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.