Thursday, January 31, 2013

Major row over 24x7 access to pilgrims in Girnar sanctuary.

The manifestation of man’s faith and wildlife conservation is at a crossroads of sorts in Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary. A major controversy has emerged over the Junagadh Collector allowing pilgrims entry in the sanctuary area even during night, which is strictly not allowed anywhere in the country under the Wildlife Protection Act.
The Collector passed this order following complaints by religious activists and temple priests against forest department officials for indiscriminately stopping them from entering the sanctuary and “harassing” them, especially after sunset.
This order has brought to fore a latent issue of forest and wildlife conservation while respecting the religiosity of pilgrims, especially in Girnar mountain forest that houses over 135 temples and about 24 Asiatic lions. The temples and its priests were given settlement rights when Girnar reserve forest was declared a sanctuary in 2008 and a few pre-identified priests and caretakers are allowed to stay inside the sanctuary at all times.
But the Collector’s latest order, which allows any number of visiting priests and pilgrims to visit the temple any time of the day and night, has sparked the debate whether the roads leading upto the temples are revenue land or forest.
Forest officials and naturalists believe the indiscriminate allowing of people inside the sanctuary can be dangerous for forest and wildlife; as criminals, including lion poachers can enter the forest in the dark and it is impossible to monitor the movement of every unidentified entrant in the dark.
Forest officials and local activists have written to the state government terming this order illegal, as only the chief wildlife warden can pass such an order.
“We have written to chief wildlife warden in Gandhinagar. Allowing people in the night can be harmful to the forest and wildlife, especially the threatened Asiatic lions. The allegations made by the complainants are absolutely false,” deputy conservator of forest, Junagadh division, Aradhana Sahu told DNA.
Bharadwaj, however, claims his order is not illegal as the settlement rights allow people access to the temples in the sanctuary and there is no threat to wildlife as the priests have lived inside the forest for a very long time and there has never been any case of wildlife violation registered against any of them.
Principal chief conservator of forest, SK Goyal said, the issue has been brought to his notice and will be resolved soon. “It is the wildlife warden’s prerogative to pass such an order, if there is any need for it. We are all a part of Gujarat government, the issue will soon be resolved amicably,” Goyal said.
Dinesh Goswami of a local NGO, Prakruti Nature Club, has also written to the Union minister of environment and forest, Jayanti Natarajan, about the controversy. “Our main concern is that anybody can enter the sanctuary claiming to be a faithful. From poachers to criminals of all kinds and from fires inside the forest to poaching, any criminal activity can take place,” Goswami said.
One of the complainants, a local social and religious activist Anil Vaghela said he along with the priests of the temples decided to complain when a few people were illegally detained during a night aarti (prayer) at a Hanuman temple in second week of January. “Forest officials harass the pilgrims and priests whenever they want to enter the sanctuary, even during the day. Nobody is there to man the gates; there have been times when even medical aid for the saints in the temple has been stopped. There are many temples in the Girnar sanctuary, but a few are being targeted by the forest officials,” he said.
On a collision course
  • The collector passed this order following complaints by religious activists and temple priests against forest department officials for indiscriminately stopping them from entering the sanctuary after sunset
  • Forest officials and naturalists believe the indiscriminate allowing of people inside the sanctuary can be dangerous

Asiatic lion to be found in Gir.

Linah Baliga, TNN Jan 27, 2013, 01.08PM IST
MUMBAI: Now, here is a chance to meet the Asiatic Lion in Gir in Gujarat and observe the pristine rainforests of Malaysia with BNHS in the summer vacations.
Gir National Park is one of the oldest National Parks of India and is famed for being the last refuge of the Asiatic Lion. The arid landscape of Gir has a lot to offer besides the famous Asiatic Lion. Gir also supports a large population of the leopards and is famed for having the largest concentration of carnivores. Important prey species are Spotted Deer, Wild Boar, Nilgai, and Sambar. Gir is also excellent for birds, many species like Mottled Wood-owl, Indian Scops-owl, Indian Little Nightjar, Crested Tree swift, Indian Peafowl, Asian Paradise and Tickell's Blue Flycatcher, Tawny-bellied and Yellow-eyed Babbler, Indian Stone-curlew and many more can be seen here.

Guj to draw up action plan on wildlife conservation with IUCN.

Press Trust of India / Ahmedabad January 28, 2013, 11:45
The Gujarat government will draw up an action plan on wildlife conservation in association with International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
"In the first week of February, we shall be drawing the outline of future action programme on conservation with IUCN," Principal Chief Conservator of Forests C N Pandey said.
The state government recently signed an MoU with IUCN with a view to leverage knowledge-sharing with species-specific groups within the international body and to conduct research.
Asiatic Lions are the stars of Gujarat wildlife. But the partnership between the state and IUCN would go beyond it, and take into consideration all the endangered local species such as turtles and dugong (a rare marine mammal), Pandey said. It will develop strategies for conservation. "We are organising a workshop in February with IUCN on raptor (prey birds) conservation," Pandey said.
Gujarat has a noticeable population of prey birds species such as harriers, falcons, eagles, kites in the Velavadar Blackbuck National Park area, Bhavnagar.
The harrier roost at Velavadar is amongst the largest in the world, experts say. Harriers belong to the hawk family.
"We would benefit from IUCN tie-up in terms of international research too, which is important for conservation, as a large number of species happen to be globe- rangers," Pandey said.

