Friday, October 31, 2014

Lioness dead.

Friday , October 31 , 2014
Lucknow, Oct. 30: An Asiatic lioness that was undergoing treatment at a breeding centre in Uttar Pradesh for some mysterious ailments died this morning, a government release this.
“Lakshmi... died of multi-organ and cardio-respiratory failures,” the release said. Another ailing Asiatic lion, Vishnu, is still under treatment. The lions are of the same breed as six lions that the Gujarat government had gifted to Uttar Pradesh in 2012.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Akhilesh battles leonine challenge.

Lucknow: If Vishnu and Lakshmi pull through this crisis, it would be because some men had proposed — and determined — that they should live.

For those who believe man is the master of this universe, Vishnu and Lakshmi are no gods but a lion and lioness taken ill at a breeding centre in Uttar Pradesh. Nobody, not even veterinary experts, can tell what the two are suffering from.

Both have symptoms of paralysis, but it’s not only their distressed roar that is ringing in chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s ears. It’s the barbed words of another man that has hit him hard too.

The Asiatic lions — under treatment for over a month now — are of the same breed as six lions that the Gujarat government, then headed by Narendra Modi, had gifted to Uttar Pradesh in 2012.

Earlier this year, Modi had taken a dig at Akhilesh for caging the lions when they should have been roaming at a safari park coming up in the Samajwadi leader’s home district Etawah. The park is not ready yet, so the two lions had been kept in Kanpur zoo for over a year before being moved to the breeding centre with the six others, where they fell ill.

The state government has now sought help from London’s Zoo Society and the Born Free Foundation, UK, named after the 1966 film Born Free, where a lioness, Elsa, is reintroduced to the wild.

Sources said Modi’s comments had made Akhilesh wild too. “Your chief minister asked for lions from me,” Modi had told a rally in Bareilly ahead of the summer national elections. “We gave his government lions. We had hoped his officials would demonstrate some boldness in running the government after seeing the lions. But they could not handle the Gujarat lions. The lions had to be caged.”

That wasn’t all. India’s future Prime Minister then went on to invite Akhilesh’s father, Samajwadi chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, to visit Gir “to see how lions roam freely”.

That was in April, when the two lions — brought from Hyderabad Zoo, which had got them from Gir forest in Gujarat — were still in the Kanpur zoo. Akhilesh had hit back, saying the comment was uncalled for as the lions had been gifted as a “political courtesy”.

Then, in September, the lions fell ill.

Official sources said the challenge for the state government now was not only to save the two but also its image. They said Akhilesh, who last week visited the safari park — being built on the lines of Britain’s Longleat Safari and Adventure Park — instructed wildlife officials to take help from international experts.

“We have interacted with experts from the Born Free Foundation and sent the medical reports of the lions. We are in touch with the Zoo Society too. It is a big challenge to save the two and we have gone all out,” Rupak De, chief wildlife warden, Uttar Pradesh, told The Telegraph today.

“The two cannot move, their appetite is decreasing. What they are actually suffering from is not known. The symptoms are that of paralysis and viral infection. We have consulted all the leading vets in the country, including those from the Indian Veterinary Research Institute in Bareilly. As a last resort, we have approached the Born Free Foundation.”

Etawah Lion Safari director K.K. Singh said the two, “now inmates of a captivity centre at Etawah, have been segregated”.

Some veterinary experts said inbreeding within fragmented lion populations could be to blame for the illness.

- The Telegraph, Calcutta

High air fares force Amdavadis to hit road this Diwali.


AHMEDABAD: As the Diwali weekend approaches, air fares are touching new highs. With plane seats getting fewer or almost booked, Amdavadis are planning to take road trips to nearby locations to beat the out of reach air travel. The fares for regular as well as holiday destinations are almost 10-12 times higher over the Diwali weekend than what they are otherwise. This has forced people to take short road trips with their families to destinations such as Mount Abu, Gir-Somnath, Diu and Udaipur among others.

"Like in the US where families go for short trips over the weekend, people here too are taking that route to make the most of the holidays. It is not only cheaper, but one also gets to explore different areas and families spend more time together," said Manish Sharma, city-based tour operator.

Destinations like Gir-Somnath-Diu and Mount Abu-Udaipur are being preferred the most by Amdavadis for 5-day weekend starting Thursday. "Every year, I along with my family go for holidays once we are done with Lakshmi Puja on Diwali. This year I am going to Pavagadh and Saputara. Some of my friends have opted for nearby destinations in Rajasthan," said Deven Patel, businessman.
"All the hotels in the city, especially 3-star and above are almost booked. More than 60% of the crowd that will be coming here is from Gujarat only," said Sanjay Singhal, a hotelier in Mount Abu.

With Gir forest also opening up, many people are taking wildlife tours coupled with trip to Somnath temple and Diu.

