Friday, February 28, 2014

French zoo shows off rare Asiatic lion cubs.

Image: Asiatic lion Shiva, the mother of the three unnamed cubs, sits with her cubs in the Besancon zoo, eastern France Laurent Cipriani / AP
Image: Asiatic lion Shiva, the mother of the three unnamed cubs, feeds them in the Besancon zoo, eastern France Laurent Cipriani / AP
Shiva feeds her cubs.
Three Asiatic lion cubs are making their debut at a zoo in eastern France, raising slim hopes for one of the world's rarest species.
The Besancon (beuz-an-sohn) zoo held off announcing the 31 December births until this week, afraid the two females and a male might not survive. Their mother let a single cub die last year, and the three are being kept from their father until zookeepers are sure he won't hurt them.
There are about 300 Asiatic lions in the wild, all in an Indian reserve, according to the WWF. About the same number are in captivity.
"Lions in captivity will not be reintroduced in nature – or probably not – because they are used to humans and might potentially be dangerous," zookeeper Guillaume Limouzin said.

Lion population in Gujarat on the rise.

AHMEDABAD: Despite step-motherly treatment by the Centre, the lion population has grown steadily along with the area in which they can be found, claim officials of the state forest department. In contrast, the centre had launched various schemes and allocated massive funds for the tiger. Yet the tiger population of the country had fallen drastically (before increasing slightly) but the area in which the big cats are to be found had shrunk over the years.

According to the 2010 tiger census, the number of tigers in the country was 1706, up from 1411 in 2006. But tiger territory had come down to 72,852 sq km from 93,967 sq km over the same period. In contrast, the lion population in Gujarat - the only abode of the Asiatic lion - has not only gone up in the past four years but the territory in which it could be found had doubled.

In 1972, the tiger population in the country was 1827. This increased to its peak of 4334 and then declined to 1411 by 2006. By 2010, tiger numbers had again gone up to 1706. On the other hand, the lion population, which was 177 in 1968 and 180 in 1974, had steadily increased and was 411 according to the April 2010 lion census.

Forest department officials say that land area in which lions are found had doubled in the last three years. During the 2010 census, they were spread over a 10,000 sq km area but an analysis done in 2013 of prey killed by lions had revealed that the big cat now had sway over 20,000 sq km.

The officials further said that the central government had spent crores on conservation of tigers but was miserly when it came to funding various lion conservation schemes. The lion was not covered under Project Tiger nor was there a separate central project for lion conservation. The Centre had launched Project Rhino and Project Elephant recently but it had been neglecting the lion in allocation of funds, alleged officials.

A scientific paper by Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, HS Sinsha, says that the key aspect in conservation of the Asiatic lion was their dispersal and subsequent protection of surrounding satellite populations.

Approximately one-fourth of the Asiatic lions are to be found in protected satellite populations outside the Gir Conservation Area and they subsist primarily on wild prey. The protection of these satellite habitats and maintenance of corridors linking them to the core population in the Gir Conservation Area has allowed for the continuous growth of this endangered species.

Lion Safari fails to impress Central Zoo Authority.

KANPUR: The Lion Safari project in Etawah received a fresh jolt. The shifting of four pairs of Asiatic lions from Lucknow and Kanpur zoos by February-end is likely to get delayed following objection by Central Zoo Authority (CZA).

Sources said work on the project with an aim to shift the four pairs of Asiatic lions from Kanpur and Lucknow zoos to the breeding centre at Lion Safari in Reserve Fisher forest area of Etawah is going on at a fast pace. However, a team of CZA, during a recent inspection of Lion Safari, expressed dissatisfaction over the way the plan of the project had been formulated and its ability in providing comfortable space for the royal beasts, particularly at the breeding centre and the security measures for safari animals.

A senior forest official said: "The CZA team during inspection found lack of space inside the enclosures at the breeding centre which will hamper the breeding among the lions. The CZA members also asked the officials to fill in the gap in the walls raised at the breeding centre so that the animal cannot escape and pose danger for visitors. Also, the team objected to the construction of wide drains meant for flushing out excreta of animals as it could pose danger and result into injuries to animals. It also instructed the officials to increase the size of the water tank being constructed for the animals at the breeding centre." The team inspected the paddock area (an open space) prepared for the animals. "It raised objections over the use of iron grills to cover the paddock and asked the authorities to fix steel grills which will not get rusted after coming in contact with moisture," the official added.