Thieves do not spare even Lord's crown!

Published: Tuesday, Jan 29, 2013, 16:14 IST
By DNA Correspondent | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: DNA
After unprecedented rise in thefts in temples in Ahmedabad, focus has now shifted to temples located elsewhere too. Thieves struck at the temple of Lord Shyam Sundar in the famous pilgrimage of Tulsisham in Gir forest area on Monday morning and escaped with the Lord’s crown and other precious jewellery.
According to police, thieves broke into the temple immediately after the first prayer meeting in wee hours of the morning and stole gold and silver ornaments worth Rs4.90 lakh. Police are investigating the case but are yet to get any clue.
“The priest performed mangla aarti between 4.45 and 5.15 in the morning. He then locked the door of sanctum sanctorum and went for refreshments in the kitchen and came back after 15-odd minutes. He discovered that the lock at the door was broken and some of the ornaments were missing. In a matter of just 15 minutes thieves managed to steal,” said police inspector RD Parmar. Fortunately, a gold crown, weighing 800 gram, which was crafted
recently, is safe as it has been kept in the bank locker.
Located 25 kms away from Una in Jungadh district, Tulshishyam is famous pilgrimage site. Since visitors’ entry and exit in the area are barred between 8 pm and 6 am, cops are investigating how the thieves managed to sneak into the prohibited area.
“We believe that thieves may have arrived in the protected forest area in the guise of followers and must have made surveillance for days before attempting the theft,” he added. Cops registered a case on basis of complaint filed temple manager and priest.

Cute rare lion cubs born at Bristol Zoo. (Video)

Cute rare lion cubs born at Bristol Zoo
Report by Katie Lamborn
To see video please click on below link:

Fighting battle we want to lose

23 Jan 2013
If man-animal conflicts are growing, it is primarily because we are doing things that promote such conflicts. And yet we keep saying that we must reduce these confrontations which are claiming the lives of both humans and wild animals. We have to get serious
I wanted to begin this article with the most recent human wildlife conflict incident, and in the past week I have had to rewrite it three times because of increasing incidents of such conflicts. Last Friday a leopard was killed by villagers in the Borhat forest range in Assam. The leopard was spotted resting on a tree near the village and within half an hour a huge mob formed and started attacking it brutally with sharp weapons. They first cut the tail off, then the legs and finally beheaded the leopard just as the forest staff arrived at the spot. Not only is this incident now quite typical in its brutality, but also by its nature. The leopard did not have a history of either attacking people or livestock and just happened to be near the village. Unfortunately when it comes to leopards the immediate reaction is to kill, often even before the animal has done any actual damage or harm.
The Wildlife Protection Society of India reported that leopard deaths in 2012 had been the highest, where we lost one leopard a day. Last year was also the worst recorded for tiger deaths where we lost over 70 tigers. While some deaths must have been due to natural causes, it would be safe to say the majority were not.
A change in land-use pattern and encroachment of forest land for plantations and agriculture have only made matters worse. In Gujarat, a shift to sugarcane and mango cultivation on the edge of the Gir forest has been identified as one of the reasons behind rising conflicts between human beings and lions and leopards.
We’ve barely crossed half-way through the month of January and the casualties have been rolling in. The human-wildlife conflict is a fight for space. and in this push and pull for space it’s not just the villagers who are at the front line. We have smeared our development over forests and rivers and grasslands, with no regard whatsoever. As a result, our forests have railway lines and roads bisecting them, mines and factories outlining them and the once continuous stretch of forest ends up looking more like an incomplete and scattered jigsaw puzzle.
Two elephants were mowed down by the Jan Shatabdi Express that cuts across the Rajaji National Park; while one died on the spot, the other elephant eventually bled to death. Another tragic and heart-breaking incident was that of five elephants which were killed in a train accident in Odisha’s Ganjam district. In both incidents the elephants had no choice but to cross the railway track to get to another part of the forest. Elephants travel in herds and have close ties with one another. I remember an incident of a few years back when an elephant calf was injured and couldn’t move off the track. The herd then formed a protective circle around it, but unfortunately even a wall of elephants was no match for a train that was too fast. Trains travelling through forested areas are supposed to slow down by law, but in all these incidents it was the speed of the train and the lack of a monitoring system that resulted in these tragedies.
Why is it that we allow a situation to repeat itself? Even in direct conflict situations the scenario is always familiar. An animal is spotted or strays into an inhabited area, a large angry mob gathers, people get hurt, animals get hurt (often killed). The mob is pacified, compensations are given — and then the cycle repeats itself somewhere else. In conversations with many people working in the field, I was told that it was the mob which was more of a challenge to deal with, especially, if a person had been injured or killed. A situation can quickly get bad with rising sentiments and sometimes rumors doing the rounds.
I spoke with Bhavna Menon, a project coordinator with the Last Wilderness Foundation, which is working towards not only increasing awareness about India’s wildlife but is also actively involved in the sustainable development of the villages and tribal settlements in the peripheries of the forests. Ms Menon had an interesting take on dealing with the mobs in conflict areas. She felt that people get even more aggravated because there is nobody there who can communicate clearly. There is a need to have somebody who can talk to people and can calm them down while the forest department personnel carry out their operations. A trained individual who is a part of the front line staff and is a local who is already sensitive to the situation and objective at the same time, could be the way forward to dealing with mobs.
The same situation exists in most of the countries in the tropics where the human needs and pressure on the land are constant and growing. What is happening may be a complex issue to deal with, but it is really quite simple and the result, if only delayed, will be the same. We have overpopulated our land and we need more space, not only to live in but to feed our millions. Nepal has announced what many had always feared. It has put a cap on its wildlife growth. In other words not enough space, too many animals. That country’s Forest Ministry officials, have made a statement stating that expanding existing ‘protected areas’ may not be an option as Nepal had already made huge swathes of land available for nature conservation. The only solutions presumably would be to translocate, send them to zoos or culling.
In India, we have often heard how culturally and historically we have been tolerant towards animals, and this is why the conflict situation is not as bad as in other countries. However reassuring that may be to hear, the reality is that things have changed and without a clear action plan to save our wildlife we will eventually follow Nepal’s steps. In fact, it has already begun, Nilgais and wild boar are classified as pests in some States as they raid crops and now ‘problem’ animals can be shot legally through a provision.
Ironically, while conservation has been successful in national parks like Ranthambhore, where the tiger population has increased, the challenge now is space. Translocation is one option, but how long will it be before we run out of space? Since our forests are not going to increase dramatically, what would that magic number be? How much wildlife can our forests hold before animals start spilling out? Conflict is inevitable. Solutions like creating forested corridors and translocation, rapid action teams and compensating losses help, but they feel more like a quick fix. What lies ahead and where we will end up is unclear, but what is very clear is that unless we put a realistic cap on development and make wildlife our priority, we could be fighting a battle that has already been lost.
(The writer is a wildlife film-maker)

