neighbouring schools are also participating in the drive.

"We will assist in the clean-up drive to ensure that plastic lying strewn is removed from the Sanctuary route in Gir," said BJP MLA Mahendra Mashru.

Gir cow milk to reach Krishna District soon.

G. Sudarshana Rao at his farm with Gir breed cows at Veerankilakulu in Krishna district. Photo:V. Raju
The Hindu G. Sudarshana Rao at his farm with Gir breed cows at Veerankilakulu in Krishna district. Photo:V. Raju
Sumit Bhattacharjee
Updated: November 13, 2013 15:07 IST

‘Gir cow fed with a special feed can produce milk that has medicinal values’

Milk from Gir breed of cows that originally inhabited the Gir Forest in Saurashtra region of Gujarat, are here in Krishna District, thanks to the entrepreneur-turned-medico G. Sudarsana Rao, who has set up a dairy at Veerankilakulu village in Vuyyuru mandal.
In an exclusive chat with The Hindu, he said that the Gir breed of cows give milk that contains conjugated lineolic acid, which has been proved to be an anti-cancer compound.
The claim that Gir cow milk not only prevents but controls diabetes is not yet settled. As per ongoing research by Sai Butcha Rao, a research associate at International Livestock Research Institute, ICRISAT, Patancheru, if the Gir cow is fed with a special feed it could produce milk that has medicinal values to stimulate the pancreas to produce insulin and thereby control diabetes.
According to him, the mention of this breed was made in the Vedas and the Brazilians had taken thousands of cows of this breed to their country centuries ago from Gujarat.
Today, the breed is called Girolando in Brazil, he said. The breed is on the verge of extinction in its native country, he claims. “Today, there are about 15,000 of these cows left in Gujarat. And to save the breed the Gujarat Government has embarked on an ambitious breeding project at a cost of Rs.1,400 crore,” he added.
Dr. Sudarsana Rao said that the Gir cow milk was lighter compared to others, has high concentration of calcium, proteins and vitamins D and C and is sweet and tasteful.
To begin with, he has imported about 34 animals and aims to have a stock of 400 in a year. Terming the milk as ‘organic milk’ under the brand Ayush Organic Product, he said: “No milk is organic, but it becomes organic based on the organic feed that is fed to the cattle.”
No chemical used
The farm has a hydroponic machine that produces tailor-made green organic fodder. The imported machine can generate fodder from seeds such as barley or horseshoe gram in a controlled environment. For every 1.25 kg. of seed we can get green and highly nutrient organic fodder up to 8 to 10 kg. and the facility can be easily expanded depending on the requirement, he observed.
Dr Rao also pointed out that no chemical is used in the processing. “The milk that is extracted goes directly to the chilling machine and is chilled at 2 degrees and immediately packed and transported in insulated boxes, where the temperature is maintained at 3 degree Celsius,” he said.
According to him, the yield of the native breed is much less compared to the Holstein Friesian (HF) breed. Initially, the milk will be marketed in half and one-litre packets in Hyderabad and later sold at other major cities such as Vijayawada and Guntur through select outlets. The farm will be inaugurated by Animal Husbandry Director D. Venkateswarulu on Wednesday.

No illegal entry.

Express News Service : Mon Nov 11 2013, 04:02 hrs No illegal entry

Amid a mad rush to grab a look at the lions at Sasan Gir during the festival season, several tourists, who tried to break the law, were caught by forest officials and fined. Forest rangers caught 10 men entering the Gir forest area without permission in two incidents and imposed a fine of Rs 22,000 on them. "There is a heavy rush of tourists at Sasan Gir. Those who do not get permission, tend to enter the sanctuary area by any means. We have formed special teams of forest guards to check such activities," said a top forest officer.

Five lions back in Gir forest after medical treatment.

Last Updated: Sunday, November 10, 2013, 19:37

Vadodara: Five lions, including two cubs, were released back into the wild by forest officials near Kotamba in Amreli district, after treating them for various diseases.