You are here: Home » All India » 46 lions, 37 cubs died in Gir forest area in last two years.

Gandhinagar:  Gujarat has lost 46 lions and 37 cubs in the Gir forest area in the last two years, the State Assembly was informed today.

All these deaths, barring one, in the protected area which is the last abode of Asiatic lions, were due to natural causes, Forest and Environment Minister Ganpat Vasava said in a written reply to a question from Jawahar Chavda (Congress).

"Twenty-four lions and 10 cubs died in 2012," he said, adding all of them were natural deaths.

"In 2013, 22 lions and 27 cubs died in the Gir forest area. One of the lions died under unnatural circumstances," the Minister said.

The high rate of death of cubs in 2013 and that too in natural circumstances may worry environmentalists.

The Government told the House it has taken extensive steps to stop unnatural deaths of the lions.

As per the last Census conducted in 2010, there were 411 Asiatic lions in Gir.

Three rare Asiatic lions born in French zoo.

An Asiatic lion in the Gir forest, India
An Asiatic lion in the Gir forest, India
Open access/Nikunj vasoya

Three Asiatic lion cubs have been born in a French zoo, raising hopes for the survival of an endangered species of which only 350 are believed to be living in the wild.

The three cubs were born on 30 December in the zoo attached to the natural history museum in the south-eastern French town of Besançon, the establishment announced on Wednesday.
Their mother, Shiva, was also born in Besançon zoo eight years ago.
Their father, Tejas, was born in Bristol zoo in the UK five years ago.
The Asiatic lion is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's red list of endangered species and Besançon zoo joined a European programme for breeding them 14 years ago.
Compared to the 100,000 African lions, there are only about 350 Asiatic lions (Panthera leo persica) living in the wild today -  all of them in the Gir forest in India - and there are 100 in zoos in Europe, according to the museum.
"These births give us hope for the survival of this threatened species," the zoo's vet, Mélanie Berthet, told the AFP news agency. "Today of the 56 zoological establishments in the world that have Asiatic lions only eight of them have recorded births."
One threat to the cubs' survival could have been their own father.
Shiva was separated from Tejas 10 days before the birth and she and her cubs are being kept apart from him at the moment, although near enough for him to see and smell them.
"We will establish contact within a month," Berthet said. "After having fed them up so that he doesn't think of them as prey."
Tejas and Shiva had another cub at Besançon last year.

Lion carcass found near Khambha.

Decomposed body of a lion was found under mysterious circumstances near Rabarika round, about 20km from Khambha town of Amreli district, on Tuesday.

The carcass was found in Gir (east) forest division. Sources said that the carcass is about a fortnight old and the lion is believed to be around 7-8 years old. Forest officials have reached the spot and the body will be sent for post-mortem.

It was on Saturday that a lion was crushed under a goods train near Bhammar village in Savarkundla taluka.

Train runs over Asiatic lion cub.

Press Trust of India  |  Vadodara 
Last Updated at 21:26 IST

An Asiatic lion cub was mowed down by a train when it was crossing the track near Bhanbhar village in Amreli district of today, forest officials said.

"The incident occurred when the train was going to Dhola from Pipavav Port," said Deputy Conservator of Forest Anshuman Sharma.

He said the cub was about two-year-old.

"On getting the information, our team comprising a veterinary doctor rushed to the spot and tried our best to save life of the cub but it died nearly two hours after the accident", Sharma said.

According to the postmortem report, the cub died of hemorrhage caused due to internal injuries.

A case will be registered in this regard later, Sharma said.

Lions: The New Endangered Species.

