Thursday, April 30, 2015

The big cat census.

Gir-3When I visited the Gir Sanctuary in Gujarat recently, my tour guide was very excited about the upcoming census of the Asiatic lion population in Gir which is the only home of the Asiatic lion outside Africa. The census exercise is conducted every five years, the last being in 2010. This year the census will be held from May 2 to 5. I was told that this time to make the census more scientific, the Gujarat Forest Department will be using global positioning system (GPS) and geographical information system (GIS) to record lion sightings. The last census result which was announced by then Chief Minister Narendra Modi on May 1, 2010 showed the lion count as 411 (97 males, 162 females and 152 cubs).
Gir-1Gir-2The census area will be divided into 30 zones and will have 625 counting booths and is expected to involve more than 2200 people. Instead of counting pugmarks, direct sighting method will be employed and body marks will be used to identify a lion. All sightings will be captured on camera and will be uploaded on a GPS device provided to each team. The census is done in summer to makes it easier for the sightings as due to the heat, water bodies are favourite hangouts of lion prides and the heat also restricts their movement so makes the sightings easier. The guide was definite that the lion count has increased over the last five years as many new cubs have been born since the last census.

Does Narendra Modi like lions more than tigers?

Does Narendra Modi like lions more than tigers?
The Indian lion is only found in the Gir National Park and its surroundings in Gujarat which, incidentally, happens to be Prime Minister Modi’s home state. Photo: Dinodia

First Published: Fri, Apr 24 2015. 10 36 AM IST
Ananda Banerjee

New Delhi: In his Independence Day speech last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged global manufacturers to “Come, Make in India”. And the following month, he formally launched the “Make in India” initiative with a walking lion as its logo.
After affixing the lion logo to its flagship programme, the Modi government suggested a far more radical change. At a March meeting of the National Board for Wildlife, it suggested that the Asiatic lion replace the tiger as India’s national animal.
Interestingly, before 1972, the lion was the national animal of India. The Indira Gandhi-led Congress government replaced it with the tiger when it launched Project Tiger—the country’s first wildlife conservation programme.
Both the lion and tiger are on the endangered list of wild animals and are protected by the laws of the land. There are around 400 lions and 2,000 tigers in the Indian wilderness today.
The proposal to revert to the lion as the national animal has created tumult among tiger conservationists. According to them, the lion doesn’t have a national presence like the tiger, whose population is spread over 18 states.
India has 48 tiger reserves. The Indian lion (or the Asiatic lion) is only found in the Gir National Park and its surroundings in Gujarat which, incidentally, happens to be the Prime Minister’s home state.
Wildlife conservation in India is species-centric and not landscape-centric. It is largely concentrated on iconic species such as the tiger, lion, elephant and rhinoceros.
Among these four species, the tiger is the superstar when it comes to revenue—for conservation and tourism. The government’s proposal to reinstate the lion as the national animal has, not surprisingly, left the tiger conservation fraternity puzzled and worried.
A couple of centuries ago, the lion had an extended range over northern India. In eastern India, it was recorded in Bihar; in the south, by the Narmada river. Widespread hunting at that time was one of the prime reasons for the depletion of the lion population.
But for the timely intervention of the sixth Nawab of Junagadh, Mahabat Khanji II (1851-1882), who banned hunting, the lion would have been wiped out from the Indian subcontinent.
Sasan Gir in Gujarat, in the erstwhile state of Junagadh, remains the last abode of the lion and the Gujarati community takes immense pride that the last of Asia’s lions are on its turf.
The increasing reference to the species as the “Lion of Gir” has branded the Asiatic lion as the “Gir Lion”.
Over the past two decades, more than Rs.24 crore has been spent on the Kuno-Palpur sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, billed as the second home for the endangered beasts. But the sanctuary has no lions, because Gujarat does not want to give it any.
The risk here is of keeping all eggs in the same basket. According to conservationists, an epidemic in Gir might exterminate the species. The need for a second gene pool is urgently required to protect the species.
The lion is historically better represented than the tiger—in medieval literature, in coinage, art, artifacts and architecture. The use of the lion in symbols and signage gained importance in India from the second half of the first millennium, with the rise of the great Hindu kingdoms—the Nandas, Mauryas and Guptas. Emperor Ashoka’s Lion Pillar gave India its national emblem. In religion, the lion is mentioned in the Rig Veda, the first of the four sacred texts in Hinduism; it is the divine mount of goddess Durga and worshipped as Narasimha, an avatar of Hindu god Vishnu, visualized as half-man and half-lion.
Mahavir and Buddha also used the lion as their symbol. Gautam Buddha’s first sermon was called simhanada, the lion’s roar, and he himself came to be known as Sakyasimha, the lion of the Sakyas. The lion was the symbol of royalty in Hindu mythology where the king and his throne—the singhasan (the lion’s seat)—were inseparable.
In northern India, Singh, meaning lion, has been used as a middle name or surname since the seventh century by Hindus and later by Sikhs. Indeed, it is not surprising to come across Sikhs with both big cats in their name—Sher Singh. It was not only the Hindu kingdoms, the symbol of lion found prominence both in the Mughal and British empires.
Modi, under whom the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2014 became the first party in 30 years to win a majority on its own in the Lok Sabha, is surely entitled to his singhasan. But as he talks of heralding a new Industrial Revolution, can the lion become the symbol of the Indian economy? And where will the tiger go from here?