Some people who were unable to get bookings in hotels have rented out farm houses for 5-6 days. "I am going with my extended family to Mount Abu and also taking my cook along with me. We have booked a farm house so that the whole family can stay together and have some great time," said Harshil Patel, a businessman.

Mother's pride as cub joins zoo baby boom.

Wayne O'Connor

Published 23/10/2014 | 02:30
The new lion explores the lion enclosure at Dublin Zoo
The new lion explores the lion enclosure at Dublin Zoo
DUBLIN Zoo's baby boom has continued - with the latest member of its lion pride being unveiled.
The cub made her first public appearance yesterday alongside her mum Sita, after she was born in August.
The as yet unnamed Asian lion is considered significant to an international breeding programme for the endangered species.
Currently, there are only 350 Asian lions in the wild - all of which live in the Gir Forest in India.
This new arrival is the second female cub to be delivered at the zoo this year after another, Kuno, arrived there in May. A male cub was also born there in August.
Team leader at Dublin Zoo Ciaran McMahon said the new addition is doing well.
"At two months old, she now weighs an estimated 6kg and has developed a strong bond with mum Sita," he said. "We are excited to see how the relationship between the female cub and Kuno develops."
The zoo is inviting the public to help name the new arrival. Suggestions can be submitted through its Facebook page.
The lion is the ninth arrival at the zoo since May - following a Rothschild giraffe, a Goeldi's monkey, two meerkat pups, three elephants and a zebra foal.
Sita came to Dublin from Mulhouse Zoo in France in 2012 as part of the lion breeding programme, while "experienced father" Kuman came from a zoo in Rotterdam last year.
Mr McMahon said: "These lions are endangered and it is of great conservation importance that zoos maintain a viable population of Asian lions."
Irish Independent

Forest department orders study of fluorosis among lions.

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat forest department has taken up a study on fluorosis among the lions in Lathi Liliya area. Anand Veterinary Institute has been entrusted with the task. The department decided to take up the study following a finding by two doctors, Dr Jalpan Rupara and Dr Purvesh Kacha.

The doctors in their report, "Ecology of Lions in Greater Gir Landscape," had cited ailments plaguing humans and lions alike. The report revealed that in Amreli, a region with contaminated ground water, both humans and lions seem to be victims of fluorosis — a disease characterized by tooth decay and deterioration of bones and joints due to high content of fluoride in ground water.

Forest officials said that after the issue was highlighted, the department decided to carry out a study of the fluorosis in the area. The officials said that the lions are being supplied with water through tankers. "We are examining post-mortem reports of the deaths from the area, monitoring the decaying of bones and scrutinizing the number of teeth found on dead lions."

"In case of lions, the water is supplied through tankers and no underground water is being used. If the study concludes that the lions are suffering from fluorosis, a management plan will be drawn up," said C N Pandey, chief wildlife warden.

The doctors undertook the study in 250 sq km of Lathi Liliya area having a population of 40 lions, which threw up surprising findings.

"Out of eight lions studied, tooth decay was found in three. One lion has lost all but two of the 26 teeth, second has lost four and third has lost three. These lions were not reported to have met any accidents. This is intriguing as lions are not recorded to lose teeth in their lifetime. Minor deformities in bones were also recorded," said Dr Jalpan Rupara, a radiologist.

TUI India to focus more on tier-II, III cities.

Tour operator TUI India sees greater business opportunity in tier-2 and tier-3 cities in the country. The company plans to increase its presence from current six to 15 stores by the end of next year, informed a top company official here.
Speaking at the launch of its Ahmedabad store, Vishal Sinha, Chief Operating Officer, TUI India said, “Gujarat is currently one of the fastest developing states of our country and we have seen a rise in the number of Gujaratis travelling abroad for their holidays. Research has shown that over 30 per cent of Indian tourists are Gujaratis.”
The company, an Indian arm of international leisure travel group, TUI Travel PLC will also focus on local tourism. “About 30 per cent of our business comes from domestic travel. And with states focusing more on developing their local tourism spots, we see this business to grow more,” Sinha told BusinessLine. He mentioned that India’s outbound tourism is expected to witness a jump in summers with tourists’ traffic likely to increase by about 15 to 20 per cent.
Encouraged by Gujarat government’s travel promotion under Khusbu Gujarat ki, several tourist spots are set to emerge as short-trip holiday destinations. “We are developing packages for domestic travel of Rann of Kutch and blackbuck sanctuary for travel packages.” Within India TUI offers tour packages in Kashmir, Rajasthan and Kerala besides Gujarat.
Interestingly, a study conducted by trade body, Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham) recently revealed that tourist spots in Gujarat and Rajasthan like Ambaji temple, Gir forest, Kutch, Udaipur and Mount Abu besides Daman & Diu, Dadra & Nagar Haveli are being preferred as a getaway destinations. Working couples from cities are increasingly flocking to such destinations for a quick holiday.
TUI, which started Indian operations in 2006 is also eyeing travellers from India rushing for abroad trip. Quoting an industry report, Sinha mentioned that India has emerged as the world's fastest-growing outbound market and in absolute numbers it is second only to China. “The number of Indians travelling overseas is set to rise from around 15 million today to 50 million by 2020. It states that 67 per cent of outbound travellers are from Western India, mainly Gujarat and Maharashtra,” he said.
Correction: The percentage share of TUI India's business from domestic travel has been changed from 70 per cent to 30 per cent
(This article was published on October 10, 2014)

Narendra Modi appealed to send Gir lions to Madhya Pradesh.

