Tuesday, June 17, 2014

In Pics: Gujarat welcomes Monsoon, cities left submerged, life comes to a standstill.

Bhaskar News   |  Jun 16, 2014, 18:30PM IST

After striking the shores of Mumbai, Monsoon knocked the doors of Gujarat on Sunday. Moderate to heavy rainfall was experienced in Saurashtra and Gir region of the state.
In some of the areas, like, Kodinaar, Junagarh and Sutrapada heavy rainfall measuring upto 15 inches was measured. In Gir Forest, over 12 inches of rainfall was observed.
The rainfall came as a repiste to hundreds of animals housed in Gir National Park who were suffering from intense heat waves for the past few weeks.
Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) is expecting that the Monsoon will be able to cover the entire state of Maharshtra and Gujarat in the next two or three days.
With PTI inputs

Madhya Pradesh tests Modi’s lion-transfer mood.

Madhya Pradesh tests Modi’s lion-transfer mood
Gujarat government has already moved a curative petition in the Supreme Court as its last legal resort to retain all its Asiatic lions.

AHMEDABAD: The Madhya Pradesh government has forwarded a proposal for Rs 80 crore assistance to the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), for the lion conservation project to be taken up at Kuno-Palpur.

MP officials in the past had demanded the same amount from the 12-member lion expert group, which had been formed on the orders of the apex court. The court, in April last year, ordered the translocation of lions and formed the 12-member committee to facilitate this.

Sources in the forest department said that in its first communique after Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government has fired its first salvo and with the proposal to the MoEF, seeking funds to move Asiatic lions from Gujarat to Kuno-Palpur.

The proposal budget includes Rs 20 crore for infrastructure, like the construction of a hospital and procurement of vehicles and Rs 59 crore for relocation and rehabilitation of two more villages from within the Kuno sanctuary.

The MP government has already spent Rs 15 crore for relocation of 1,543 families from 24 revenue villages inside the sanctuary, while preparing the alternative habitat for Asiatic lions.

It now wants another Rs 59 crore for relocation of two more villages.

The MP government has said that the expert committee has asked the state to expand the sanctuary and have more villages relocated before the first pride of lions was shifted.

Based on the proposal from Madhya Pradesh, the Union government under a centrally-sponsored scheme — Development of National Parks and Sanctuaries —sanctioned and released Rs 15.45 crore in 2007-08 to pave the way for the translocation of lions despite protests from Gujarat.

Sources in the committee said that, so far, MP was demanding this money from the committee, but now it has forwarded this to the ministry. With Narendra Modi taking over as Prime Minister, MP wants to test if the funds are allocated or not.

"If the MoEF approves the allocation of Rs 79 crore, it will indicate that it is all for the translocation, but if it keeps the proposal on hold, it will be the first signal that the Centre was against the translocation and was waiting for the apex court to decide.

Gujarat government has already moved a curative petition in the Supreme Court as its last legal resort to retain all its Asiatic lions. Two Gujarat-based NGOs have also filed separate petitions challenging the translocation of lions to Kuno.

Lions outside Gir get radio collars.

Lions outside Gir get radio collars The Wildlife Institute of India with the sanction of Gujarat's forest department has radio-collared some lionesses which live outside Gir sanctuary to track their movements and behaviour.
AHMEDABAD: The Wildlife Institute of India with the sanction of Gujarat's forest department has radio-collared some lionesses which live outside Gir sanctuary to track their movements and behaviour.

This is the first time that the apex wildlife body will use the global positioning system to tag and track 10 lionesses in various pockets outside the sanctuary. Sources said, "This mode will enable us to keep track of each and every movement of the lions. Even by logging in once a week, we can get data regarding the big cats' movements and behaviour."

Yadvendradev Jhala, scientist and researcher of the WII, said the study is also aimed at knowing the behavior of Asiatic lions near villages. "The study will help us ascertain how much area a breeding female requires for prey-hunting and rearing her cubs. The radio collars will enable wildlife managers to keep track of the entire lion population. Which will mean better protection for them," Jhala said.