Posted: Updated:
For as long as I can remember, lions have always been my favorite animal. I'm not sure whether it was due to my love for Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia or because my horoscope sign is Leo. Maybe it was because I wanted to be in Gryffindor even though I'm 100% pure Hufflepuff. Either way, lions have consistently held my interest, leading me to work at a zoo and for a lion conservation non-profit. At the zoo, the lion exhibit is considered a highlight for children and parents alike -- so it is always a little disappointing for them when they see first-hand that lions spend 20 hours a day sleeping.
When most people think of lions, they picture them prowling the Sub-Saharan plains for food, or lazing about in big grassy areas. This is because the image of an African lion -- the lion one sees on a safari or in films like The Lion King -- is firmly ingrained in the American psyche. Many people believe that lions can only be found in Africa, and while this is now largely true it was not always the case. Lions once roamed over a much larger area, with a range spanning two continents and a variety of Afro-Asian countries. India, in particular, had an impressive lion population that few in America are aware of.
For the most part, the Asiatic lion found in India resembles the African lion in physical appearance. The key exceptions are its mane, which is less full and healthy looking, and a distinguishing longitudinal fold of skin that runs across its belly. Contrary to the popular image of lions living in plains, these Asiatic lions make their habitat in deciduous forest, surrounded by copious amounts of flora and fauna.
There is another stark difference between the two subspecies: Asiatic lions are far more endangered than their African counterparts. There are only around 411 of them left, according to a survey conducted in 2010.
This week, National Geographic published an article on the conservation effort to save Asia's last lions. The effort is called The Lion Safari Project and involves creating more habitat (approximately 350 hectares worth of habitat) for Asia's dwindling lion population. The goal is to generate public interest and revenue for the endangered species by creating an adventurous attraction similar to the iconic African Safari. The catch of the project is that the lions will be kept within enclosed perimeters and will even be transferred to animal houses at night. Even so, the project will be a unique opportunity for tourists and visitors to view Asiatic lions up close in the wild while learning and sponsoring wildlife conservation.
Asiatic lions are firmly placed in the "endangered" category, but many believe African lions should be as well. Looking at the numbers, African lions seem safe -- there are between 32,000 and 35,000 in existence. Upon examining the situation further, however, it is alarming to discover that their population has been cut in half in the past twenty-two years, and that they only occupy roughly 20 percent of their historic range, meaning that they are extinct in 26 African countries. Worst of all, many current lion populations are too small and isolated to be sustainable. Habitat loss is the primary cause of the decreasing number of lions, but other problems exist as well. Of these problems, trophy hunting is the most deplorable. Trophy hunting, or the hunting of exotic animals for personal glory, still exists in most African countries. The United States is the world's leading importer of lion parts for trophy hunting and commercial purposes.
How is this practice still continuing when lions are at a risk of extinction within the foreseeable future? And what can be done to halt the decline of lion populations all over Africa? In November of last year, animal behaviorist Kevin Richardson made a fifteen minute GoPro video titled "Lions - the New Endangered Species?" The video went viral, gaining almost six million views within the first three months of its upload date. In the video, Richardson focused on the playfulness of the lions he works with -- lions are the only social big cats -- and educated the viewer on the problems facing Africa's lion population. In the comments section, many Youtube users expressed concern and their prior ignorance to the harsh fact that lions are slowly disappearing.
It seems the first and most logical goal that needs to be accomplished by lion conservationists is to have lions officially listed as endangered species. Currently, they are only listed as "Vulnerable" on the IUCN's (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species. By listing lions as an endangered species, we can guarantee them protection under the Endangered Species Act -- protection that they are currently denied. This would mean importation and trade of lion parts and trophies would become illegal. It would also become considerably more difficult for trophy hunting to occur. Hunters would have to pay much higher prices to shoot their game, and the money spent could actually go towards conservation efforts. Of course, this is an ethically questionable practice, but it would be preferable to the existing treatment of trophy hunters towards lions.
In the 1850s, there were thousands of Asiatic lions residing in India. Now, there are only 400. The parallels between the two lion populations are significant -- shouldn't we curb the diminishing numbers of African lions now, before they go the way of their relatives in India?
Surely, it is better to take preventative measures while we still can. By answering the question Kevin Richardson raised in the title of his GoPro video, I hope to promote awareness of a relatively recent cause: Yes, lions ARE the new endangered species, but there is plenty that we can do to change this.
If you are interested in helping, check out or other great lion conservation groups!
Follow Kelsey Davenport on Twitter:

Asiatic Lion translocation: Supreme court agrees to review its April 2013 order.