Reverting to the lion as the national animal is more of political symbolism and has little to do with wildlife conservation

Gujarat HC relief to resort near Gir.

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat high court on Thursday granted relief to Savaj Resort, a luxury hotel near Gir sanctuary, after the hospitality unit came complaining that the local authorities sealed all its rooms though it has got an NOC to run the hotel.

The resort has got NOC for 20 rooms, but it constructed 14 extra rooms. The authorities sealed all rooms and forced the hotel to close down on the ground that it had violated the terms and conditions of the NOC.

The HC reminded the state government of its order that only rooms that do not have NOC should be sealed. The petitioner resort also highlighted that the sealing drive was carried out on instructions issued by the additional advocate general for violation of conditions of NOC. The court was irked with this and rebuked the official for interpreting the court order in a different manner and for non-compliance of the court order in proper manner.
Before this, the HC refused to grant any relief to the hospitality unit of Taj Group of Hotel, which was sought to be closed down by the officials for want of NOC.

Meanwhile, the state government informed the HC that 35 extra rooms constructed by Club Mahindra & Resort have been sealed. Similarly, 39 rooms in Gir Forest Resort, 25 rooms in Gir Jungle Lodge, 31 rooms and 2 spas in Gateway Gir Forest and 13 rooms in Hotel Greenland have been sealed because they were constructed without obtaining NOC.

The HC has kept further hearing on May 4 on this proceeding initiated suo motu on a complaint of illegal construction in the buffer zone of Gir sanctuary.

The court has asked the state government to explain the issue of permission granted by gram panchayats concerned to these luxury hotels, which have constructed multi-storied buildings though there is prohibition to put up such a structure in the buffer zone.

Besides, the court has also sought clarification on contradictory resolutions passed by the forest department conditionally permitting hospitality units to run in buffer zone of 2 km, which is against the provisions of a 2010 resolution by the home department completely prohibiting such activity in this area.

Tigers to make a debut at Renuka zoo soon.

Gaurav Bisht, Hindustan Times, Shimla
Updated: Apr 23, 2015 22:53 IST

Tigers will soon be introduced at the zoo in Renuka wildlife sanctuary, which once had a lion safari. The Himachal forest department's wildlife wing has contacted at least three zooological and biological parks in the country to get a pair of tigers. A fortnight after the last Asiatic lion in the sanctuary died the wild wing launched an animal exchange programme seeking a pair of lions as well as tigers for the zoo.