"A group of five lions, including a male lion (9), two females and two cubs, were released in the wild on Thursday after they were treated at Jasadhar medical centre," said Deputy Conservator of Forest, Sasan Gir (West), Anshuman Sharma.

He said the big cats were admitted in the centre in the last week of September after forest officials found them attacking cattle and straying into human habitation.

"This group of lions has been suffering due to pains and injuries caused due to various diseases and attacks. They attacked cattle and caused damage to the fields, triggering panic among people," he told PTI today.

Sharma said forest officials initially thought the adult lions were displaying this kind of peculiar behaviour due to mating season, but it turned out that they were suffering from diseases.

"The forest department had set up a ring cage (used in circus) for catching the big cats near Kotamba village. They were shifted to Jasadhar centre which is fully equipped with all necessary gadgets and instruments required for providing medical treatment to them," the officer said.

He said the lions were shifted to an observation centre at Timbarva before they were finally released in the wild.

Sharma said the foresters use electronic gadgets to monitor movement of big cats in the Asia's only habitat at Sasan and to detect if they are suffering from any disease or injured.

"Lions are territorial animals. They do not allow another group of lions to enter into their territory," said Sharma.

Two leopards found dead in and around the Gir forest area.

Gir lions expand home range, two spotted in Rajkot taluka.

Sat Nov 02 2013, 03:54 hrs
Buttresting the claim of Gujarat government that lions are expanding their home range, two male lions were reportedly sighted in Jasdan taluka of Rajkot district, around 100 km away from Gir forests in Amreli district on Friday. The two lions raided one Lakhu Bharwad's enclosure of cows in Dolatpara village, some 35 km south of Jasdan and preyed on four cows at around 4 am, Jasdan Range Forest Officer (RFO) Mahendrasinh Vaishnav said. "A farm labourer of the village claimed to have seen the two big cats. Pug marks also suggest that the cats were lions," Vaishnav further said.
Incidentally, the same lions had reportedly been camping in Gondal taluka for the past week. Gondal is also more than 50 km away from Gir forest, the only natural habitat of the endangered Asiatic lions, in Amreli and Junagadh districts.
"They are the same two sub-adult male lions which were reported in the neighbouring Gondal taluka. Our rescue team is following their movement to prevent any untoward incident," Sandeep Kumar, Deputy Conservator of Forest (wildlife division, Sasan Gir), said. He denied media reports that the forest officers were trying to guide the lions back to Gir forest. "This is a natural procedure of lions for establishing their new territories. We shall not trap and bring them to the rescue centre in Sasan. Since Jasdan has some grassland, it is possible the two might stay as prey will be available there," Kumar said.
Besides numerous patches of social forestry, Hingolgadh Nature Education Sanctuary, is also located in Jasdan. The sanctuary is home to blue bulls, Indian gazelle and ungulates which are prey of lions. The sighting of the two lions in Jusdan underpins the claim of officers of the State Forest Department that the big cats are winning their territory back and need not be translocated for better survival of the species.

Lions kill 4 cattle heads in Jasdan village.

TNN Nov 2, 2013, 02.22AM IST

RAJKOT: Lions made four cattle heads their prey in Dolatpar village of Jasdan taluka in Rajkot on Thursday. Forest department officials said two lions wandering in villages of Gondal and Kotda-Sangani talukas and have now entered villages of Jasdan taluka.
Range forest officer in Jasdan M C Vaishnav said four cows from the herd of Lakhubhai Bharwad in Dolatpar village were killed by lions. "The lions continue to be around the village. We are tracking the pug marks of lions and are closely monitoring their movements," he added