NGO claims SC not aware of few facts; SC admits writ plea for review.
The Supreme Court on Monday admitted a writ petition demanding a review of its April 2013 judgment that ordered the translocation of Asiatic Lions and issued notices to Centre, state government and other parties.
“After hearing the argument, the three-judge division bench has agreed to review the April 2013 order of the translocation of Asiatic Lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh and issued notices to the concerned parties,” said Tushar Gokani, advocate for the petitioner.
Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT), a Rajkot-based NGO, has claimed that certain facts were not brought to the notice of the Supreme Court, which ordered the translocation of lions from Gir Forest to Kuno in Madhya Pradesh in its April 2013 order.
“The court relied on the 2000 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) report that had put Asiatic Lions on the red list describing it as critically endangered species but has now moved — in its latest report — out from the critically endangered list to the endangered list. The IUCN report on the Asiatic Lions further stated that the population of the Asiatic Lion has not only stabilised but also extends beyond the Gir Forest across four regions of Gujarat,” stated the petition. The three-judge bench of Justice AK Patnaik, Justice SS Nijjar and Justice Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla has been hearing the petition filed by WCT. The petitioner has requested the SC to declare the chief wildlife warden, the state government and the Centre as the appropriate authorities to determine and decide the necessity for the translocation of any wild animal.
The petitioner has also demanded that the court declare classification of the Asiatic Lion as a critically endangered species in the National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016) as erroneous.
“Declare that the recommendations of the National Board for Wildlife on matters relating to the translocation of any wild animal are not binding upon the chief wildlife warden. Declare that the National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016) is a non-statutory instrument and does not bind the chief wildlife warden,” the petitioner requested the court.

Monday, February 17, 2014

MP for tracking Kuno tiger to avoid fight with Gujarat lions.

Madhya PrPress Trust of India
Feb 16, 2014 at 11:21am IST
Madesh has recommended to the Centre that the lone tiger in its Palpur Kuno sanctuary be fitted with a radio collar to check any possible conflict with lions proposed to be introduced in the reserve from Gujarat.
Palpur Kuno sanctuary, under Sehopur district of Gwalior division, has been chosen as the second home for Asiatic lions found exclusively in Gujarat's Gir sanctuary.
The matter of conflict between tiger and lions was mentioned in an action plan made by a technical committee involving officials of Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat governments, and Wild Life Institute of India (WII), following a Supreme Court directive to the Centre to ensure successful reintroduction of lions.
MP for tracking Kuno tiger to avoid fight with Gujarat lions

MP for tracking Kuno tiger to avoid fight with Gujarat lions

"Currently, Kuno wildlife sanctuary is occupied by a single resident tiger (T-38) from adjacent Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan. Both lions and tigers being top predators will sometime get involved in inter-specific strife resulting in injuries and even deaths," the action plan said.
"The best strategy would be to radio collar (GPS/satellite) the tiger (and any other additional immigrant/resident tiger in future) as well, so as to study the interaction between these two top carnivores as part of the research program of Kuno reintroduction," it said.
The action plan was sent to Madhya Pradesh forests department officials for necessary action. "The action plan has recommended radio collaring of the lonely resident tiger and other co-predators to study the interaction between lion and tiger as well as resource use. We agree to the recommendation," Madhya Pradesh Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Narendra Kumar said in a letter dated January 30 to the MoEF.
There are about 400 Asiatic lions in Gir sanctuary. The reintroduction plan of lions in Madhya Pradesh had faced stiff opposition from Gujarat.
"There has already been a delay of more than four months in implementing reintroduction of lions in Madhya Pradesh. We will file contempt petition in Supreme Court very soon," said wildlife activist Ajay Dubey.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Sneak Peek at India’s Lion Safari: A Conservation Effort for Asia’s “Last Lions”.

Posted by Jordan Carlton Schaul of University of Alaska in Cat Watch on February 4, 2014To almost anyone on Planet Earth, reference to the word “lion” conjures up an image of the ‘King of the Jungle’ and often in the context of a Sub-Saharan African safari. Not everyone has been fortunate enough to travel the African plains, but we all can imagine what it must be like to see lions in open landscapes of the Serengeti.
The lion—the world’s second largest cat—was once one of the world’s most wide-ranging large mammals, just like the much smaller mountain lion ranged throughout much of the land masses of the Western Hemisphere. Like the mountain lion, the Asiatic lion has disappeared from much of its historic range, which was once spread over two continents and a number of Afro-Asian countries.