Rare Lion Cubs Are A Roaring Success.

By Marion McMullen on Jan 24, 13 10:51 AM
bristol zoo lion cubs jan 2013.jpgA British zoo is celebrating the birth of two very special new additions - critically-endangered Asiatic lion cubs.
Kamran and Ketan were born at Bristol Zoo Gardens on November 9, but their arrival has only just been officially announced.
The zoo was forced to make the rare and difficult decision to hand-rear the cubs after their mother, Shiva, began "mis-mothering" following the death of their father.
Lynsey Bugg, assistant curator of mammals said: "The initial transition was a very important time for the cubs.
"We placed straw from their previous enclosure on the ground for familiarity, and gave each cub a cuddly toy to snuggle into to mimic mum.
"We also worked closely with the vet team to monitor their fluid intake while we got both cubs used to feeding from artificial teats."bristol zoo lion cubs jan 2012 two.jpg

It was just 12 days after the zoo's lioness gave birth to the male cubs that 18-year-old Kamal was put to sleep due to his deteriorating health in old age.
Kamal was an "important male" for the conservation breeding programme, and a spokeswoman for the zoo said the a decision to hand-rear his cubs was made to give them the best chance of survival.
The lion cubs are an important part of the breed's future with only about 300 Asiatic Lions remaining in the Gir Forest Sanctuary in Northern India.
A team of five keepers are now dedicated to the cubs' care.
Each day Kamran and Ketan have their weight, temperature and respiratory rate checked.
"Alongside the challenge of feeding you need to be mindful of everything you do when hand-rearing," Ms Bugg said.
"We need to prevent the cubs from imprinting on the keepers, so we make sure we treat them the way that their mum would when we handle them."
This involves picking them up by the scruff of the neck and brushing them with a coarse brush - which replicates them being licked by their mother's tongue.
Now 10 weeks old, both cubs are beginning to reveal their individual personalities.
"They are very, very different," Ms Bugg said.
"The larger cub, Katan, is very boisterous, he really loves trying to wrestle, he is always wanting to instigate most of the play sessions, and actually his brother, Kamran is the braver of the two, if there is a situation that they're not quite sure about, it will be Kamran who goes to investigate it first.
"It is quite interesting to see how different they are, but they are brilliant together, they really bounce off each other."
Ms Bugg said she was proud of how her team had worked together to care for the cubs, but that she will not deem the hand-rearing a success until they are fully weaned and go on to breed themselves.
As the cubs are still very young, they are off show to zoo guests, but can be seen via a video link shown on a screen at the front of the lion enclosure.

Gir's first sports meet gets a logo.

Himanshu Kaushik, TNN Jan 20, 2013, 01.46AM IST
The fund is being managed and handled by the forest department. Deputy Conservator of Forest, Sandeep Kumar has been heading the Gir Welfare Fund (GWF).
"In order to build a healthy atmosphere for the conservation of the lion and bridge the gap between villagers and forest officials, the idea to organize such a meet came up during the meeting with the Chief Conservator of Forest, Gir R L Meena," said Kumar.
About 186 participants have already registered for the various events which have been lined up for the three-day event. It will be inaugurated by Principal Chief Conservator of forest wildlife, C N Pandey. It will also induce discipline and a sense of responsibility towards conservation of the lion.
Officials said that at a time when lions are getting out of the sanctuary and moving to other parts of Saurashtra, it was necessary to have a healthy relationship between the forest department and villagers.
This event will help develop a network base.
"In case of any casualty or emergency, it will be these sportsmen who become informers. Also they will get to know beat guards who are deployed in their area," said an official.

Roll.Take.Turn: Documentaries this year.