Earlier this week, the lions killed cattle in Bildi, Vinjuvadi and Sanala villages of Gondal taluka and Bhadva village in Kotda-Sangani taluka of Rajkot. Bhadva is about 25km away from Rajkot city. Dolatpar village is about 35km from Jasdan and 60km from Rajkot.
Rescue teams from Sasan-Gir have been tracking the lions for their safety. "The situation turns difficult as large number people rush to the spot on hearing about the lions' presence. We have to keep people away from lions as they do not understand the wildcat's behavior and try to go close to them," an official said.
Officials believe that the two male lions may have come from Chandgadh area in Amreli district wandering in search of new territory.
Sources said over the last two decades lions have dispersed from Gir forest, which was a core area of Asiatic lions. Analysis of direct and indirect evidence like sightings, prey and pugmarks show that the kingdom of lions is spread over 1,050 villages in three districts of Saurashtra region.
"Lions have dispersed from Gir forest to other areas over a period of time in search of new habitat and resources. From 1997, lions began to stray in the eastern revenue areas of Amreli and Bhavnagar districts. At present, lions occupy an area over 16,000 square kilometre in Saurashtra spread over in three districts-Junagadh, Amreli and Bhavnagar," an official said.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lions scale new heights in Junagadh.

RAJKOT: The roar of Asiatic lions is echoing on hill tops now. The wildcat, which is known only to hunt on plains, has actually scaled right up to Datar, the hill shrine located at a height of 3,600 feet from the sea level.

A group of lions, one male and two lionesses, recently climbed Datar hills and killed domestic cattle. Forest officials and locals said this was the first such instance of lions reaching such a height to prey.

"I have been living here since last four decades, but have never seen lions at the peak on Datar hills. This is the first time that lions killed our domestic animals kept at the cattleshed," mahant Vitthal Bapu of Jamiyal Shah Datar hills shrine (known as Upla Datar) told TOI. Vitthal Bapu said the lions stayed on the hilltop for three days. Datar hills area falls under Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary, where there are around 35 Asiatic lions.

Range forest officer, south range, Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Parbat Maru said, "We were surprised on receiving the message about lions killing domestic animals at this height. We have never come across such a case where lions have actually climbed up to the peak of a hill."

Forest officials believe that lions may have climbed Datar hills from Dungarpur direction and through Khodiyar Ghuna area.

According to forest officials, lions migrated from Gir forest towards Girnar and settled down here two decades ago. The state government declared it as wildlife sanctuary in 2008.

"This news is surprising as well as positive as lions have acquainted themselves with mountainous areas too," another senior forest official said. As per the last census of Asiatic lions, there are 411 lions in Gir, the last abode of Asiatic lions.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Talala: Protest against re-merger with Junagadh intensifies.

Ahmedabad100 women from Sasan Gir, Bhalchhel and Haripur joined the hunger strike in Sasan Gir on Sunday. 

The indefinite relay hunger strike by residents of Sasan Gir and two other villages in Talala taluka of the newly-created Gir Somnath district, opposing their re-merger with Junagadh district, intensified on the fourth day on Sunday with women joining the protest. More than 100 women from Sasan Gir, Bhalchhel and Haripur villages joined the hunger strike outside Sinh Sadan, the local headquarters of Forest department in Sasan Gir.
Situated on the border of Gir forests, Sasan Gir is famous for lion safaris. Gir is the only natural habitat of the endangered Asiatic lions.
Villagers have been camping near the Sinh Sadan since Thursday after the state government issued a notification on September 9 merging these three villages with Mendarda taluka of Junagadh. In the initial notification for Gir Somnath early this year, the entire Talala taluka, including Sasan Gir, Bhalchhel and Haripur, was made part of the new district.
"The state government is singling out these three villages after representations from BJP's Junagadh MLA Mahendra Mashru and other local leaders. They are saying that Girnar and lions cannot be separated. However, the Forest department data shows that even Girnar has lions," said Devayat Vadher, a Congress member of Talal panchayat.
The villagers claim that they have nothing to do with any political party and are opposed to the government's decision due to distance between their villages and the new taluka headquarters, Mendarda town. "For us, Talala is 15 km away whereas Mendarda is 32 km. If the state government wants to make it convenient for people by making new districts, how fair is this?" asked Lakshman Dhokadia, the sarpanch of Sasan Gir.
Gypsy association, guides association and members of the hotel association of Sasan Gir have extended support to the protesters. "If the state government does not reconsider its decision by October 15, we will launch a 'road blocking' agitation and not allow tourists to enter Sasan Gir," the sarpanch threatened.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The lion’s second coming.