The ‘King of the Jungle’ is no longer found in North Africa and the nominate subspecies is considered regionally extinct in West Africa by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

In India, the lions once abounded western, eastern, northern and central India. So abundant was the lion in the country that during the rebellion of 1857, a single British officer shot as many as 300 of them! As forested areas contracted and their prey-base became depleted, the lions resorted to occasional cattle lifting. Sadly, the poisoning of cattle carcasses by the villagers wiped out entire prides and drove the Asiatic lions to the brink of extinction.
India’s lions were once found in other northwestern and central Indian states, but now the four subpopulations of this remnant feline subspecies exist primarily in one National Park—the Gir Forest. The Gir Forest is a dry deciduous forest, and considered by wildlife authorities to be one of the most important protected ecosystems in all of South Asia.
Only a quarter of the extant Asiatic lion population lives outside the protected Gir Forest, but the subspecies still remains highly imperiled and nearly extinct. The Asiatic lion’s official conservation status has not changed in recent years, despite the fact it has received government protection since 1965.
As per the census carried out in 2010, 411 Asiatic lions were accounted for in the Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary. This is great news as the population now doubles the number of individuals counted in a 1974.

While some Afro-Asian countries, like Iran, celebrated the demise of the lion, their national symbol, India has embraced an opportunity to recover the Endangered lion subspecies and indeed these great felids are making quite the comeback.

TvyamNb-BivtNwcoxtkc5xGBuGkIMh_nj4UJHQKuoXZdOlMJOFYn5tXXTou1_bI-ZkA6_9Rdl_JeRATo further the legacy of this magnificent cat through conservation breeding and also to provide the visitors with an opportunity to view Asiatic Lions from close quarters, the Government of Uttar Pradesh is in the process of developing a lion safari in the city of Etawah. The safari project has been strategically placed such that it is most accessible to India’s suburban residents and tourists alike. It is situated 120 km from Agra, home of the famed Taj Mahal and is also in proximity to other major cities such as Gwalior, Kanpur and Lucknow. It will serve as a fantastic eco-tourism destination for the millions of visitors to Agra.
I learned that the project is the brainchild of Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav, former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and was actually conceptualized seven years ago. However, the conservation initiative has only come to fruition because of the keen interest shown by Mr. Yadav’s son Akhilesh, the current Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.
The safari’s locale has a rich and intriguing agricultural and economic history. In the late nineteenth century, the erstwhile collector of the region, J.F. Fisher, convinced the farming communities near Etawah to relinquish their private land so that plantations could be developed for their benefit and that of India’s commerce. In return for receiving the profits accrued from the plantations, the farmers would incur the expenses associated with the development of the large scale agro-business. The land was eventually planted with a number of indigenous silvicultural species.
Among several botanicals, one called Babool (Acacia nilotica) was seeded on the fertile soil. The bark of Babool is used in leather tanning industry. The cultivation of this species turned out to be most rewarding. The land was ultimately leased by a leather manufacturing company as consequence of such abundant success with the Babool.
In due time, earthen check dams were also built in the region. The area was gradually enriched with the introduction of broadleaved species. So scenic was the landscape that the British built a picnic spot on a high mound, of which remnants exist even to date.
Over the next few decades, the area was subjected to heavy grazing and other biotic activities. Hence, the forest suffered massive degradation and the area was essentially rendered a ravine due to severe erosion. Prosopis juliflora, an exotic botanical, was introduced in the area in the eighties as a soil binding species. The plant grew to epic proportions and ultimately over-competed with all other native vegetation thereby attaining the status of a weed.
feature3_mainThe work on the Lion Safari officially commenced in May of 2012 under the supervision of my friend and colleague, Indian Forest Service Officer, Sujoy Banerjee. Sujoy is a highly esteemed conservationist in South Asia and known for his progressive and innovative thinking within the global conservation arena.
An awardee of prestigious British and US government scholarship and leadership programs (i.e., The Chevening Scholarship of the UK International Visitors’ Leadership Program of the United States), Sujoy played a major role in preparing the Master Plan of the Lion Safari. He was also instrumental in preparing detailed designs of its layout, conservation breeding center, animal holding areas and veterinary facilities, which were accorded approval by the Central Zoo Authority.
“Removing the Prosopis juliflora was the biggest challenge we faced at the time the project started in May, 2012” said Sujoy Banerjee. “Prosopis is not only a very good coppice and grows in very adverse and low moisture conditions, and therefore, very obstinate as far as the removal of this invasive species is concerned. It was decided at that time that this species would be removed through mechanical means, that is, by uprooting entire trees, including the roots by JCB machines” he said.
The area of the safari was simultaneously developed into a habitat for the lions. According to Sujoy, “To improve the soil and moisture conditions of the area, earthen check dams were built to check the flow of rain water to allow it to percolate into the Earth.” The earthen dams were seeded to reduce the effect of soil erosion and enhance the longevity of the structures. Seed sowing was also performed on staggered contour trenches with an annual grass called Dinanath grass (Pennisetum pedicellatum).
The effect of seed sowing was quite evident after the first rains in the summer of 2012.  The ten hectares of area that had been cleared for the project had formed a lush green carpet of grass. As the rains gave way to winter, the grass dried up forming a thick cover that retained moisture. As a result, stagnant water could be seen in the month of May of the following year, the peak of the summer season! This quieted the critics of the Lion Safari who believed that the area could never be revived to the extent that it would be made fit as habitat for lions.
Subsequently, an area of another 100 ha has been developed into a viable habitat for the lions. Planting of enrichment botanicals (about 20 trees per ha of local tree species) was carried out to provide shade structures for the lions.
The local people are quite amazed at the transformation of the landscape with ravines converted into lush green grasslands. The project area has already witnessed the presence of an antelope species called Neelgai meaning “Blue bull” (Bosephalus tragocamelus) and Cheetal deer (Axis axis). A place where people avoided out of fear of being looted or mugged is now being thronged by local people in large numbers as a recreational destination. The safari, itself, provides a panoramic view of the landscape. One could say that tourists have already started visiting!