By Zeba Warsi
From KC College, Mumbai
Posted Jan 19th 2013 7:00AM

Come 21st January and KC College's auditorium will be the venue for Roll.Take.Turn, the annual documentary screening festival, exclusively of KC College's Department of Mass Media. These documentaries are conceptualized, written, directed and produced entirely by Third Year BMM students (Bachelors of Mass Media) as part of their Semester 6 internal assessment.

What makes Roll.Take.Turn extremely different from the other college festivals, is the fact that this is not about song and dance fun but about highlighting contemporary issues that are prevalent in different parts of India. Through these documentaries, the students attempt to create awareness, understand the sufferings and to find out possible solutions to these problems.
They gave up the comfort and luxury of their city lives, to understand the lives these people, who belong to our India, yet their reality is a lot different from ours. Read on to know about the different topics covered this year. Read on to know what awaits you in Roll.Take.Turn.

1. Jambur: In the heart of Gujarat is an isolated village called Jambur situated far away from the city. The people speak Kathiawadi and they dress like everyone else but what sets the Siddis apart is their origin and ethnicity. One glance at them would just make you think of the word 'African'. In 'Jambur' we explore the world of the Siddis of Gujarat and the reasons as to why they have been ignored for so long.

Neha Naidu, TYBMM student, who was moved by her experience while making Jambur, adds, "Jambur is a small, decrepit village in the Gir forest, with everything same like the other villages except for one- it is inhabited by African people who were displaced from their birthland and brought here a couple centuries ago. Their plights need to be heard and that's what this documentary endeavours to do. It was an eye opening and heart warming experience."
2. But, are they willing? : At a distance of of 76.8 kms from Thane is Kothale, a village inhabited by more than 2000 adivasis, the Ma Thakurs being the main community. Women here enjoy rights that their urban counterparts struggle for. But, the village is in a stagnant state due to illiteracy, unemployment, early marriages and pregnancies, malnutrition etc. At such a time, only a change in attitude can save the people.
3. Most married couples think of having and nurturing children whom they can call their own. In this documentary, we bring to you their endeavours to become proud parents including IVF, surrogacy and adoption.
4. Goonj: Laws of the country declare Cannabis (used to make ropes, medicines and Charas) illegal. But there are certain laws of nature, society and culture that state otherwise. The reason is based on social, religious and cultural grounds. Nevertheless, the law has not ceased cultivation. it has just pushed it to secrecy in the higher altitudes as many farmers' and local's livelihoods are at stake.

These were some of the interesting and diverse issues that students will be portraying in their 20 minutes documentaries. Stay tuned to know about the rest of them.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Allen Forest to breed animals for proposed Lion Safari.

Abhinav Malhotra, TNN Jan 14, 2013, 02.33AM IST
KANPUR: With the purpose of breeding the lions and sending the offsprings to the proposed Lion Safari in Etawah, a pair of Asiatic lions will be transported from Hyderabad zoo soon to Allen Forest here.
The visitors to Kanpur Zoo will get a chance to see a pair of Asiatic lions roaring after a gap of two years. The Central Zoo Authority had approved the exchange of a rhino, pair of thamins and a pair of hyena with a pair of lion and three golden pheasants.
Kanpur zoo will hand over a male rhino, thamins and hyenas to Hyderabad zoo and get a pair of lions, one male and two female golden pheasants.
Zoo director Praveen Rao said: "The purpose of bringing Asiatic lions to Kanpur zoo is two-fold. We will get two lions and its offsprings will be transported to Lion Safari proposed to come up in Etawah."
It might be recalled that the state government has provided 150 hectares of land in Fisher Forest area in Etawah for the proposed Lion Safari.
In November 2010, two lions that were domesticated in Kanpur zoo had died because of kidney failure.
Rao said that lions will be brought to Kanpur zoo in February as harsh weather conditions are prevailing in the city. He added that a month is required to train thr heavy animal to be transported via road.
A team of zoo staff, including zoo veterinarians, will take care of the animals during transportation.
The zoo director informed that due to the prevailing harsh conditions, the process of transporting the pair of lions has been postponed but if sunny weather prevails for one week, the animals would be brought here from Hyderabad zoo.
He added that latest by February 15, the pair of lions will be transported to Kanpur zoo.

It’s time to look beyond the tiger.

Fighting wildlife crime, other issues related to preserving India’s biodiversity don’t really get much of a mention
Ananda Banerjee
First Published: Mon, Jan 14 2013. 12 00 AM IST

Project Tiger got `167.7 crore of the `340.06 crore allocated to wildlife preservation in the last budget. Photo: Anupam Nath/AP
Project Tiger got `167.7 crore of the `340.06 crore allocated to wildlife preservation in the last budget. Photo: Anupam Nath/AP

The Lion's Fading Roar: Declining West African Lion Population Hints at Grim Future.

By Chandrashekar Srinivasan: Subscribe to Chandrashekar's
January 14, 2013 11:23 AM GMT
It was alarming to read new research which suggests that the West African Lion may be on the verge of extinction, with just 645 members of the sub-species left in western and central Africa.
The study, carried out by conservation group LionAid, finds there are no lions at all in 25 of the region's countries, and the animal is virtually extinct in 10 others. In Nigeria, once home to a huge community of West African Lions, just 34 remain.
In total, the researchers believe no more than 15,000 wild lions remain across the whole of Africa.