  • Resting in Gir: Lions in a pride adapt to newer pastures with ease. Photo: N. Shiva Kumar
    The Hindu Resting in Gir: Lions in a pride adapt to newer pastures with ease. Photo: N. Shiva Kumar
  • THE FOOD CHAIN: Chital, one of the favourite prey animals. Photo: N. Shiva Kumar
    The Hindu THE FOOD CHAIN: Chital, one of the favourite prey animals. Photo: N. Shiva Kumar
  • A young male lion. Photo: N. Shiva Kumar
    The Hindu A young male lion. Photo: N. Shiva Kumar

    Updated: September 29, 2013 11:46 IST
    N. Shiva Kumar
An expert committee has been set up to expedite the smooth translocation of some Asiatic Lions from the Gir forest in Gujarat to the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh
The large carnivores of India seem to be caught in controversies all the time. Not a single day passes without news in the print or electronic media about leopards being bludgeoned to death, tigers being poached for body parts or snow leopards being hunted for their precious pelt. Two other issues that hit the headlines recently were the shifting of lions (Panthera Leo Persica) from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh and of cheetahs into the wild.
“It’s like a life insurance policy; we do not take an insurance policy expecting to die but we do so to protect against unexpected events. Similarly, a second home will provide protection against extinction for the free-ranging Asiatic lions, which is an integral part of India’s unique and diverse natural heritage,” says Dr. Ravi Chellam, a senior wildlife ecologist who has studied the Asiatic lion from close range for many years in the Gir forest — the last remaining home of the big cat.
It has been nearly six months since the Supreme Court passed a verdict on April 15 to guarantee a safe and sound second home for the beleaguered Asiatic lion; however, not much appears to have happened on the ground. The idea is to translocate a selected pride of lions to ensure the long-time survival of the endangered species. To expedite this long-drawn project, that that has been lingering for decades and have seen huge expenditure, to create a second habitation in Madhya Pradesh, the Union Ministry of Forest and Environment (MoEF) has constituted a 12-member committee.
Chaired by MoEF’s Additional Director General (ADG), Wildlife, the committee will decide the final course of action to shift lions from Gir Forest National Park to Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary spread over 1,269 sq km. This team consists of wildlife experts who will not only look into the systematic arrangements for transporting the lions, but will also study threat perceptions to these big cats in their new home. The committee members include Chief Wildlife Wardens (CWW) of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, Member Secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), Wildlife Institute of India (WII), and other flora and fauna experts like Dr. A.J.T. Johnsingh, Y.B. Jhala, Dr. Ravi Chellam, P.R. Sinha and N.K. Ranjeet Singh. This committee can also co-opt more specialists for the proceedings so that any loopholes in the plans can be plugged in the nascent stage.
One of the major doubts raised by many independent wildlife experts and activists is the availability of prey base, i.e. antelopes and deer in the new location. It has been estimated that the energy or prey requirements of a carnivore can be determined using body weight; consequently a female lion kills about 40 to 45 animals per year, consuming 2,000 kg of meat which is equivalent to 3,000 kg of live prey for mere maintenance. When raising two to three cubs, the mother lion would need 60 to 75 prey animals per year. Assuming that 50 wild animals can support one lion for one year, on average, then five lions (three females and two males) will require a total of 250 wild animals per year.
In this context, the favourite food of lions includes chital (spotted deer), sambhar, nilgai (blue bull), chinkara, wild boar and even langur that are available in ample numbers in the new location, according to field studies conducted over the years. One wildlife expert has recommended that the three female and two male lions should be initially introduced into Kuno only after ensuring that the prey base is greater than required.
While the subject of Asiatic lions’ translocation is hanging fire, a seven-day photo exhibition titled ‘Landscape of the Lions’ is being organised in the Capital’s India International Centre by ace lensman Ashok Dilwali.
The exhibition will coincide with the Wildlife Week celebrations in the first week of October and the show will culminate in a pictorial-talk titled ‘Present and the Past Homeland’ by Sharad Khanna and Faiyaz A. Khudsar, both wildlife enthusiasts, followed by a public debate on October 5.