Jhala added, "The study will reveal the movement pattern of lions and whether they return to the sanctuary frequently. Recently we collared four lionesses in different prides. We now plan to collar another six lionesses. We will keep watch over these 10 lionesses with their cubs. This will enable us to know movements of the entire group."

The study is being undertaken by Jhala along with Stotra Chakrabarthy, research biologist of WII with the help of Anshuman Sharma, DFO Dhari and a team of four expert trackers and research assistants of WII.

As per the May 2010 census, there are 130 lions outside the sanctuary. But this number has increased since May 2010.

Gir forest to be shut down till October 15.

An Asiatic lion at the Gir Sanctuary in Gujarat. File photo: K.R. Deepak
The Hindu An Asiatic lion at the Gir Sanctuary in Gujarat. File photo: K.R. Deepak

Updated: June 16, 2014 22:09 IST

Owing to the mating season of animals during monsoon

The Gir National Park — home to the Asiatic lion — will remain closed for the monsoon till October 15, forest officials said.
The forest was closed for tourists from Monday, a day after the monsoon arrived in Gujarat. “Like every year, forest activity is shut for tourists from June 15 to October 15. The monsoon closure is part of the management plan. It is the mating season for the wildlife. Moreover, roads and paths get broken and washed away in the rains,” Sandeep Kumar, Deputy Conservator of Forests, told The Hindu.
Taking advantage of the lean season, the forest management conducts special rescue and protection drive during the monsoon.
“During monsoon, there are chances of animals being infested by maggots, if they sustain injury. We divide our staff into teams and give them maps who will conduct special drives in the forest, checking on the health status of the animals, giving them treatment when needed. While we do this for all animals, our main focus will be on the Asiatic lion. We also check for cubs which might have strayed,” Mr. Kumar said.
The forest has to mandatorily remain shut till the end of September but depending on the duration of the monsoon the management may decide to open the park for tourists in the beginning of October.
“But that is only if we feel there is no chance of rain,” said Mr. Kumar.
According to the census conducted in 2010, the Gir Forest has 411 Asiatic lions, 4,400 sambars, 600 leopards and 302 species of birds, besides 63,000 herbivores.
The next census is due in 2015.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Experts not too enthusiastic over proposed shifting of Gir lions to Madhya Pradesh.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014 - 11:34am IST | Agency: ANI

  • Stock Image RNA Research & Archives
Asiatic Lions, which are found in the Gir forests of Gujarat, are in news for their proposed relocation to the Kuno Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. The present habitat for these big cats is considered dangerous because of an inbreeding threat as also Gir's location in a seismic zone.
Naresh Kadyan, a leading animal rights activist, told ANI that, "Wildlife sanctuaries in Madhya Pradesh were witnessing massive hunting and poaching of lions and tigers. The main agenda of the Madhya Pradesh Government is not the conservation of the species but to promote tourism and that's the reason they want to shift the Asiatic Lion to their state.
The Rs.79 crores proposal made to the Gujarat Government is nothing but an investment to promote tourism in their state."
A PCCF forest official of Gujarat, who wished to stay anonymous, asserted that the environment ministry has constituted a committee on the directions of the Supreme Court to ensure the betterment of the lions' future. The proposal to shift Gir's Asiatic lions to Kuno has been delayed for years due to certain objections by the Gujarat Government, but a recent Supreme Court order has now reportedly cleared obstacle.
The Supreme Court has directed the Madhya Pradesh Government to expand the Kuno Palpur wildlife area for the relocation of the lions. Sarbaranjan Mondal, an award winning wildlife activist, feels the Asiatic Lion should not be shifted to the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. "It is imperative to conserve the environment as well as the animals and the shifting of the Gir lions to some other wildlife sanctuary won't solve the issue", Mondal said.
Earlier, Gujarat had opposed the plea of Madhya Pradesh, saying that lions would not be safe there as the central state had failed to preserve its own tiger population in the Panna reserve forest. However, the Kuno Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh is expected to become the second home of the Asiatic Lion, which are currently only found in Gujarat's Gir National Park.

Modi’s dilemma: Whether to shift Gir lions to MP or not.