A study in 2004 estimated that up to 850 West African Lions remained in the wild. If LionAid's new figures are correct, about a quarter of the population has been wiped out in less than a decade.
Analysis by Duke University used satellite imaging to confirm nearly 75 percent of Africa's savannah has been destroyed for lion and wildlife populations, having been converted into farmlands or otherwise encroached on by humanity.
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The study suggested that there are now just 67 "lion areas" left, and only 10 of these are, in any sense, stable.
The Duke researchers offered a more optimistic estimation of the lion's survival in Africa, suggesting the population numbers 32,000. However 6,000 of these are believed to be living in areas with a very high risk of local extinction, automatically reducing the estimate by about 19 percent.
Lions and Conservation
The overall picture suggests the inexorable decrease in lion population has been accelerated by a catastrophic rate of habitat loss and increasing human population. Evidence suggests the lion is a growing part of the illegal trade of wild animals and wild animal parts, and this could seal the species' extinction unless immediate action is taken.
Global Financial Integrity's (GFI's) 2011 report on transnational crime in the developing world estimates the total value of the illegal animal trade market at $10bn (approximately £6.2bn). The primary recipients of illegally traded animal parts are the Chinese (who use them in traditional medicine), as well as Americans and countries in the European Union.
Born Free USA, an animal advocacy nonprofit organisation, believes the United States is the largest importer of African lion parts and specifically lion hunting trophies. Speaking to IBTimes UK, Adam Roberts, the executive vice president and co-founder of Born Free, stressed the need to increase protection for the African lion.

Lions and CITES
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement between governments to ensure ill-advised and ruthless international trade in wild animals and plants does not lead to their extinction.
As part of its protective cover, CITES groups the traffic of animals and plants into three categories - Appendix I, Appendix II and Appendix III - with the first denoting the highest category of protection.
The African lion, Panthera leo, is listed in Appendix II, despite the evidence and the consensus of conservationists across the world, who believe pre-emptive action, taken now by uplisting the African lion to Appendix I, could make saving the species a much easier proposition.
A listing in Appendix I will not, unfortunately, eliminate all legal trade in lions. It will only serve to increase the regulations surrounding such trade.
"Trade will be more strictly controlled. In order to engage in trade of a species in Appendix I, there would have to be an export permit from the country of origin but also an import permit from the destination nation. That is different from an Appendix II listing that only requires an export permit. A nation could refuse an import permit for lion trophies from west Africa if they know trade in lion trophies from that region is detrimental to species population," Roberts explains.
It isn't just trade to the US that is the problem. In an email exchange with IBTimes UK, TRAFFIC, an organisation that monitors wildlife trade, confirms an increase in trade of lion parts, which they believe are being pushed as a substitute for goods such as tiger bones.
All species of tiger are now listed in Appendix I, making illegal trade in them harder. That possibly is why lions are now being targeted. However, a lack of any in-depth study in this space makes policy work difficult.
In addition to the trade of lion parts for Chinese medicine, as a substitute for tiger parts, research undertaken in Nigeria's Yankari Game Reserve also suggested lions are being used in traditional African medicine - lion skins are used for back and joint pain, lion skin and lungs for the treatment of whooping cough, and lion veins for erectile dysfunction.
There is also the problem of quotas within CITES regulations. The agreement between participatory nations for legal trade in endangered species limits the transportation of such species to pre-set numbers. In 2011, for example, no more than 10 lions captured in the wild could be legally exported from Ethiopia.
On the face of it, this sounds a good solution to try and limit pressure on wild populations. However, the increase in quotas in recent years is a bad sign. According to information on the CITES Web site, in recent years only Ethiopia has allowed export. In 2012 however, Mozambique suddenly allowed the export of 50 lions captured in the wild per year.

And Roberts reveals an even more shocking new consumer fad - lion burgers. In an investigative study in 2010, Born Free revealed a "proliferation of lion meat advertised on menus in upscale restaurants and burger shops".
Captive Breeding
Roberts also spoke against the possibility of captive breeding; the idea lions be bred like chickens or cattle, as they are in South Africa, for hunting and slaughter.
"The reason is two-fold. First, there is not an illegal trade in chicken meat or cow meat, the way there is in lion parts. And once you open legal trade in lion parts there is going to be illegal trade or laundering. This is not acceptable.
"Secondly, if you look at the history... where animals have been bred, presumably to reduce pressure on wild populations, it has failed miserably. Chinese tiger farms have not stopped the poaching in India. And the same goes for Asiatic black bears.
"The farming for bears started in Korea in the 1980s and spread to China, to provide Asian markets with bear gall bladders and bear bile. However, the wild population continues to be attacked, either to fill demand or re-stock farms."
Lions and the Endgame
The lion, African or Asian, is an important part of mankind's culture, whether or not we choose to believe that fact.
The lion's existence is interwoven into the very fabric of African folklore and daily life and the iconic images of a lion stalking the savannah, the rasping echo of its roar and the bloodcurdling chill of the animal in full flight are sights and sounds that are, in every sense of the word, irreplaceable.
A Jurassic Park-style reincarnation is not a solution. There can be no second chance. We cannot bring the lion back to life after having hunted and butchered every last animal. These are the days that will decide if the lion lives or dies.

West African lions on verge of extinction, report says.