BHOPAL: Prime Minister Narendra has been appealed to send Gir lions to Madhya Pradesh in compliance of the Supreme Court order.

In a letter faxed to Modi, a day before his scheduled visit at Indore for inaugural session of Global Investors Summit (GIS), wildlife activist Ajay Dubey said that Madhya Pradesh government will take care of lions like they had been taking care of families who migrated from Kutch (Gujarat) and settled around Kuno wildlife sanctuary in Sheopur district.

"Forest department has given land rights to the Kutch migrants. Gir lions will also get the best care here," said Dubey adding that Supreme Court has already dismissed Gujarat government's curative petition against shifting Gir lions to Kuno in Madhya Pradesh and there is no other option other than shifting it.

The Gujarat government under Modi opposed the transfer tooth and nail in an eight-year legal battle.

Recently, three-judge bench headed by CJI R M Lodha rejected the curative petition filed by Gujarat government against apex court's April 15, 2013, verdict allowing shifting of lions from Gir to Kuno.

London Zoo Is Building A New Home For Lions.

All images (c) ZSL
London Zoo is building a new, £5.2million lion exhibit, with the aim of breeding extremely endangered Asiatic lions.
Land of the Lions is set to open in Spring 2016, and at 2,500sqm, the lions’ den will be more than five times the size of the current lion space at the zoo.
Although we reckon captivity isn’t exactly comparable to being in the wild, ZSL says zookeepers and conservationists have been heavily involved in planning the exhibit, “to ensure that the welfare and needs of the animals are at the forefront of the design”.
The new design will feature a mock Indian village and enable visitors to get up close to the big cats. The aim is to highlight the often fraught relationship between humans and lions in the wild, as the animals’ natural habitat is moved into by humans.
It’s all part of ZSL’s ongoing Lions400 campaign, a conservation project which aims to protect the Asiatic lion species. Only 400 remain in the wild, in a small section of the Gir Forest in India, with poaching and disease posing a major threat to the survival of the species.
In advance of the building work, Lucifer, the zoo’s male lion, was moved to a new home at Paignton Zoo earlier in the year:

African Lions knocking on the Door of Extinction.

African Lions knocking on the Door of Extinction
On Monday, the US Fish and Wildlife service revealed that African lions are facing threat of extinction and may be wiped out soon. The department has recommended listing the African lion under endangered species act to give maximum protection.
A new rule has also been proposed by the state department to save the African lion. If the rule gets approved, selling products related to hunting of lions in United States without prior permit will be a criminal activity. The rule is not applied to zoos.
In the United States, sports hunting is very popular and the hunters import the lions killed in Africa as trophies, according to a report. The report also states that sports personnel from the US hunt maximum lions, elephants and rhinoceros in Africa.

The reason behind the decline in population of African lion is the loss of habitat, human conflict and poaching. In 1980, the population of African lion in Africa was recorded to be more than 76,000 and now it has reduced to 30,000.
Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Dan Ashe, said that the population of lion is decreasing. If no urgent action is taken, they will become endangered in the foreseeable future.
"It is up to all of us, not just the people of Africa, to ensure that healthy, wild populations continue to roam the savannah for generations to come", he added.
According to Ashe, African lions are normally violent than Asiatic lions and measure 4.5 to 6.5 feet in length and the length of the tail is measured to be 20 to 40 inches long.
By listing a species as endangered, the service said that it could provide benefits mainly by prohibiting activities including import, export, interstate commerce, commercial activity, and foreign commerce.

Experts to be consulted for ailing Asiatic lions.

Experts from around the globe will now be consulted for the treatment of the ailing Asiatic lions in the Etawah Lion Safari, which is the dream project of UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.
The lions, named Vishnu and Laxmi, were brought in from other states for the Lion safari project but have been seriously ill since the past one month. The lions have been partially paralysed, are unable to walk and have now almost stopped eating.
The veterinary doctors attending on the lions and the reports of the test samples from the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) in Bareilly found that the lions had been infected by rat urine.
In an official statement issued by the state information department, a forest official said that experts from the Veterinary College Mathura, the Junagarh zoo and from Gujarat and Bear rescue Centre in Agra are being consulted on the line of treatment being given to the ailing big cats.
The opinion of experts from the Zoo Society London and Born Free Foundation in the United Kingdom was also being sought.
“A round the clock vigil is being maintained by veterinary doctors in the Lion safari in Etawah on the condition of the lions and the chief minister is also being regularly informed of the developments,” said the official.
Vishnu and Laxmi were brought from Gujarat and kept in the Kanpur zoo from where they were shifted to the Lion safari in September.