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, June 09, 2014
As the Gujarat chief minister in 2009, Narendra Modi had entered into a public spat with then environment minister Jairam Ramesh. The issue: Relocation of lions from Gir wildlife sanctuary state to Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh.
Modi had then opposed the relocation, saying he would not part with “Gujarat’s pride”. Now, as Prime Minister, Modi would be asked to reconsider his view in ‘larger national interest’.
Wildlife activists and the environment ministry have argued for the relocation of the Asiatic lions to MP since only a single habitat for these big cats is considered dangerous, especially because of inbreeding threat and Gir’s location in a seismic zone.
“The Prime Minister will take a call on the issue,” a senior environment ministry official said. Modi will have to decide on the matter before the next meeting of the National Board for Wildlife.
In August 2013, the Supreme Court had sided with the experts who said it was better for the lions’ future if some of them could be relocated. On the court’s directions, the environment ministry constituted a committee, which directed the MP government to expand the Kuno Palpur wildlife area for relocation of the lions.
The MP government this week submitted a proposal of Rs. 79 crore for the rehabilitation of two more villages. This was the first communication from the state forest department to the ministry after the Modi-led government took charge at the Centre.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Rules of a wildlife sanctuary decoded for forest officials.

Updated: June 5, 2014 10:27 IST
A view of the mesmerising Meghamalai.
Special Arrangement A view of the mesmerising Meghamalai.

“Keep an eye on the population of the wildlife and take pride in conservation”

Not many in Madurai know that the Regional Passport Officer S. Manishwar Raja has had a six year stint chasing lions in Gir National Park in Gujarat.
At a function organised by the State Forest Department in association with Vanam, an NGO, Mr. Raja said that “dedication” was the word to be adhered to by forest personnel in a wildlife sanctuary.
In his address to forest officials assembled here on a sensitisation drive on Tuesday evening, Mr. Raja, an IFS officer, narrated a story from his Gir days.
“One night at about 8 p.m., a lion cub was found stranded. From the time we received information, we went around looking at groups of lions to identify the group to which the cub belonged. Only at 9 a.m. the next day, we were able to locate the correct group. None in the team slept. It did not end there. We had to make sure that the cub was welcomed in that group and the mother started taking care of it. So we waited till 9 p.m. that night and left after convinced that it was a happy reunion…”
Unlike here, the biotic pressure around the Gir National Park was tremendous and the forest officials were always on the move to solve problems one after another, he said asking the wildlife officials in the Meghamalai Wildlife Sanctuary to be dedicated and on their toes to meet any emergency situation. In 2011, the State government carved out the Meghamalai Wildlife Sanctuary, nestled amidst Periyar Tiger Reserve, Cumbum and Varusanadu Valleys in Theni district.
“A dream has come true with the creation of the wildlife sanctuary. Now, the forest officials should shift their approach from target-oriented tasks to wildlife culture,” said Sanjayan Kumar, Deputy Director, Periyar Tiger Reserve.
Noting that the Periyar Tiger Reserve provided a healthy eco-system for the big cats to thrive, he said the spill-over population was bound to venture into the Meghamalai and Srivilliputhur sanctuaries in due course of time.
Camping culture
“The forests in Meghamalai sanctuary is best suited to be the home for the tigers,” he said urging the forest officials to take to ‘camping culture’ wherein the officials should camp inside the forests and keep an eye on the population of the wildlife and take pride in conservation.
“The forest officials should know each and every species in the wild in their jurisdiction and monitor their population very closely,” he said.
Theni District Forest Officer and wildlife warden of the sanctuary Sornappan and Vanam Managing Trustee Dr. C.P. Rajkumar participated.

The wild side of Nature.

Updated: June 5, 2014 18:58 IST
The girls and their mentors at Gir National Park.
  • Special Arrangement The girls and their mentors at Gir National Park.