The wildlife department proposes to get two lions from the zoological park in Gandhinagar while the pair of tigers is proposed to be brought from the Bannerghatta National Park in Karnataka. The population of Asiatic lions in the erstwhile Renuka safari grew rapidly. However, in the later years their population gradually declined because of the inbreeding problem.
The Renuka zoo, the first in Himachal Pradesh, was set up in 1957 with caging animals that strayed into human habitations. Initially the sanctuary came up a mini zoo and later on many endangered species were introduced there. Many species like hog and barking deer, 'chinkaras' and blackbucks were added gradually and all these animals started multiplying. To accommodate the increasing number of animals an open park was set up in 1983.
Animals like blackbucks and 'neelgais' (blue bulls) were exchanged with Piplee zoo in Utter Pradesh. A pair of Asiatic lion was brought to Renuka zoo from Junagarh in Uttar Pradesh in 1975. The first lion was nicknamed as Raja while the lioness was known as Rani.
Over the years the population of lions grew but with the passage of time the lions faced with inbreeding problems. Consequently genetically the new born had a high mortality rate. The lions that were first introduced from the Gir sanctuary in Gujarat, known for Asiatic lions, diminished. There was time when the population rose enormously to more than 40.
Under the animal exchange programme, the Himachal Pradesh government will provide pair of black and barking deer and the Sambhars that are multiplying rapid and fast in the captive area in different zoos run by the government. The government has sent a proposal to the Central Zoo Authority of India to rehabilitate pair of tiger from Bennarghatta National Park, located 26 kilometers away from Bangalore. The park houses animals like jaguars, leopards, lions, tigers and Asiatic elephants.

The Secret Lions Of India.