Beware of lion: Threat that keeps intruders away in Greater Gir.

AHMEDABAD : In the Greater Gir, lions are not only tolerated by humans, but it appears that humans in the area also assiduously cultivate the company of the magnificent beasts. It turns out that the lions' special place in the human scheme of things owes to their capacity to be security guards who ward off blue bulls and wild boars, animals which can destroy fields if given a free run.

These facts emerged from a study, 'Ecology of Lions in Greater Gir Landscape', carried out by two doctors — Jalpan C Rupapara and Purvesh K Kacha. They have pointed out the burgeoning population of blue bulls in the Greater Gir area is a major threat to the fields. But when lions are around, farmers do not have to bother about either the blue bulls or indeed the wild boars.

Interestingly, the villagers also consider lions to be wildlife showpieces and call their friends and relatives from adjacent talukas and villages for big cat shows.

In 2009, a lioness and four cubs strayed into Gondal following heavy rains and were marooned. They were rescued and caged in the Sakarbaugh Zoo. The residents were so exercised by the capture that they launched an agitation and forced the forest department to release the lions in the same area. Such is the attachment, altruistic or not, that the villagers feel towards the lions.

The human-beast bonhomie is broken only when the lions are disturbed. In fact, the report states that lion attacks almost always happen when the animals are teased. However, the truth is never revealed by the victims of such attacks because illegal lion shows organized by local residents are the primary cause of irritation for the lions.

Gir draws 81% more visitors this season.

AHMEDABAD: The extended Diwali vacation saw a record 81% jump in the number of tourists in the Gir Sanctuary, the last abode of the Asiatic Lion. Around 24,000 tourists visited Gir Sanctuary over the four-day Diwali period starting October 23 this year, an increase of 10,800 tourists in comparison to same period last year.

On Sunday, more than 8,800 people came to visit the king of the jungle on a single day, a record in itself. Principal chief conservator, wildlife for Gujarat, C N Pandey, said that this was their busiest festive season as people flocked in the thousands to spot the lions. What's more, almost 100% bookings for the jungle safari were done online. Even for Devaliya safari 50% bookings were done online.

"In the four days surrounding Diwali festivities, 81% more visitors came to Gir. The greater tourist pull is the lions and a large number of cubs, which can be spotted all over the sanctuary. In case of Devaliya safari there is always 100% chance of spotting a lion," added Pandey.

Like last year, this time too, 150 permits were granted each day, relaxing the 90 permit limit observed on the regular days, to manage the heavy tourist rush. "More than 1000 tourists went for Devaliya safari each day on all four days while rest of the tourists went in for jungle safari," said Pandey who is also chief wildlife warden of Gujarat.

High air fares force Amdavadis to hit road this Diwali.

AHMEDABAD: As the Diwali weekend approaches, air fares are touching new highs. With plane seats getting fewer or almost booked, Amdavadis are planning to take road trips to nearby locations to beat the out of reach air travel. The fares for regular as well as holiday destinations are almost 10-12 times higher over the Diwali weekend than what they are otherwise. This has forced people to take short road trips with their families to destinations such as Mount Abu, Gir-Somnath, Diu and Udaipur among others.

"Like in the US where families go for short trips over the weekend, people here too are taking that route to make the most of the holidays. It is not only cheaper, but one also gets to explore different areas and families spend more time together," said Manish Sharma, city-based tour operator.

Destinations like Gir-Somnath-Diu and Mount Abu-Udaipur are being preferred the most by Amdavadis for 5-day weekend starting Thursday. "Every year, I along with my family go for holidays once we are done with Lakshmi Puja on Diwali. This year I am going to Pavagadh and Saputara. Some of my friends have opted for nearby destinations in Rajasthan," said Deven Patel, businessman.

"All the hotels in the city, especially 3-star and above are almost booked. More than 60% of the crowd that will be coming here is from Gujarat only," said Sanjay Singhal, a hotelier in Mount Abu.

With Gir forest also opening up, many people are taking wildlife tours coupled with trip to Somnath temple and Diu.

Some people who were unable to get bookings in hotels have rented out farm houses for 5-6 days. "I am going with my extended family to Mount Abu and also taking my cook along with me. We have booked a farm house so that the whole family can stay together and have some great time," said Harshil Patel, a businessman.

4-year-old lion electrocuted near Mahuva.

RAJKOT: Yet another lion died an unnatural death on Wednesday when it was electrocuted near Mahuva town of Bhavnagar district.