Two Madurai girls share some amazing moments they experienced in the company of Asiatic lions at the Gir National Park

Thirteen-year-old Nethra Aravind and 12-year-old Saro Jayashree Badri show a picture of a lion, with his blood-stained mouth gaping wide revealing his teeth. You may expect them to comment on the fearful experience of encountering the wild beast, instead Nethra and Saro comment on the lighting and the composition of the photo. “The lion had just had his breakfast,” explains Saro. A few photography workshops and a recent trip to the Gir National Park have taught them the value of nature and wildlife. “This was my first trip to a forest and I absolutely enjoyed it,” says a thrilled Nethra. “I never thought I would fall so much in love with the lions. I miss them,” says Saro.
The kids were accompanied by journalist-cum-wildlife photographer Kamal Sahai from Delhi who runs an informal children’s group in Delhi called ‘Teens for Tigers’. He held a couple of photography workshops in Madurai. Wildlife enthusiast from Madurai, Nandini Murali also accompanied them. “The week-long trip has transformed the children completely. They have started to love the forest, the trees, the animals and the birds,” says Nandini.
Speaking of the Teens for Tiger group, Nandini says she wants to replicate the same in Madurai. “The workshop was an eye-opener. The children learnt basic techniques and also developed a sense of the art,” says Nandini. The ‘Teens for Tiger’ group has been going into the tiger reserve of Ranthambore and shooting picture of tigers for the past four years. “They also come up with table-top calendars with the photos. It’s a great way to sensitise the younger generation towards our forest wealth. We have started a children’s group called ‘Voices of the wild’, that will take up similar activities,” says Nandini. Their next trip has been planned to the Yala National Park in Sri Lanka in December.
Both Saro and Nethra are grateful they were allowed to go on the safari to Gir. “The first day, we couldn’t spot a lion and we were disappointed,” says Saro. “But the second safari threw a surprise as this full-grown lion came walking towards our jeep and passing close to the vehicle. We held our breath in fright and excitement.” Saro’s dad lent her his prized camera for the trip.
“The forest taught us to be observant, perseverant, patient and confident,” says Nethra. “We also learnt how the lions live as packs in harmony, how they hunt and eat and so on.”
Nandini refers to child advocacy expert Richard Louv’s Last child in the woods. “In the book he says that we live in a nature-deficit society and that our children should be saved from the disorder,” points out Nandini. “The only way out is to expose them to the beauty of nature at a younger age.”

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Western Railway to limit train speed near Asiatic Lions abode.

Updated: June 4, 2014 13:26 IST

The Gir national park and wildlife sanctuary in Western Gujarat is the only habitat for Asiatic lions. File Photo: K. R. Deepak
The Hindu The Gir national park and wildlife sanctuary in Western Gujarat is the only habitat for Asiatic lions. File Photo: K. R. Deepak

The railway authorities have also agreed to consider the demand of not running goods trains in morning and evening hours when there is more movement of lions on rail track in Amreli district

Western Railway has agreed to reduce speed of trains passing through tracks near Gir forest in Gujarat’s Amreli district to prevent accident of Asiatic lions moving in the area, a senior forest official said on Wednesday.
“The Western Railway has agreed to reduce the speed limit of goods trains on the route passing through areas of movement of Asiatic lions so that a driver can prevent an accident if lions or cubs cross the rail tracks,” Gujarat’s Chief Conservator of Forests R L Meena told PTI, after a meeting with Western Railway officials in Mumbai on Tuesday. The meeting was held in the wake of the death of six Asiatic lions of Gir forest this year in separate accidents after being run over by trains.
The railway authorities have also agreed to consider the demand of not running goods trains in morning and evening hours when there is more movement of lions on rail track in Amreli district, Mr. Meena said. They agreed to reschedule timings of running of goods trains near these rail tracks, he added.
The railway authorities have also agreed to impart training to more train drivers to sensitise them about lions, on why big cats need to be protected and what can the drivers do to ensure the safety of animals if found on tracks. The training will be imparted by forest officials, he said.
The forest department will bear the expenditure of barbed wire fencing in 30 km area on railway track in Amreli frequented by lions, while the railway will construct an under passage (running under the rail track) for enabling movement of lions and other wild animals, the official said. The lion population has steadily increased in Gir forest, more than doubling from a low of 180 in 1974 to 411 big cats, comprising 97 adult males, 162 adult females, 75 sub-adults and 77 cubs, as of April 2010, sources said.
The Gir national park and wildlife sanctuary in Western Gujarat is the only habitat for Asiatic lions.
About 100-150 lions have permanently settled in the coastal areas around Rajula and Jafrabad towns of Amreli.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Half of world's forest species at risk: UN.