Gir a sanctuary for runaway couples too!

TNN Sep 16, 2013, 11.24AM IST
RAJKOT: So, you thought Gir is the only safe haven for Asiatic lions alone? Ask cupids and you will find out that the last abode of Asiatic lions is a safe sanctuary for runaway couples too!
A few weeks ago, Kajal (20) from Visnagar and Rohan (22) from Mehsana (names changed) were roaming around Girnar Mountain in Girnar Wildlife sanctuary trying to find a safe haven for themselves after running away from their homes. Food had not been a problem as they could eat at one of the Annakshetras (free food centres) run by charitable trusts but they wanted a place where they could stay for a while. But the two were soon nabbed by a police patrol that found that they had run away to get married against the wishes of their families.
Girnar, the abode of Asiatic lion, is also becoming the final destination of youngsters who elope. City Patrol Team (CPT) of Junagadh police has been regularly coming across such cases in Girnar. "So far, we have registered four cases against such couples in the last one year under provisions of Gujarat Police Act for indecent behaviour in public. We also caught 48 youngsters in the jungle in compromising positions," said Razak Bhatti of CPT.
Sources said that number of such cases is higher as police and forest officials do not register cases against the eloping youngsters but try to convince them to return home.
"In most of the cases, which we catch them as suspects, ask the girls about their age, parents and check their mobile numbers. We contact their parents and inform them about their daughter's whereabouts. If we register cases, it might prove to be an embarrassment for the parents and lead to bad results,'' said an official.
Sources said that the youngsters believe that once they land in Girnar, no one would be able to trace them. But, the vigilant cops and forest officials have been tracking down these couples regularly.

Lider, the lion king of Jerusalem, dies at 16.

City’s only maned big cat was a star attraction at Biblical Zoo; only a few hundred Asiatic lions remain worldwide
September 23, 2013, 8:38 pm
Lider the lion, at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo (photo credit: Jerusalem Biblical Zoo/Yarah Tamari)
Lider the lion, at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo (photo credit: Jerusalem Biblical Zoo/Yarah Tamari)

Jerusalem’s only male lion, who for more than a decade was a popular draw at the city’s Biblical Zoo, died after a sharp decline in his already failing health.

Lider, 16, an Asiatic lion, was put to sleep last Thursday after veterinarians and keepers decided that his difficulties in walking and standing, brought on by chronic back pain, were insufferable. A series of X-rays and CT scans performed at the Beit Dagan animal hospital over the past two weeks showed that his condition was incurable and deteriorating.
The Jerusalem Zoo said in a statement that it has begun looking for a pair of young lions to bring in as replacements; the lion exhibit now has just one lioness left.
However, Zoo spokesperson Sigalit Dvir told the Times of Israel that keepers must also take into consideration the zoo’s last remaining lioness Ileniya. Introducing large cats to each other in zoo exhibits is a delicate business that can take several weeks to complete.
Chief Carnivore Keeper at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo Dennis Smith took care of Lider for the last 14 years and described how well the lion got on with Ileniya. The lioness now seems to be missing her mate, often appearing to search for him, calling for him, sniffing around in the closure, said Smith. “It is very sad,” he said.
Chief Carnivore Keeper at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo Dennis Smith with Lider the lion. (photo credit: Jerusalem Biblical Zoo/Tal Naveh)
Chief Carnivore Keeper at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo Dennis Smith with Lider the lion. (photo credit: Jerusalem Biblical Zoo/Tal Naveh)
Visitors were often treated to the sight of Lider rearing up against the windows of his enclosure but Smith admitted he could never really trust the wild animal.
“Whenever he saw me he would always jump up and never take his eyes off me,” he recalled.
The lion first arrived at the zoo 14 years ago from Poland as a young cub and soon became something of a celebrity as the only male lion in Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem municipal emblem
The Jerusalem municipal emblem
Jerusalem’s official city emblem features a lion, echoing the lion symbol of the biblical tribe of Judah and later the Kingdom of Judah, which established its capital in Jerusalem under King David.
Asiatic lions are an endangered species, with only around 300 left in the Gir Forest Sanctuary in India and another 330 in captivity. Zoos around the world are engaged in a breeding program to try and save the faltering species from extinction.
However, with the relatively small number of Asian lions available — by comparison there are over 1,600 African lions in captivity — inbreeding is common and as a result many of the animals have genetic disorders affecting their health. Lider himself was born sterile as a result and an illness that afflicted his nervous system was likely brought on by genetic problems.