The Lion Safari Project will be one of a kind in Northern India. Planned over an area of 350 hectares, it will include a 50-hectare exhibition area for the Asiatic lions. The perimeter of the enclosure will be secured by an 18 ft high retaining wall. Entry to the exhibit will be in specially designed vehicles that would allow the visitors to have a close view of the lions ensuring their own safety at the same time. The fence would have a solar power fencing to contain the noble beasts. A road network of four and a half kilometers will also provide a wonderful experience of the “Chambal ravines” that the area is famous for.

The backbone of this project will be the Asiatic Lion Breeding Center. Configured like a fan to accommodate four breeding Asiatic Lions simultaneously, each population will have dedicated quarter hectare of paddock (open area). Two pairs of genetically pure Asiatic Lions have already been procured and are presently being housed in two zoos in the state. More lions will be brought from Gujarat in due course of time.
The project also has a state-of-the-art veterinary hospital, which will be well equipped to cater to all health, nutrition and treatment related needs of the lions. It will be equipped to handle all pathological, radiological and other clinical tests required for the optimal healthcare of the wild animals.
The lions will be housed in animal houses or holding areas. Two animal houses have been proposed to accommodate the residents. The lions will be released in the open exhibit area in the morning and will be housed in the animal houses after closing of the park.
To ensure the safety of the lions as well as the visitors, a patrol road has been proposed. This vehicle accessible (jeepable) road will allow the park management to conduct daily patrols to check for any breaches in the  perimeter fencing. There is also an internal patrolling path provided for to allow the maintenance of fences as may be required.
The visitors will have plenty to see and enjoy. The entrance will be theme-based and will convey a conservation sensitive  message on Asia’s lions so that the visitor is introduced to the philosophy of the project at the very outset. There will be a modern interpretation center, which will serve to educate the visitors about wildlife conservation and also provide plenty of information through audio-visual media.
There will also be a library where visitors can gain access to literary resources concerning these carnivores and other native wildlife species. Films relating to conservation and wildlife will be available for patron screening. In addition, there will be a souvenir shop, a canteen and other basic facilities for visitors to the complex. And of course, the center will be landscaped to improve the aesthetics of the area.
The architect of the project, Pravesh Bansal is a young man of 23 years with lots of ideas and aspiration for this ambitious project.
Mr. Akhilesh Yadav, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and his father, Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav, visited the Lion Safari in October last year to take stock of the progress of work. They left very satisfied with the progress of the work.
The efforts of Government of Uttar Pradesh in making this facility better is reflected in the fact that a group of senior officers of Government of Uttar Pradesh led by the State Minister for Zoological Parks Dr. S.P. Yadav visited various safari parks and zoos in the United Kingdom with the intentions to incorporate the best design and management practices in the project.
Principal Secretary, Forests, Mr. V.N. Garg, Secretary to Chief Minister, Mr. Shambhu Singh Yadav and Mr. Rupak De, Chief Wildlife Warden were among the members of the delegation. Following up on their commitment to the project, the Government of Uttar Pradesh has now posted a Conservator of Forest as the in-charge personnel of the Lion Safari Project.
The Lion Safari Project of Uttar Pradesh, once completed, will be a splendid opportunity for visitors, both national and international, to have a sighting of these glorious wild beasts from close quarters. It will also serve to create a repository of genes of Asiatic Lions, which will be a major step towards the survival of this species in captivity.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A lion's share.