Conservation group LionAid says as few as 645 lions remain in the wild in western and central Africa
, west Africa correspondent,
Lions in Botswana
Lions in Botswana. LionAid estimates there are 15,000 wild lions left in the whole of Africa, compared to 200,000 30 years ago. Photograph: Frans Lanting/Corbis
It is known for its vibrant culture, oil wealth and huge human population, but few people associate Nigeria with lions. Now a report says the almost forgotten species of west African lions found in countries such as Nigeria are on the verge of extinction following a decline in recent years.
The UK-based conservation group LionAid says as few as 645 lions remain in the wild in western and central Africa. It says lions are extinct in 25 African nations and virtually extinct in 10, and it estimates that 15,000 wild lions remain on the continent as a whole, compared with about 200,000 30 years ago.
"There has been a catastrophic decline in the populations of lions in Africa, and particularly west Africa," said Dr Pieter Kat, trustee of LionAid. "These lions have been neglected for a very long time and do not have adequate protection programs. They are in real danger of extinction."
The report says west Africa faces particular challenges due to high levels of poverty, lack of political interest in conservation and an underdeveloped wildlife tourism industry.
"Even though the national parks in west Africa contain very distinct and very important fauna compared to eastern Africa, people tend to ignore that west Africa is a very special place," Kat said. "As a result the populations in west Africa are declining so quickly, as a biologist I would say that in a country like Nigeria, which has only 34 lions left, they are already extinct. It's almost impossible to build up a population from such a small number."
The report comes after a series of studies have raised concern about the fate of the African lion. Researchers at Duke University in the US used satellite imagery to conclude that about three-quarters of Africa's wide open savannah had disappeared over the last half a century, and extrapolated lion populations on to data about their available habitats to estimate that 32,000 lions remained.
LionAid says evidence from conservation officials in individual countries, combined with predictions based on the political environment and poverty in African countries, suggests the figure is actually far lower.
A wildlife official in the Nigerian government confirmed that the number of lions in Nigeria was declining fast, with an estimated 34 lions remaining, down from 44 in 2009. "We are doing our best to protect our lions but we are very concerned about them," said Yohanna Saidu, a research officer at Nigeria's interior ministry.
Estimating the precise size of the African lion population is notoriously difficult. Counting them requires bait to be put out to lure each individual animal, which must then be photographed from both sides to ensure no duplication. "Counting lions to the very last individual is humanly impossible. They are difficult to count, and the finances involved simply do not allow such venture," said the African lion expert Sarel van der Merwe.
But there was broad agreement among other conservationists that the LionAid figures were within the range of possible figures. "We put the figure slightly higher, at around 25,000 lions, but whether you use these figures, the LionAid report or the Duke study, there is common agreement among everyone involved in conservation of African lions that the situation is extremely serious," said Will Travers, director of the Born Free foundation. "In west and central Africa there are clusters in Burkina Faso, Niger, the Central African Republic, Cameroon and Chad, but the overall situation is looking dire."
Last year the Fish and Wildlife Service in the US – which is the world's biggest importer of trophy-hunted lions – said it would examine whether the species warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act. Activists say more than 5,600 wild African lions were hunted and exported as trophies(pdf) between 1999 and 2008.
Conservationists argue that lions should be included on the convention on international trade in endangered species list of the most endangered species in the world, affording tight protection on hunting and trade. The Asiatic lion – of which an estimated 200 remain in the wild – is on the list, but no species of African lions are included.
Efforts to impose stricter regulations on the trade in lions and lion parts are being frustrated by a powerful pro-hunting lobby, conservationists say. "We should be moving as speedily as possible to introduce international controls on anything to do with lions, but we are facing huge resistance from the trophy hunting industry," Travers said.
Van der Merwe said: "In central to west Africa, lion numbers are too low to allow any means of negative impact on the populations and hunting should be prohibited, as should any form of killing, irrespective whether a few lions may be habitual livestock killers. Otherwise, we may well lose the lion as a species."
Lion populations in African countries Graphic: Guardian Lions have featured prominently in the imagery of many west African nations since independence. Kat said: "When you look at a lot of the African countries, what you see is that lions feature on their coats of arms, their flags, and are part of their culture, yet as a species they are not being protected. What Africans involved in conservation keep telling me is that we are letting a huge amount of African history and culture that is important in national heritage of African countries just slowly disappear."

Exotic animals on way: Plan for Byculla zoo revamp sealed.