Sources said the body of the four-year-old male lion was found clinging to a fence on the border of a research farm of Junagadh Agricultural University and the one belonging to Sufiyan Gafar Halani of Vaghnagar village located at a distance of 5km from Mahuva. Forest officials said that they will register a case in the matter once the postmortem report arrives. Sources said that farmers put up electric fences to ward off animals like Neelgai and wild boar that destroy their crops. These fences also claim the lives of lions at times.

In-charge deputy conservator of forest at Bhavnagar division Jivraj Rokad said the carcass of lion was found near the fence wire and the postmortem was conducted at Animal Rescue Centre at Ranigala.

"Primarily we have concluded that the big cat died of electrocution. We have taken viscera samples for forensic examination. We are now investigating the source of electric supply to the wire and who did it,'' Rokad added.

As many as 12 lions have died due to unnatural causes since January 2014 in Bhavnagar, Amreli and Junagadh districts of Saurashtra.

This is the second incident of a lion dying an unnatural death in the Mahuva forest range. Earlier, a female cub of about five months had died after falling into an open well in Mota Pipaliya village. Lions have settled in Mahuva's Ranigala forest area for the last 14 years.

According to the lion census of 2010, there were 411 Asiatic lions in Gir forest and its adjoining areas. In the last five years, 261 lions have died and many of them have met an unnatural end.

Nandankanan Zoo to Add Four Lions to Its Pride.

BHUBANESWAR: With its existing pride of lions old and way past breeding age, the Nandankanan Zoological Park is all set to procure two pairs of the large cats from Karnataka’s Bannerghatta National Park.
In exchange, the city zoo will send four pairs of barking deer, four Open Billed Storks, two pairs of Jungle Cats and three four-horned antelopes (one male, two female) to the Karnataka park.
The programme, which has received the nod of the Central Zoo Authority (CZA), is likely to be completed in a couple of weeks. The two pairs of mixedbreed lions are expected to give a boost to Nandankanan’s plan of reviving its fast-dwindling lion population.
Currently, it is left with just five lions of its old population, including two male and three female. But, all of them are 16 years and above, rendering the big cats unfit for breeding.
The situation was completely reverse 20 years ago. The zoo boasted of a pride of 54 lions so much so that housing them had emerged a problem even though Nandankanan has a safari dedicated to the felines.
Nandankanan gave away a number of its lions - mostly a cross between Asiatic and African sub-species - as gifts to other zoos because of over-crowding.
The last lion birth recorded in Nandankanan was in 2004. Though the zoo authorities had attempted breeding during that period, the efforts bore no fruit. In 2004-05, as many as 10 cubs were born but none survived beyond six months - inbreeding is believed to have weakened their gene pool.
Now with its Lion Safari - spread over 20 hectares - wearing a deserted a look, Nandaknanan is out to resurrect its population.
Last year, the zoo brought in a pair of Asiatic lions from Gujarat’s Junagarh. Earlier this year, it successfully convinced the Zoological Centre of Ramat Gan in Tel Aviv district of Israel for a pair of African lions apart from zebras as gifts.
“The process for getting the lions from Israel is being expdited. We are hopeful that Nandankanan will have a sustainable lion population soon,” Zoo Director Dr Sudarshan Panda said.

Indian lions losing their bite.

Indian lions losing their bite

Asiatic lions in the wild generally have good tooth health so when a group of doctors undertook a survey including medicals of lions in the Gir region of India they were surprised to see tooth decay. They also found minor bone deformities and officials are now looking into whether the water provided is contaminated with fluoride.
Two doctors, Dr Jalpan Rupara and Dr Purvesh Kacha., produced a report, Ecology of Lions in Greater Gir Landscape, that highlighted that both lions and humans appeared to be suffering from fluorosis. The study area was Lathi Liliya which has a lion population of about 40 lions.
Eight lions were examined and three were found to be suffering from tooth decay and some lions were also suffering from mild bone deformities. One lion that was examined only had 2 of its 26 teeth still remaining. A second lion had lost 4 teeth and a third lion had lost 3 teeth.
Forest officials in Lathi Liliya have launched a special investigation and study to be overseen by the Anand Veterinary Institute  to try to find the cause of the decay and bone deformities. If it seems that fluorosis is to blame than the officials have said that lion management policy will need to change.
The lions rely on water brought in by tanker and do not have access to any ground water. This could mean that the water being brought in to the region could have high levels of fluoride.
The forest study will keep an eye on the lions in the area and will monitor reports of bone deformities in lions and will also undertake post-mortem studies of any dead lions found to determine if fluorosis is present.
C N Pandey, chief wildlife warden of the region has said that if fluorosis is found then his department will make changes to lion management plans.

Gujarat through stamps.

AHMEDABAD : Philately, considered to be king of collection hobbies, has given the state much to be happy about. While Gujarat's erstwhile state of Sorath (Junagadh), was among the first princely states to issue postal stamp, today the state has around 5,000 philatelists who boast of one of the biggest and perhaps one of the most valuable collections of postal stamps in India.