Atula Gupta, Feb 4, 2014:
Asiatic lions are jostling for space in the crowded national parks of Gujarat. Reuters File PhotoThe Asiatic Lion has doubled its territory in Gujarat with one-third of Saurashtra under its reign. While the news is promising for the future of lions, it highlights the concern that they roam outside the protected area, leading to human-animal conflict. Atula Gupta writes...

When the Asiatic Lion truly lived the life of royalty, its territory ranged from Asia minor and Arabia through Persia to India. However, before the close of the last century, the lion had become extinct from all these regions except Gir, where thanks to the efforts of a Nawab, its faltering future was stabilised and the Indian lion had a single yet safe haven to call home.

Today, the population of India’s lions is stable, if not completely out of danger, because of consistent conservation efforts and a recent census points that the lion king is on the lookout for newer regions to conquer. With almost double the territory recorded of the wild cat within a span of four years, the species is set for a fierce expansion plan. But, while the news is promising for the future of lions, does it also bring forth a number of other concerns, especially a rise in human-animal conflict? That is the big question.

The pride of Gujarat has doubled its territory in the span of four years from 10,500 sq km in 2010 to 20,000 sq km recorded recently. The state forest department conducted a study based on the frequent kills and compensation given to farmers and found that the presence of the predator was noted in almost one-third of the Saurashtra region of Gujarat. Of the 1,500 villages that notified the lion’s presence, most were in the Junagadh, Amreli and few in Bhavnagar district.

The last few

When Sasan Gir forests of Gujarat became the last bastion of the Asiatic lions, the species literally had nowhere else to go. Once a symbol of regal valour and ferocity, the lion symbol had adorned the palaces of many Indian kingdoms, sultanates and empires for ages. In fact, the earliest record of lions in India, it seems, are found on the famous steatite seals of the Indus Valley Civilisation.

But hunting during the British reign turned many living beasts to trophy heads adorning colonial walls, and by the end of the 19th century, India shockingly had merely 20-odd lions. The probable years of its extermination region-wise were Bihar - 1840, Delhi - 1834, Bhavalpur - 1842, Eastern Vindhyas and Bundelkhand - 1865, Central India & Rajasthan - 1870 and Western Aravallis - 1880. The last animal surviving in the wild outside Saurashtra was reported in 1884. Statistics

It was thus a pivotal moment when the then Nawab of Junagadh provided adequate protection to the animals and population of lion increased between the years 1904 to 1911. Lions were still being hunted though until shooting was rigidly controlled by the British Administration in 1913. Finally, in 1936, the first organised census showed there were 287 Asiatic lions left in the wild. Declaration of the Sasan Gir Sanctuary only ensured that these numbers continued to increase.

The present day status of the lions is not as turbulent. In the last decade, through active public support, conservation programmes and constant vigilance, the lions of Gir have fared well. Last census showed their population to be above 400 with a healthy number of adults as well as juveniles.

Interestingly, even in 2010, the Asiatic lion was expanding its territory, living further away from the restricted 1,412 sq km of the defined Sasan Gir National Park boundaries. The stable population even prompted the International Union for conservation of Nature (IUCN) to de-list the threatened status of Asiatic lions from Critically Endangered to Endangered. However, bigger family means the need for a bigger home and that is what may trigger an array of other concerns.