Linah Baliga, TNN Jan 8, 2013, 12.28AM ISTMUMBAI: The civic body's plan to revamp the Jijamata Udyan at Byculla will finally take shape as the Central Zoo Authority of India (CZA) recently approved the BMC's amended final master layout plan for the purpose. Animal lovers can look forward to exotic species such as the jaguar, zebra, Humboldt penguin, exotic marine fishes, tiger, Asiatic lion, wild dog, bison and deer at the new-improved zoo. Work on the revamp will start in September 2013 and is slated to be tied up by March 2015.
"The final layout plan for the Byculla zoo was approved on December 5 at a technical committee meeting. Now we will prepare a detailed design for animal enclosures, which will be submitted to the CZA for approval. We will then initiate the tender process. Work will start after September 2013 and the deadline for completion is March 2015," said Anil Anjankar, director at the Byculla zoo.
The BMC has worked on a theme-'Living Together'- for the zoo. "Just as animals coexist in natural forests, they will do so here. Interdependence among different species of mammals, birds and reptiles will be highlighted in this zoo," said Anjankar.
If the civic body is to be believed, no animal will be neglected in the refurbished zoo. "Environmental enrichment inside enclosures will keep the animals busy and active, and also fulfil their biological, physiological, behavioural and other needs. Props made from wood and other natural material will be designed to keep animals active. No new moats will be constructed around the enclosures. In general, acrylic glass panels will be used," said Anjankar.
Public amenities such as car parking, resting places, drinking water fountains, toilets and rain shelters will be provided too.
The project cost has been pegged at Rs 150 crore. This will include ongoing project works such as construction of an interpretation centre (where children will be able to participate in educational activities for wildlife conservation), a zoo hospital, an entrance plaza, heritage restoration and a boundary wall. All the existing trees will be conserved and protected. A total of 24 enclosures will be constructed for animals and birds.
Animals that are not included in the approved animal collection plan such as the Himalayan black bear, rhesus and bonnet monkeys, Indian one-horned rhinoceros and elephants will be shifted to other zoos or released in the wild in consultation with Central Zoo Authority, New Delhi. Or else, they may be housed in the zoo premises in the proposed quarantine area.
Exotic animals will be exhibited in the seven-acre Mafatlal Mill area that adjoins the eastern side of the zoo.

Lions prefer moist and shady areas: Study.

Himanshu Kaushik, TNN Jan 14, 2013, 02.29AM IST
AHMEDABAD: Contrary to the popular belief that lions prefer savanna grassland, the king of the jungle here in Gir National Park likes moist shady habitats instead. Main reason is that there are several human eyes keeping a watch on him. The human activities in the form of livestock grazing, collection of fodder and fuel wood is what is harassing the Asiatic lions in its last abode; Gir National Park. This is forcing the creature to spend the entire day in moist and shady habitats which provide them respite from such human interference.
This was revealed in the study 'Home range and habitat preference of female lions (Panthera leo persica) in Gir forests, India' carried out by Yadvendradev V Jhala, Shomen Mukherjee, Nita Shah, Kartikeya S Chauhan, Chittranjan V Dave, Kausik Banerjee and V Meena who are associated with the Wildlife Institute of India.
The study stated that during daytime, lions seek moist and shady habitats that provide respite from the heat as well as hide them from human activities. At nights, some lions venture into agricultural fields in search of livestock.
The analysis reveals that moist mixed forest habitats are critical lion habitats in Gir as they are limited in their availability and provide the much needed cover during the most stressful time of the day.
The study further stated that some parts of Gir have plantations of teak due to timber production done earlier. "These could be selectively thinned and planted with miscellaneous species like Zizyphus spp, Carissa conjesta, Acacia spp and Terminalia spp among others. These species have forage value for wild ungulates and will likely increase the nutritional carrying capacity for native wild ungulates which in turn will be beneficial for lions," stated the study.
There is a public perception of lions and their habitats that are vastly influenced by wildlife films made in East Africa as well as the pioneering research done in the Serengeti. These studies and films depict lions as inhabitants of open savannah in contrast to Gir where lions live in forested habitats. "Such accounts of lion habitats have given birth to a view that the current habitat in Gir is not ideal for lions and some management interventions may be needed to open up the forest canopy for creating conditions similar to savannahs of East Africa. But the data and analysis suggests just the opposite as lions were observed to prefer the most mesic and thick canopy forest available to them in the dry deciduous forests of Gir."
The study stated that overall, the lionesses were found to use Teak-Acacia-Zizyphus-Anogeissus habitat the most and the agricultural areas the least. During daytime, the most used habitat was Teak-Acacia-Zizyphus-Anogeissus habitat followed by the moist mixed forest type. Lions were not observed in agricultural fields during the day. During night, lions were found using Teak-Acacia-Zizyphus-Anogeissus habitat the most and even ventured into agricultural fields. The Teak-Acacia-Zizyphus-Anogeissus habitat type also had the maximum extent comprising over 40 per cent of Gir forest.

Leopard rescued from Junagadh village.

RAJKOT: The forest department officials have rescued leopard from Mithapur village in Veraval taluka of Junagadh district after local residents' complaints to forest department.
Mithapur village sarpanch Raju Solanki said that villagers were living in fear after they learnt that leopard is roaming around their farms.
After the complaint received from the local villagers, forest department officials placed cages to nab leopard and caged the wild cat. "The leopard was sent to animal care center in Sasan(gir)'' said forest official.
Earlier, few weeks ago, leopard had entered into the Somnath Society in Veraval town of Junagadh district. The leopard was spotted in newly constructed house in Somnath society and nearby resident got worried. Later on, local residents informed to forest department and they rescued the leopard and sent the wild cat to animal care center in Sasan (Gir).
Sources said that as many as 12 people, mostly children were killed by leopard in Junagadh and Amreli district since last 12 months.

Act now or we will: Centre.