Endangered Asiatic lions rest at the Gir Lion Sanctuary at Sasan in Junagadh district of Gujarat.
Story Dated: Tuesday, June 3, 2014 21:25 hrs IST 
Half of the world's forest species are at risk from climate change and farming, the United Nations (UN) warned today, as it called for "urgent action" to manage them better.
In its first global study of forest genetic resources, the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) said woodland was shrinking fastest in Brazil, Indonesia and Nigeria.
"Forests provide food, goods and services, which are essential to the survival and well-being of all humanity," the FAO's forestry director Eduardo Rojas-Briales said in a statement.
"These benefits all rely on safeguarding the rich store of the world's forest genetic diversity, which is increasingly at risk," the statement added.
The report found that around half of the 8,000 reported species and subspecies were perceived as being endangered.
The ten countries that lost the most forest area between 1990 and 2010 were Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Bolivia, Venezuela and Australia, it said.
FAO said biodiversity boosted both the productivity and nutritional value of forest products like leafy vegetables, honey, fruits, seeds, nuts, roots, tubers and mushrooms.
Genetic diversity also protects forests from pests and ensures they can "adapt to changing environmental conditions, including those stemming from climate change", the FAO said.
The FAO called for more efforts to raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity and to combat invasive species, as well as the development of national seed programmes to ensure the availability of genetically-appropriate tree seeds.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Can Big Name Philanthropists Save The Big Cats?

Ocelot--Least Concern

What happens when a billionaire shakes hands with a prince? When I interviewed billionaire mining investor Thomas Kaplan last fall about Panthera, the wild cat conservation charity he founded in 2006, he was on a mission to bring others into the fold to make a bigger impact. Panthera works around the globe to help save all 38 species of wild cats, with a focus on the big 8: tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards, snow leopards, clouded leopards, cheetahs and cougars. Kaplan and his wife Daphne Recanati Kaplan, were providing half of the charity’s $10.5 million annual budget. With more support, Panthera could do more to save the big cats and their ecosystems.
Well, Kaplan’s on a roll. He’s just announced the launch of a new global alliance bringing together big name philanthropists from India, China and the United Arab Emirates in partnership with New York-based Panthera.

The Kaplans, H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Jho Low, chief executive of Hong-Kong-based Jynwel Capital, and Hemendra Kothari, chairman of Blackrock India, each pledged $20 million over 10 years to Panthera. In terms of wildlife conservation, that’s huge. And it’s not just the charitable dollars that are involved that make it meaningful but the people who are involved who are passionate about getting results.
I chatted with Kaplan, Low and Alan Rabinowitz, Panthera’s chief executive and the world’s leading cat expert, about the ambitious plans for the alliance. “We know how to save cats; they’re very resilient,” says Rabinowitz. “What they need are champions who will stop the bleeding in terms of poaching and save their habitat from fragmentation.” The goal is to find more like-minded philanthropists around the globe to reach $200 million–just $120 million more.
The idea of the alliance began with an agreement between Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed and Kaplan. In the case of the Crown Prince, he’s building upon the legacy of the founder of the UAE, his father, who was a passionate advocate for wildlife conservation and helped save the Arabian oryx. Some of the cats he wants to target for help are the Arabian leopard and the sand cat. He is already a committed conservationist through his Species Conservation Fund whose managing director, H.E. Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, will join Panthera’s board.
Once the Crown Prince and Kaplan got together, their friend Low said he was “in” too. Conservation issues are one focus of Low’s newly formed Jynwel Charitable Foundation (he supports National Geographic’s Pristine Seas Expeditions). Low’s donation to Panthera will help ramp up funding for Asia’s second great cat after the tiger—the elusive snow leopard. Half of the world’s snow leopards are thought to live in China. Low also plans to work with Panthera to replicate in China the wildly successful wildlife conservation education program, WildCRU, that the Kaplans established at Oxford University. “We believe conservation is about education and awareness and mentoring the next generation,” Low says, adding, “Tom is my mentor, and I hope to spread the word around those my age.” (Kaplan is 51 and Low is 32.)
Kaplan says he approached Kothari last. “’If you guys are in, I’m in,’” he recalls him saying. “All of a sudden we were able to create something that’s truly special,” Kaplan says.
Kothari is already known as Mr. Tiger in India through his Wildlife Conservation Trust. The idea is to broaden the scope beyond tigers to India’s leopards, snow leopards, and the last of the Asiatic lions that live in the Gir forest. Panthera will work with the scientists at the WCT already on the ground, both learning from them, and providing best practices and technology to assist them. “The coalition is meant to break the mold in every aspect of environmental conservation,” Kaplan promises.
Announcing the global alliance to save the world's wild cats and their ecosystems through Panthera are Hemendra Kothari, Dr. Thomas Kaplan, H.E. Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, and Jho Low.
Announcing the global alliance to save the world’s wild cats and their ecosystems through Panthera are Hemendra Kothari, Thomas Kaplan, H.E. Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, and Jho Low.