Mainak Kathiara, president emeritus of Gujarat Philatelists Association, said that they are trying to take the hobby to the next generation. "We believe that the stamps are pleasure for the collectors and treasure for their descendents due to the value they generate both emotionally and financially. We also believe that the stamps are an important educational tool due to the vast range of subjects it covers," he said.

As the celebration of National Postal Week continues among the enthusiasts, here is how Gujarat has been seen by postal stamps and stationary.

When Rajpipla stamps were printed in Germany

Ilyas Patel, a city-based chronicler of philately, mentions in his book Gujarat: A State of Enriched Philately that out of 366 princely states of Gujarat, seven - Idar, Jasdan, Morvi, Nawanagar (Jamnagar), Rajpipla, Sorath (Junagadh) and Wadhwan - had issued postal stamps between 1864 and 1948. Likewise, four states - Morvi, Rajkot, Rajpipla and Sorath - issued postal stationary such as covers and post cards.

Patel mentions that while most of the states gave orders for printing to press based in state or institutions such as India Security Press at Nasik, Rajpipla used to get its stationary printed in Germany. Sorath issued state's first postal stamp in 1864 whereas Rajpipla issued state's first inland letter card in 1875. Rajkot only issued postal stationary and interestingly it had to be signed by the judge of the district and sessions court before use.

Soon after independence, the state saw formation of United States of Saurashtra. The short-lived entity is known as a curious case in philately as even after independence in 1947, the postal system of the state continued functioning till March 30, 1950 with own stamps and stationary due to handover issues.

Rani ki Vav on cancellation mark, Whale Shark on First Day Cover

Cancellation marks, also known as postmarks, provide the receiver with a token from the place of origin of the letter.

"So far, the state has seen its icons such as Asiatic Lion, Flamingo, Sun Temple of Modhera, Hridaykunj, Krishna Temple at Dwarka, the Sidi Syed jali, Alfred High School of Rajkot, Jain idols from Palitana and Sardar Sarovar Dam on cancellation marks. Rani ki Vav that has recently been announced as World Heritage Site, has also been used as pictorial cancellation by Patan post office since 2002," he said.

Similarly, a number of important events have been marked by issuance of First Day Cover, a commemorative postal stationary. Some of the institutions and events covered include 25 years of satellite broadcasting (ISRO), Charkha with quotes from Mahatma Gandhi, 100 years of Gandhi Ashram, Vhali- the whale shark, Dutch tombs of Surat, 50 years of Gujarat, Bird Feeder of Ahmedabad and Lakshmi Vilas Palace.

Gujarat on the stamps

As per chroniclers, till 2011 the India Post has released 142 stamps that have Gujarati personality, flora and fauna or thematic representations. Some of the Gujaratis who have been immortalized on the postal stamps include Narsinh Mehta, Dr Vikram Sarabhai, Jam Ranjitsinh, poet Nanalal, Mahadev Desai, Ravishankar Maharaj, Kanaiyalal Munshi, Sayajirao Gaekwad, Ravishankar Maharaj, Indulal Yagnik and Balvantrai Mehta.

The Dandi March of 1930 has been of great interest among philatelists. It has been commemorated on its 50th and 75th anniversaries with special sets of postal stamps. When GUJPEX was organized in Vadodara in 2011, the Gujarat circle of India Post had come out with a unique set of 22 specially cancelled postcards on Dandi March.

Asiatic Lion, Great Indian Bustard, two Gujarati cow breeds - Kankreji and Gir, Kathiawari Horse, Black Buck, Kite Festival, Rathwa painting, Shatrunjay temples, Somnath temple, Harappan seal, Patola from Patan, bronze artifact from Baroda Museum, embroidery from Kutch and an elephant statue from Kutch museum have also found place on the postal stamps. Several Gujaratis have also got their designs printed on stamps.

At lion rescue centre, cubs yanked out of cage by visitors.

MAHUVA (BHAVNAGAR ): Lions are not safe in reserved forests too!

A family not only got access into the reserved forest area of Ranigala near Mahuva but also managed to take out lion cubs from the rescue cages to play with them. One of the family members posted the pictures of his family playing with the cubs on the social networking site.

The photos, which are in TOI possession, show that the cubs were brought out of the cages into the open area. Sources said that lion cubs were rescued by forest department after they were abandoned by lioness in the forest. Other photos show that a woman and a man playing with two cubs inside the animal rescue enclosures in the forest.

Asiatic Lion is protected under schedule one category under Wildlife Protection Act-1972, the highest protection given to wild animal in the country.

When contacted, deputy conservator of forests, Bhavnagar, KS Randhawa said, "If this is true, it is extremely alarming and I will look into this matter. We will take action against those persons who are found responsible for this."

Sources said that this could be among the most alarming incidents of how people have easy access to lions even in reserve forest areas. No wonder, this is the same area, from where 10-month-old lion cub had gone missing in April 2012 and forest department is yet to trace it.