Himanshu Kaushik, TNN Jan 9, 2013, 03.03AM IST
AHMEDABAD: The deadline is set. The Union ministry of forest and environment (MoEF) has cautioned the states that failure to earmark eco-sensitive zones around wildlife sanctuaries before February 15, 2013, will force it to act on its own. The MoEF has warned that it could freeze all the area in 10 km radius of a sanctuary for purpose of construction and other developmental activities.
If the state government fails to adhere to the deadline, the construction activity around Nalsarovar, Thol, Gir National Park and Velavadar would be hit. The state government was planning to earmark an area of two km around these sanctuaries. Gujarat has already declared eco-sensitive zones around four sanctuaries -Girnar in Junagadh, Purna in Dangs, Narayan Sarovar in Kutch and Vansda National Park in Valsad.
The letter signed by deputy inspector general Vivek Saxena stated that the MoEF had issued revised guidelines for the notification of eco-sensitive zones around national parks and sanctuaries on February 9, 2011. "However the progress on this front has been far from satisfactory. Only a few states have come forward with proposals, that too for few national parks and sanctuaries."
The ministry said that it was giving one last chance to the state to decide on the eco-sensitive areas around the sanctuaries. In case if the state government fails to submit the proposals by February 15, the ministry will decide the eco-sensitive zone and there after that it would not entertain any proposal seeking change, the letter read.
The policy 'Wildlife Conservation Strategy-2002' was adopted by the Indian Board for Wildlife envisaging declaring a area falling within 10 km of the boundary of national parks and sanctuaries as eco-fragile zone. In 2005, it was decided to have site specific zones.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Asiatic Lion, Panthera leo persica.

The Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica) is a subspecies of the lion that is also known as the Eurasian lion or the Persian lion. This subspecies’ only wild range is the Gir Forest of Gujarat, India. Its former range is thought to have extended from Northern India to what is now known as Iran and to the Arabian Peninsula in the south to Italy and Greece in the west.
The Asiatic lion differs in size depending upon the sex. Males can have an average weight between 350 and 420 pounds, while females are smaller weighing between 240 and 260 pounds. One male was recorded to have a body length of 8.8 feet and a weight of 492 pounds, while another male was reported to have a body length of ten feet. This subspecies can vary in color from reddish brown, to tannish grey, to speckled black. The body structure and mane are slightly different from the African lion.
As is typical to lion species, the Asiatic lion lives in prides, although these are smaller than African lions holding only two females. The males of these smaller prides do not socialize as much as those in African lion prides, with the exception of mating and sharing a large kill. The diet of these lions consists of deer, antelope, water buffalo, wild boar, gazelle, and domestic livestock. It is thought that prides are smaller because the species it hunts are smaller, indicating a lack of need for larger prides.
Asiatic lions were once found Europe and this is known from oral reports, art and early history of that area. One pre-literate Greek myth speaks of the Nemean lion, and Herodotus noted that lions existed in the Balkans, although these most likely disappeared from that area and others around AD 80-100. These lions have been seen in Ukrainian art dating to the 4th century BC, being hunted in a range where they were once abundant. This area was the Caucasus, and the only area in the former Soviet Union where lions occurred naturally in historic times. The Asiatic lion also appears in many coats of arms and flags of Asia and Europe, as well as in Hinduism and the Bible. Although this lion is not native to China, Chinese guardian lions are carved in the semblance of it.
There are about 411 Asiatic lion in the Gir Forest National Park, and these live in an area that is 545 square miles. In 1907, it was thought that the Gir Forest population numbered only thirteen individuals, but this is debatable because the population in 1936 numbered 234 individuals. The Asiatic lion once shared a range with the Indian leopard, the bengal tiger, and the Asiatic cheetah. Although these species preferred different habitats, it is thought that the Asiatic lion may have competed for territory and food with the bengal tiger. The big cats in this Indian range suffered from major habitat loss due to human encroachment. In this area, the cats also fell prey to British and local hunters. Other threats include being poisoned, being shocked by crude electric fences, sickness, wild fires, and floods. Because there are over twenty thousand open wells belonging to farmers, lions often fall victim to drowning after falling into the wells.
Although many things threaten the Asiatic lion, one of the biggest threats it faces is a limited gene pool. If the Gir Forest population is truly derived from thirteen individuals, the current population may be the result of inbreeding. However, some experts believe that the low number of individuals was released to the public to discourage hunting of the subspecies, because local and British hunters had already eradicated all other Indian lion species. Data collected from that time showed that the population number was closer to one hundred, instead of thirteen. Inbreeding can cause a number of issues, but a decreased immune system and deformed sperm are among the worst. These problems enhance the problems of an inbreeding cycle. Despite these findings, other studies have shown that the genetic variability of the current population was not caused by inbreeding in past populations.
The Asiatic lion is not only threatened by inbreeding in the wild, but in captivity, it has been found to be interbred with African lions. The captive populations, managed by European and American zoos, were randomly interbred and once this was found, all breeding programs for the Asiatic lion were shut down. In order to reestablish a viable captive population, India began breeding only pure Asiatic lions, which helped the European Endangered Species Programme. The American Species Survival Plan, however, has not received any purebred Asiatic lions to start the breeding process again.
Conservation efforts to save the Asiatic lion also include reintroduction into the wild, where the lions will be placed into the Palpur-Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. This area has been found to hold the most viable habitat for reintroduction, because it is actually a part of the subspecies’ former range. Although the protected area is ready to receive lions from the Gir Forest population, the reintroduction has been put on hold due to the state of Gujarat resisting it. The Indian Supreme Court is currently analyzing the issue. The Asiatic lion appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Endangered.”

Image Caption: Asiatic Lion. Credit: Chrumps/Wikipedia  (CC BY 3.0)