The only wild Asiatic lions in the world have survived, and now they have a chance to thrive.
By Vicki Croke
Rupal Vaidya-female Asiatic lion
A female Asiatic lion in the Gir forest. Rupal Vaidya/Wikimedia.
When we think of lions, most of us think of Africa. But in India, there exists one tiny community of wild Asian lions, a remnant of a once much larger population.
And they’re making headlines right now—their future is the center of a political debate in India.
Vicki talks with Here&Now’s Jeremy Hobson and Robin Young about the future of these lions:
These lions are the very definition of resilience—they’ve been hunted down to practically nothing—and they have shown that if they’re given half a chance, they can survive, and even thrive. And it may be time for another magic trick to help these cats.
In ancient times these lions were widespread from the Middle East to Greece to India. In the 18th century they were mostly found across northern India, where they were hunted as trophy animals by princes and maharajas and by their colonial bosses from the British Empire.
And by the 20th century habitat loss and hunting had reduced these cats to a population estimated to be as low as perhaps only a dozen animals.
These lions have found refuge in a 540 square mile oasis—The Gir Forest —a national park and sanctuary in what is now the Indian state of Gujarat.
Eric Gaba-Gujarat map with Gir
Gujarat map with Gir National Park. Courtesy of Eric Gaba.
They look and behave a lot like their African cousins. Most of us would be hard-pressed to distinguish the two sub-species physically.
Though the manes of these males are not as lush as those of African lions, and they have bigger, fuller tail tufts, and more prominent ears.
They also have a characteristic fold of skin running the length of their bellies.
And, in general, they’re slightly smaller than their African cousins—though still formidable. A male can weigh a little over four hundred pounds. And if you bumped into one in the Gir Forest, you would know you were looking at a lion.
Asiatic lion roaring in Gir. Courtesy of Manisha Rajput/Compare the Marsh Tit.
Here they hunt wild boar and deer instead of wildebeest and zebra.
And, although lions are the only social big cat, the Asian lions are a little less social than African lions.
They organize themselves in a slightly different way from African lions. The groups, or “prides” are a little smaller. And instead of the males ruling a pride of females, the two sexes mostly live apart, except for mating. So the females run the prides and the males, often in brotherly coalitions, stop in to mate. And because they live separately, the male Asian lions do much more hunting for their own supper than the African lions.
And their strategy is working.
The Asiatic lion population has grown over the decades and their status has gone from critically endangered to just endangered—and the last census in 2010 put the number at 411.
Asim Patel-AsiaticLionMale
Male Asiatic lion in the Gir forest. Asim Patel/Wikimedia.
By contrast, there are, at the most recent count, more than two-thousand tigers in India.
But starting next week, May 2, a huge lion census will start—covering a large area outside the park, and involving 750 people, and for the first time incorporating camera traps, (which have already been set up), which will give us an up-to-date count.
And yet, the good news about their growing population is tempered by the fact that the lions are running out space. The Gir Forest is surrounded by a sea of humanity—the population in the state of Gujarat is about sixty million—and dispersing lions—the younger ones going to make a life of their own away from their families—are getting into trouble and dying.
It’s been reported that forty percent of the population now lives outside the forest area.
Bernard Gagnon-teak trees at Gir
Teak trees in Gir National Park. Bernard Gagnon/Wikimedia.
Hit by trains, hit by cars, and, inevitably coming into conflict with people as they show up on private farms and homes, lions are dying.
Translocation is the single most important remedy for the lions’ problems according to conservationists there. It not only will allow the lions to spread out and multiply, it will create other distinct populations.
And that would be vital in keeping these animals safe from an epidemic. Today, if there were something like a distemper outbreak in the Gir Forest, it could wipe out the world’s population of wild Asiatic lions.
Ullas Karanth, the legendary conservationist and big cat expert in India, who runs the India office for the Wildlife Conservation Society, says translocation is vital.
“The key issue of translocation comes up because of the extreme urgency of having at least one separate population to insure the species against unforeseen dangers from environment, disease, war or social unrest… any of which can wipe out the single population like this.”
KUK_SettingCamera. Pic courtesy - WCS
Ullas Karanth setting up a camera trap. Courtesy of Wildlife Conservation Society.
He’s not alone—leading wildlife scientists there have been calling for that since the 1990s. But politics get in the way.
These rare cats are an important tourist attraction here and a point of pride for the people of Gujarat. So the local politicians have been resisting spreading this resource to other states.
Ullas Karanth says this is a “major failure of common sense in wildlife management.”
He says a lot of work has been done at a wildlife sanctuary in Central India to welcome a new population of Asiatic lions. They’ve created some good habitat, but there’s been a lot of legal wrangling. And Dr. Karanth says, “Local politics has come in the way unfortunately with the Gujarath state refusing to give even surplus lions that would die anyway, if we know anything about carnivore populations.. typically they lose 20% of their members per year.”
He says that the general public in India is unaware of the scientific necessity of a translocation.
Dr HS Singh-Asiatic lion
Handsome male Asiatic lion. Courtesy of Dr. H. S. Singh.
India’s leader, Prime Minister Narenda Modi is from lion territory—Gujarat. And when he was governor of Gujarat, his administration fought to prevent the lions being moved to sanctuaries outside his home state.
And now, the Times of India has been reporting just this week that the government—the Modi government— is considering a proposal to replace the tiger—the iconic symbol of India since the 1970s––with the lion. (Though the lion was the national animal of India in the 1950s.)
And the paper says this development has “triggered a furor among wildlife activists.”
Dr. Karanth’s says movements to do things like change the national animal, are  “empty gestures” and he’d rather see a political effort put into translocation.
But there is hope.
Dr. Karanth says, “I feel optimistic, but would feel far more so, if there were a second thriving wild lion population instead of having all our eggs in one basket as at present.”

For the first time, camera traps set for lion census.

AHMEDABAD: The forest department will be using, apart from human eyes, electronic surveillance for the lion census which will kick off from May 2. The census will cover nearly 2500 sq km and, for the first time, electronic eyes will keep a record of operations at 80 sites situated in difficult terrain.

The 'camera trap' method, which was successfully implemented during the tiger census in the country, will be used on an experimental basis in the lion census. Entire teams of researchers from Gujarat forest department, department of wildlife sciences, Aligarh Muslim University, and experts from the Wildlife Institute of India have already started installing these cameras.