In April 2011, a lion was electrocuted at Valar village in Mahuva range. When the carcass was found, the claws were missing. Four persons were arrested in the connection but forest officials have not found the claws.

Sources said that human danger is always lurking for lions in Ranigala. During holidays and sometimes weekends, large number get unauthorized access to the area and they come with SUVs and cars. Sources also said that people freely move behind the lions in their cars.

According to the last census, there were 411 lions in the sanctuary and of this, 33 were in Bhavnagar district, mostly in Mahuva range. Over a decade ago, lions from Gir forest migrated towards Mahuva and have settled here permanently.

Open wells claim 2 lion cubs in Mahuva.

RAJKOT: In yet another instance of lions falling prey to unnatural causes, two cubs died after falling into open wells at separate locations on Tuesday.

Sources said that a five-month-old female cub fell into a well in Mota Pipaliya village of Mahuva taluka in Bhavnagar district. Forest department officials rushed to the spot but could not save the animal. Sources said that this was the first instance of a lion cub dying after a fall into a well in Mahuva area. Lions have settled in Mahuva's Ranigala area for the last 14 years.

In second instance, a three-month-old male died after falling into a well in Zujarpur village of Veraval taluka in Gir-Somnath district. Sources said that open wells in Junagadh, Amreli and Bhavnagar are now turning into death traps for lions that are spread over 1,100 villages in these districts.Lion census carried out in 2010 put the strength of Asiatic lions in Gir forests and its adjoining areas at 411. However, in the last five years, around 260 lions have died, many of them meeting an unnatural end. Sources said 11 lions have died unnatural deaths since January 2014 in Saurashtra region.

Mysore zoo gets new residents.

National » Karnataka

Shankar Bennur

They arrived from Arignar Anna Zoological Park in Chennai

Tourists holidaying in Mysore may get to see new species of animals and birds, which were added to the existing collection at the century-old zoo.
Animals and birds arrived here on Wednesday from the Arignar Anna Zoological Park in Chennai, one of the biggest Indian zoos, under an animal exchange programme.
Thanks to the Dasara vacation, the zoo here is witnessing heavy rush and the new arrivals can be a treat to watch.
A male and two female Nilgiri langurs; two male and two female reticulated pythons, and two male peacocks arrived from the zoo in Chennai here on Wednesday. The exchange of animals between two major Indian zoos was approved by the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) recently.
Chief Conservator of Forests and Mysore zoo Executive Director B.P. Ravi said the zoo has agreed to handover five species of animals and birds to the Arignar zoo as part of the exchange programme.
Two male and two female black swans; a male Indian grey wolf; a pair of red-necked wallaby; two male and one female Brow antlered deer, and a female swamp deer would be transported soon to the Chennai zoo, Mr. Ravi said.
As part of the exchange deal, another male Indian grey wolf will be given later to the Arignar zoo, he said.
Reckoned to be critically-endangered species, Indian grey wolves had been classified under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 because of their rapidly depleting numbers. The Indian Grey Wolves are at present found in Gujarat, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. The numbers of grey wolves are said to be declining though there is no accurate and authentic data on the number of wolves in the country, according to reports.
Rani, a female Indian grey wolf, gave birth to five pups in December last year. Importantly, it gave birth to the pups in the artificial den, which was created by the zoo authorities to boost captive breeding of wolves. Mysore zoo has emerged as one of the country’s key centres for conservation of endangered species. Coordinated efforts by the zoo’s animal and veterinary wings have led to the success of its captive breeding programme. It took several measures to ensure breeding of Indian grey wolves.
The zoo had approached Sakkarbaug zoo at Junagadh, Gujarat, to spare a female lion under an animal exchange programme in exchange for grey wolves and other animals to rejuvenate its breeding plans. The Mysore zoo had Asiatic lions in 1989, but they could not breed and did not survive. Thanks to the Sakkarbaug zoo, the zoo could display after 21 years a pair of pure-breed Asiatic lions. The Asiatic lions in captivity are said to be found only in Gujarat, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Mysore.

In pictures: Endangered big cats to get £5.2 million enclosure at London Zoo.


The zoo's Asiatic lions will be able to roam freely around the 27,000 sq ft enclosure in a bid to breed more to help the world's dwindling population of just 400

Lioness Abi will be one of the lucky Asiatic lions to benefit from the new enclosure
London Zoo is just weeks away from building a £5.2 million enclosure for one of the world’s most endangered big cats.
Land of the Lions will open in spring 2016 at the ZSL zoo in Regent’s Park to provide ultra-modern facilities for a breeding group of endangered Asiatic lions, of which only 400 remain in the world.
Initial work will start at the beginning of November on the 2,500 sq m (27,00 sq ft) enclosure which is fives times the size of the previous one and is expected to take 16 months to complete.
Land of the Lions is part of Lions400, the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) public fundraising campaign which also supports ZSL’s international projects to protect wild Asiatic lions in the Gir Forest in India.
Asiatic lions are particularly vulnerable to the threats of disease and conflict with humans as there is such a tiny population remaining in a small pocket of forest.