Ceremony to baptize 5 Sasan Simbas.

AHMEDABAD: In their last abode Saurashtra, Asiatic lions have lent their name to humans with many communities using the suffix 'sinh'. For the first time, however, villagers in Sasan will hold a grand ceremony - naamkaran vidhi - to name five cubs born to lioness Laxmi on May 17 this year.
Following a traditional Gujarati ritual observed by villagers, the names of the five cubs — all of whom have survived the first four months and weigh around 11 kg — will be decided by picking up chits.
Foresters and villagers alike are busy preparing for the naming ceremony to be held on October 2. The state forest department has decided to kick start the Wild Life Week with this ceremony. This will be followed up by a series of events including rallies and seminars on the issue of conservation. It is rare for a lioness to give birth to five cubs and their survival is equally significant . "We want to spread the word about our conservation efforts using this event," says C N Pandey, Gujarat's chief wildlife warden. Laxmi's mother Shyama too gave birth to five cubs on May 3, 2010, at Sakkarbaug Zoo in Junagadh but could raise only three.
Like traditional Gujarati families, this ceremony will be officiated by 'foibas' or 'buas' - elderly women from Sasan village. These women will pick up a chit with name written for each cub.
Gir has seen a substantial increase growth in the number of tourists triggered by an aggressive campaign led by superstar Amitabh Bachchan. The number of tourists was 1.29 lakh in 2010 has increased to 4.60 lakh in 2012-13 . The forest department has also increased the number of permit per day in Sasan from 90 to 115 per day.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Man-animal conflict drives up number of rescue operations.

Himanshu Kaushik, TNN Sep 10, 2013, 06.32AM IST
AHMEDABAD: In a clear indication of the increasing pressure of wild animals in the densely populated areas surrounding their habitats, the number of rescue operations carried out show an exponential progression in Gujarat. During 2000-2001, only 47 rescue operations were conducted. The same figure for 2012-13, was 627.
Not surprisingly, most of these of rescue operations were carried out in villages of Kodinar, Veraval, Dhari, Khambha, Talala, Sutrapada and Una. These are the areas surrounding the Gir National Park and several prides of big cats have even made these villages their home.
According to the state forest department, of the 627 animals rescued in the year 2012-13, over 400 were lions and leopards. The exact number of leopards rescued in the year was 75.
The population of both lion and leopard has been increasing. In 2000, there were 327 lions in Gujarat. The 2010 census put the number at 411. The next big cat census is due in 2015.
Similarly, the number of leopards, which stood at 311 in 2001, has also crossed the 500 mark. Most of the rescue operations for leopards took place in sugarcane fields and mango orchards as these places were apparently the favourite haunts of leopards.
Senior government officials said that Gir sanctuary had a carrying capacity of only 280 lions and around 300 leopards, but with this population increase, the total area where lion were now found stood at 10,000 sq km.
The awareness among the villagers had lead to an increase in rescue operations, deputy conservator of forest (DCF) Sandeep Kumar said. "This year, 47 pythons were rescued. It's an indication that people were calling rescue teams for saving even small animals," he added.
On Monday, the officials got two calls for lion rescue. The foresters were informed that one lion had developed maggots, while the other one was limping.
Another reason for the increased number of such operations was availability of better infrastructure facilities. In 2000-01, there was only one team while today there were 16 such teams based at Mahuva, Jamwada, Jasadhar and Sutrapada, among other places.