Another leopard run over on highway.

RAJKOT: In yet another incident, a leopard died after being run over by a speeding vehicle near Savarkundla late on Saturday night.

According forest officials, the wild cat was run over near Sarvoday petrol pump on Savarkundla-Amreli state highway.

"We rushed to the spot and found that it was a female leopard aged around eight-years-old. She was crossing the road and was hit by a speeding vehicle. We have conducted a postmortem of the wild animal,'' said Laksmidas Bhalodiya, range forest officer, Savarkundla, Amreli district.

Sources said that this was third incident since April 1 when wild animals have died in road accident. Two leopards and two Asiatic lions have died been run over by vehicles on the highways in Amreli and Junagadh district.

Earlier, on May 16, a four-year-old male leopard was run over on Una-Kodinar highway in Junagadh district.

On April 1, two lions were run over by speeding vehicle on Bhavnagar-Somnath coastal highway. A group of lions was crossing the busy coastal highway on April 1 night near Jafarabad, but a vehicle ran over them. Both lions had died on the spot.

Moreover, at least six lions have died in rail accidents in Amreli district in last three months.

"This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. The number of wild animals dying in road accidents is increasing. Forest department must put up sign boards on all stretches where wild animals are found in good numbers,'' says Chirag Acharya, a wildlife activist from Savarkundla.

"Forest department must identify ways to put up signboards about wildlife presence and if necessary, they must construct speed breakers as well,'' Acharya said.

Govt moves Rs 27-cr plan for lion safari project in Mattewara.