ZSL work with the Gujurat government and Wildlife Institute of India to safeguard the lions’ futures.
Visitors to the new exhibit will be able to see how closely humans and lions live in the Gir Forest as they go through an Indian village and through to the lions’ den where they can be seen with a 360° view.
Cat naps are essential and Asiatic lions sleep for up to 16 hours a day so visitors will be able to see them enjoying a nap in their custom built lion hotel.

Barda suitable site for lion translocation: WII study.

AHMEDABAD: Barda Dungar, a lion translocation site within Gujarat, should be an isolated lion habitat, which should not have connection with Gir Sanctuary, suggested experts of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII).

It was in October 2013 the state government had asked WII scientists and lion expert Y V Jhala and his team to prepare a report over reintroduction of lions in Barda Dungar. The report prepared by WII team of Jhala, Kausik Banerjee, Parabita Basu, Stotra Chakrabarti and Subrata Gayen states: Barda should be a separate free ranging lion population so as to mitigate the threat of a catastrophe on an isolated single population on which debates and discussions are going on since past two decades. In the case of Barda, connectivity with Gir landscape is not desirable and lion population in Barda needs to be managed artificially as a metapopulation, where lion movement between populations is human controlled with appropriate checks for disease so as to avoid epidemic induced catastrophic mortality. This will augment the conservation importance. With this, the long-term viability of lions in Saurashtra landscape is enhanced by adding Barda.

The report further recommends Barda sanctuary should be made free from human habitations to create habitats exclusively available for lions and biodiversity conservation and also restore wild prey population in Barda through continued restocking programme.

The report states that almost 98% Maldharis were ready for resettlement, while only two per cent were happy to stay inside Barda and not willing to move out. Better livelihood options, better amenities and human safety were the primary reasons behind Maldharis' willingness to leave Barda sanctuary.

The report also gives out various possibilities of translocation of lions. It says that the total area of Barda landscape was 410 square km, out of which 374 sq km comprised of larger patches and the rest 36 km with smaller patches. The report states that the larger patches of Barda landscape are likely to hold three lions per 100 sq km, while the smaller patches can hold two lions per 100 sq km. These summed up to an additional lion numbers of 12 adult individuals supported outside Barda.

Barda wait began with Kuno

If Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh has been waiting for lions since 1990's, it is Barda Dungar in Gujarat which has also been waiting for a similar period to hear the roars of the big cats in the wild. Barda was proposed as an alternative site for reintroduction of Asiatic Lions by the Gujarat forest department when Kuno Palpur was being proposed by wildlife biologists in 1990.

However, Barda project never saw the light of the day since early 1990's. It was only after the Supreme Court's April 2013 order directing lions' translocation to Kuno Palpur that the state forest department decided to put the project on fast track. In early 1990's wildlife biologists selected Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS) in Madhya Pradesh as a potential reintroduction site. In this light Barda WLS situated in the western part of Saurashtra was selected as an alternative site for reintroduction of Asiatic lions by the Gujarat forest department.

Lion pair suffering from multiple infections.

The pair of Asiatic lions sent from the Kanpur zoo to Etawah Lion Safari last month is suffering from 'multiple infections', including a viral infection that has caused them paralysis. Top Indian and foreign experts have been approached for advise in this connection.

Confirming this information, forest department sources said lion Vishnu and lioness Lakshmi were segregated and hospitalized in the safari soon after they showed symptoms of paralysis. The condition of the pair is still critical but according to the veterinarians treating them, they were recovering.

Etawah Lion Safari director K K Singh told TOI, "According to the part report prepared by the scientists of the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) in Bareilly, the lions are suffering from multiple infections for which they are being treated by the best doctors. Advise is also being sought from top experts." He claimed that reports indicate that Lakshmi has recovered completely from leptospirosis."A close watch is being kept on their health by a panel of the doctors from Kanpur as well as Lucknow zoo. Not only this, advise of vets from Longleat Safari and Adventure Park in the UK has also been sought. A veterinarian in Pune and experts of Junagarh zoo have also been approached in this connection," he added.

However, Singh said as he was yet to receive the full text report, he was not in a position to divulge the exact cause of the illness. He, however, added that the treatment was progressing in the right direction.

Asked why experts of Longleat Adventure Park in the UK were consulted, Singh said that they had faced similar problem and successfully tackled it.

Sources, meanwhile, said "the lions have become very weak and are unable to stand".

Earlier, while being shifted from the Hyderabad zoo to Kanpur zoo in April 2013, the pair sustained multiple injuries. Later, the lioness contracted bacterial disease leptospirosis. On September 11, the lions during transit to lion safari from Kanpur zoo, were again injured due to alleged over-speeding of the vehicle in which they were being shifted.