Gujarat women script unique chapter in conservation (Environment Feature).

Ahmedabad, Aug 30 (IANS) Women foresters in Gujarat are scripting a unique chapter in conservation, keeping poachers and encroachers at bay with their soft skills and emotional bond with villagers.
Deployed in the Gir Forest, the only abode of the Asiatic Lion, these dedicated women keep a hawk’s eye on every acre of the sanctuary, parcelled into beats for administrative convenience.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who took the initiative to appoint them as Van Raksha Sahayaks (forest protecters) in 2007, recalled their exemplary role in a conservation while addressing women entrepreneurs in New Delhi.
Buoyed by an enthusiastic response to the first batch of women forest guards, mainly tribals from Junagadh, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts, the Gujarat government plans to recruit 100 more this year.
Besides protecting the Asiatic lion and leopards, these guards prevent illegal teak felling and forest fires, often caused by tribal rituals. They also promote conservation and regulate eco-tourism.
“Of 365 staff members posted at Gir forest, only 32 are women. But they are playing a significant role in its protection and management, far beyond their numbers,” Sandeep Kumar told IANS. Kumar, himself an avid wildlife enthusiast and photographer, is the Deputy Conservator of Forests Wildlife Division, Sasan-Gir, which lies 327 km southwest of Ahmedabad.
Kumar’s statement is backed by statistics.
The 2010 lion census states that Asiatic lions in Gir Forest have grown by 13 percent over five years, taking the total to 411.
“Van sahayaks” rescued more than 250 leopards, as part of a total of 600 rescue operations undertaken in the Gir, one of the highest recorded anywhere in the country.
They have organised medical camps in villages as well as nature education trails and camps for girls aged between 8 and 11 years.
Soft skills help “van sahayaks” mingle with village women and children, gaining their trust, support and goodwill for conservation, said Kumar.
Provided cameras by Modi, some of them have even become expert wildlife photographers.
For instance, Kiran Pethia has clicked the behaviour of cubs. Likewise, Rasila Vadher relies on the lens for documentation and presentations.
Prior to 2007, a male bastion like the Gujarat Forest Department had only a couple of women from the Indian Forest Service on its rolls, recalls Kumar.
The Gir forest comprises a fully protected core of 258 sq km and a sanctuary spread over 1,153 sq km of notified and coastal forests.
Armed with double bore shotguns and wireless sets, women assigned to the mobile squad comb the protected area, covering more than 25 km daily.
Similarly, the rescue squad reaches out to animals in distress, ensuring treatment and relief. The wireless squad tracks the progress of both the groups and keeps in touch with them.
Encountering snakes or crocodiles and hungry lionesses, besides armed poachers and encroachers, are some of the daily hazards.
For instance, Manisha Vaghela had a brush with a gang of motorcycle-borne poachers in 2011 in the Devaliya area of Gir. Tipped off about their presence by her range forest officer, she acted promptly and fearlessly.
Vaghela collected four of her forest guards and four more from Devaliya Range. They sealed the area and nabbed the poachers trying to kill an antelope.
Gir forest has four rescue centres to resolve human-wildlife conflict. All rescue teams comprise a vet, forest staff (including women) and, most important, trackers.
Kumar attributed the success of the Gujarat model of conservation to inter-departmental coordination, dedication of staff and involvement of local communities. Inspired by the Gujarat model, Maharashtra sent two batches of senior foresters to the Gir sanctuary to learn how human-wildlife conflict could be minimised.
(Shudip Talukdar can be contacted at
—Indo-Asian News Service
IANS 2013-08-30 13:02:21