Written by Divya Goyal 2 | Ludhiana | June 1, 2014 2:56 am
The ambitious Rs 27-crore plan to develop Mattewara into an open safari for visitors including a lion safari is waiting for approval. The ambitious Rs 27-crore plan to develop Mattewara into an open safari for visitors including a lion safari is waiting for approval.
Nothing more than a castle in the air, the forest department which till now has failed to maintain Tiger Safari in Ludhiana, is now aiming for Punjab’s first Lion Safari in Mattewara forests.
The ambitious Rs 27-crore plan to develop Mattewara into an open safari for visitors including a lion safari is waiting for approval and has already been submitted to Chief wildlife warden with inputs from district forest officer Daljit Singh Brar.
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This will be first Lion Safari in Punjab, the only other being in Chandigarh at Chhatbir Zoo where visitors can have a look at king of the jungle. However, the already existing Tiger Safari near Jalandhar Bypass is crying for attention of government as after death of its three tigresses last year, another one has failed to arrive.
Now only the two tigers- Mani and Deepak- roam alone waiting for a mate after death of Mohini, Elaichi and Shanti. The question also looms large that from where Punjab government will be arranging lions for proposed Lion Safari.
It is to be noted that in 2011- two Asiatic lions- Hailey and Gagan- were brought to Chhatbir and that too after CM Parkash Singh Badal pleaded then Gujarat CM and now Prime Minister Narendra Modi to send the lions for breeding purposes. While Gagan died within four months, Hailey too was diagnosed with severe liver problems few months back by doctors of Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University.
Not only this, sources confirmed that the master plan was presented in front of the central authorities asking for the sanction of Rs 5 crore for zoo and Tiger Safari way back in 2009 but nothing happened on ground. The plan includes major proposed tasks like construction of Crocodile Park, new cages for animals, recruitment of additional staff, new vans for safari, latest fencing for entire forest area, installation of new swing sets for children and new canteen to name a few.
Even in Mattewara forest area, which is almost 1900 acres – work to fence the entire land with 9 feet long walls and pillars has started few days back but encroachments done by people including some political families and problem of sand mafia are still the biggest challenges to develop a lion safari.
Meeting next week to discuss lion safari project in detail
Talking to Newsline, Dhirendra Singh, chief wildlife warden Punjab said, “We have started work to fence Mattewara forest land. The plan is to convert in into an open safari where various animals like neelgai, sambhar, deers etc can be viewed. Lion Safari is another part and total project costs around Rs 27 crore.” Asked about availability of lions, he said, “We are yet to decide from where lions will be procured but it is too early to say that. First the fencing alone with take more than a year.” Asked about pathetic state of Tiger safari he said, “I agree that there are only two tigers in Ludhiana safari but they are under examination from doctors to ascertain if they are suffering from any infection due to which three other tigresses died. Once it is confirmed that  they are well, we will think of getting mate for them but currently there are no plans.” District forest officer, Daljit Singh Brar too confirmed to Newsline that ‘a meeting will be held next week to discuss Mattewara lion safari project in detail.’ Meanwhile, Dr Sandeep Jain, from Animal Welfare Board of India, said, “Lion safari is not an easy task especially for Punjab government which has failed to maintain tiger safari. Lions live in pride and need proper care and facilities. Gujarat was not ready to send lions to Punjab even in 2011 but somehow we got them but failed to keep them properly. The first priority of government should be to get tigresses for already existing Safari which is in ruins.”     ENS

Bliss of a dog's kiss.

Vikram Jit Singh, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, May 31, 2014
First Published: 21:37 IST(31/5/2014) | Last Updated: 09:32 IST(1/6/2014)

Were one to pen a nippy ode to the passions of the urbane stray dog advocacy groups, it would perhaps run something like this: More barks less bytes, Ignorance is bliss, When sealed, With a dog's kiss! Indeed, such activists bristle with rage at the suggestion of wildlife field researchers that free-ranging dogs be removed from jungles as they adversely bear upon wild creatures.

dogs, bark, news, hindustantimes
Dog hounds a wild boar at Banni in Kutch, Gujarat. Chetan Misher photo

Activists holler that humans have displaced dogs from their natural habitats. Some activists offer the lame-duck solution of sterilisations and vaccinations without realising how ineffective these measures are in controlling these virtually unowned killer dogs that roam the wilderness. But what exactly is the scientific profiling and evolutionary history of such dogs? Dogs (Canis familiaris) are the world's most common carnivores, and have been introduced by humans everywhere.
Abi Tamim Vanak, PhD, and a fellow at both the National Environmental Sciences Programme, MOEF, and Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation, ATREE, Bangalore, answered my query thus: "The most recent evidence points out that wolves and modern domestic dogs shared a common ancestor. There is nothing genetically unique about free-ranging dogs in India. They do not form a distinct subclade, and there is very little evidence for such a thing as an Indian native dog.
They are part of the same clade as seen all over Western Europe, Asia etc. Domestic dogs are commensals of humans, and are heavily subsidised by humans in terms of direct feeding, garbage, human waste, and livestock carcasses. Thus, they occur at unnaturally high densities for a medium-sized predator. If there was a situation, wherein truly feral dogs (that received no subsidy from humans) survived by hunting wild prey in areas where there were no longer wild carnivores, then dogs would be filling a niche. However, there are very rare cases of this in the world. The only large-scale case, where dogs have gone feral and become a part of the ecosystem, is the Dingos in Australia, but not before Dingos themselves played a part in the extirpation of some marsupial carnivores."