Officials believe there are 114 lions at present, out of the 411 counted in 2010, that live outside the known lion territories. It is only the upcoming 2015 lion population census though that would ascertain the exact number and expanded habitat of the mega predator. Meanwhile, in a country of 1.2 billion humans, where is the room to grow? Rise in conflict

In mid-January this year, a goods train mowed down two lionesses 30 km from the Gir forest. Last year, a male lion cub was killed on the same route. With more than 100,000 people sharing the same resources and land with the Asiatic Lion, conflicts between the local villagers and the animal is inevitable. Although, public support has been one of the biggest advantages for the successful protection of the wild predator in the state. But, will it continue if territorial conflicts become much more frequent and livestock loss a daily routine?

Also, unlike the Gir sanctuary, forest officers do not patrol the area outside the protected boundaries, and the present census points that it is exactly these regions where the lion is heading to, and is also the most vulnerable. “There are heavy vehicles, including loaders, moving in the area. I have personally seen lions close to such areas,” said Mangabhai Thapa — a resident of the village who was among the first to reach the lions that were killed by the goods train.

The areas where lions are frequently seen in Saurashtra are the same where future urban development plans include more mining belts, ports, highways and industries. The need of the hour, undoubtedly, is habitat diversification and second or third population sites for the lions. The Nawab of Junagadh did give the dying lions a second chance at life, but to truly give the animal its lost regal stature, it is necessary now to allow it to peacefully expand its kingdom.

A single Gir pride, mostly female, to be first moved to MP.

Written by Anubhuti Vishnoi | New Delhi | February 2, 2014
A team of experts and MoEF officials are expected to visit Kuno sanctuary this month.
A single pride of five to ten Asiatic lions with 60-70 per cent female population is likely to be first set of lions to be translocated from Gujarat’s Gir forest to Kuno sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh over the next two years.
An expert report detailing the court-ordered translocation has recommended that a whole pride of lions from the core of the Gir forest be chosen for the experiment. A minimum of two male lions would also be moved, according to the action plan, which has been submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Forests by wildlife scientist Ravi Chellam and Y V Jhala from the Wildlife Institute of India.
The action plan, formulated keeping in mind a 25-year-long translocation programme, suggests that every three to five years, two-three lions — mostly male — should be translocated from Gir to Kuno to maintain the inter-linkage between lion populations in the two sanctuaries.
Having learnt their lesson from the translocation of tigers, efforts would be made to curb the ‘homing instincts’ of the lions. A one-acre fenced enclosure in Kuno sanctuary would be the first home of the translocated animals for three-six weeks so they get familiar with the geography of the new forest.
During a tiger’s relocation from Pench to Panna reserve, the animal kept trying to find her way back to Pench as the homing issue was not addressed.
December to February has been identified as the best season to translocate the lions. The process would be carried out after the animals are tranquillised and they would possibly through moved using IAF choppers — the journey takes about one hour.
The animals would be moved in groups of two-three. The exercise would also involve importing sophisticated radio collars for all lions, a secure enclosure, and qualified personnel. This staff would be provided with training, veterinary equipment and patrolling vehicles.
A team of experts and MoEF officials are expected to visit Kuno sanctuary this month. While there is now a healthy prey base thanks to the cheetal population, issues related to poaching and the gun culture in the area around the sanctuary would be reassessed, sources said.
Incidentally, the Gujarat government is opposed to translocation of lions from Gir. However, following a Supreme Court order in April 2013, the decks have been cleared for the exercise. The MoEF is expected to push through the implementation of the plan after financial approvals and other clearances. But the Gujarat government is expected to soon file a curative petition challenging the translocation.

New lion for Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.

The late Lider
Thursday, January 30, 2014
The late Lider
The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo has welcomed a new male lion from Sweden. Gir, a 2-year-old rare Asiatic lion, arrived last week. He replaces Lider, a 16-year-old Asiatic lion who was euthanized last summer.
Gir joins lioness Ileniya, 16, though the two felines are being kept apart at first, the Times of Israel reported.
The zoo already is searching for a mate for Gir in the hopes that they will breed.
Asiatic lions are an endangered species and at risk of extinction. Some 300 are roaming free in a sanctuary in India, with another 330 in captivity. — jta