One of the finest photo-documentation's of free-ranging dogs killing wild animals is the one by Vickey Chauhan. He came upon a neelgai (Blue bull) that was being savaged by dogs from a nearby village at the Indroda Nature Park, Gandhinagar (Gujarat). Chauhan had gone to click migratory birds when he saw the neelgai cornered in the water.

dog, hindustantimes
Vickey Chauhan Photo
"It was like a cow's calf screaming in agony and helplessness. The dogs were tearing away the flesh even as the neelgai was alive.
I summoned help as I feared the dogs would attack me as they looked strong and blood-thirsty. There were about five dogs in the water and seven waited outside. As reinforcements arrived, we were able to chase away the dogs. The injured neelgai staggered away but we saw the dogs had got it later and were eating it," recounts Chauhan. The dogs were habituated to killing wild animals. The park's staff, as is the case with forest officials in many other wilderness areas of India, are resigned to the dogs' predation and do little to stop this.

Wildlife researchers cite well-documented cases of dogs posing hazards to global wildlife as they are carriers of diseases.

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Vickey Chauhan Photo

In Issue 7.4 of the journal, Current Conservation, the eminent veterinarian, Aniruddha V Belsare, writes: "Dog-transmitted rabies poses a conservation threat. Introduction of canine rabies resulted in the local extinction of African wild dog populations in the Serengeti-Mara system (Tanzania/Kenya) in 1989; similar spillover events have resulted in dramatic population declines of the Ethiopian wolf population in the 1990s. Several other multi-host pathogens can also persist in large dog populations.
Dogs have been implicated as a source of canine parvovirus (CPV), contributing to Grey wolf mortality on Isle Royale, and as a potential source of canine adenovirus (CAV) transmitted to Maned wolves in Bolivia. The most infamous canine distemper virus (CDV) epidemic occurred in the Serengeti in 1994, wiping out a third of all lions and many hyenas, leopards and bat-eared foxes. Several other species, including African wild dogs, Caspian sea seals and Lake Baikal seals, have also experienced high mortality rates as a result of CDV introduced from dogs. Domestic dogs may be the source of CDV infections that have recently been reported to impact endangered Amur tigers living in the Russian Far East." We can only shudder at the effect were such doggy diseases to hit the Asiatic lion in its lone bastion of the Gir forests.

Guj forest deptt, WR to discuss lion accidents on rail tracks.

Press Trust of India  |  Vadodara 
Last Updated at 14:01 IST
In view of the recent death of six Asiatic lions of 's Gir forest after being run over by trains, officials of state forest department and will meet in tomorrow to discuss the issue.

"The high-level meeting with General Manager of Western Railway in Mumbai follows after a series of local-level meetings on conservation of lions held in past couple of months failed to resolve issues raised by the forest department of Gujarat government," state Chief Conservator of forests R L Meena told PTI today.

The local level meetings were held in Bhavnagar soon after some Asiatic lions were run over by goods trains near Amreli in Gujarat since January this year, he said.

According to sources, the forest department wants railway authorities not to run goods trains on rail track in Amreli district in morning and evening as there is more movement of lions there during these periods.

The officials have also suggested to reduce the speed limit of goods trains on this route to 30-40km/hr, which at present is about 100 km/hr, sources said.

With lesser speed, a goods train driver can stop or reduce the speed on seeing lions or cubs crossing the railway tracks, it has been further suggested.

The forest department recently imparted training to 82 train drivers to sensitise them about lions, on why the big cats need to be protected and what can the drivers do to ensure the safety of animals if found on tracks, Meena said.

Apart from reducing the train speed, the forest department has also suggested barbed wire fencing in 30 kms area on the railway track which is frequented by lions and construction of under passage (a passage running under the railway tack) for enabling movement of lions and other wild animals, he said.

About 100-150 lions have permanently settled in the coastal areas around Rajula and Jafrabad towns of Amreli.

Gir wildlife sanctuary houses about 411 Asiatic lions and is the sole home for these big cats.