Census in-charge Sandeep Kumar said these cameras will be installed in areas that are hilly in nature and in difficult terrains which are not generally considered hospitable for the Asiatic lions. "These 'camera traps' will be operation from April 20. They will be monitored live round-the-clock by experts from the control room that has been set up at Sasan. Monitoring of these areas for 10 days before the census will help the department find out about the movement of the animal in the area and also their number. Finally, on the day of the counting, trackers will be sent to the spot to take location and digital photographs," said Kumar.

Lion as national animal? Central panel discusses idea.

KOLKATA: The Narendra Modi government is considering a proposal to make lion India's national animal, pushing out the tiger that has had the coveted status since 1972. The idea has triggered a furore among wildlife activists who called it bizarre, saying it would dilute the campaign to save tigers and pave the way for clearance of industrial projects near tiger sanctuaries.

It was Rajya Sabha MP from Jharkhand Parimal Nathwani, an industrialist, who sent the proposal to the environment ministry. It was then passed on to the National Board for Wild Life (NBWL), which functions under the ministry. It is packed with members from Gujarat, say sources.
A standing committee of the board, chaired by environment minister Prakash Javadekar, discussed the issue in March. "The committee requested the ministry to consider wider consultations on the matter," said Raman Sukumar, a member of NBWL.

The fact that the proposal to make the lion India's national animal is now with the board indicates it has generated significant interest in the administration, say sources.

However, NBWL member H S Singh said several issues have to be taken into account before considering the proposal. "Tigers are found across 17 states in India, whereas lion is found in only one," said Singh.

MP Nathwani had made the same proposal in 2012, but the then forest minister, Jayanthi Natarajan, said in Rajya Sabha that it was not even under consideration. In December last year, he again put a question in Parliament (No 2861) whether there was a proposal to make lion the national animal.

Union environment Prakash Javadekar replied there was no such proposal. In spite of this, the issue was discussed at a committee meeting, chaired by Javadekar, on March 14, 2015, where it was listed as agenda item No. 4.

In a recent countrywide assessment, it was found that India is home to more than 2,200 tigers, whereas the Asiatic lion population, estimated at 411, is confined to Gujarat's Gir.

Tiger was adopted as the national animal at a meeting of the Indian Board for Wildlife (now NBWL) in 1972 in view of its "worldwide importance, existence in the entire country and the need for its protection".

"Tiger is our national glory. India is the only place where you can get to see a tiger in the wild. After Taj Mahal, tiger is the second biggest attraction among foreign tourists visiting the country every year. We must hold on to this glory," said conservationist Belinda Wright.

Conservationist Bittu Sahgal, editor of Sanctuary magazine, fumed at the idea. "In India, both tiger and lion are under unbridled attack. It's best we stay away from renaming charades and focus on enhancement of protection and habitat expansion for both tigers and lions," he said.

Prerna Bindra, a former member of NBWL, pointed out a basic flaw in the proposal — the Asiatic lion is severely limited in its range. "The national animal needs to have a wide range across India, be a part of our culture, be familiar and symbolic — which the tiger is. The idea of saving the tiger means saving the varied ecosystems it lives in, which sustain India," she said.

Bengal wildlife advisory board member Joydip Kundu agreed with them and pointed out that India's conservation history tells us why tiger was made the national animal. "If you really want to make lion the national animal, you should first restore at least 10-15 natural habitats which are suitable for lions. Then the lions should be relocated there from Gir. Otherwise, as things stand now, lions are staring at a genetic bottleneck, which is common in populations concentrated in small pockets," Kundu said.

Due to inbreeding, the single population of lions at Gir is susceptible to genetic disorders. Also, an epidemic or a natural disaster would seal their fate, confined as they are to just 258sq km. A relocation project was proposed in 2004, where some of the endangered big cats were to be shifted from Gir to Madhya Pradesh's Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary to save them from extinction. But, the Gujarat government vehemently opposes it to this day.

HC refuses to stay shut-down notice to Taj Resort in Gir.

Press Trust of India  |  Ahmedabad 
Last Updated at 20:02 IST

The High has refused to interfere with the shut-down notice issued to Taj Resort of the Company in the Gir National Park, the only abode of Asiatic lions.

A division bench of Justices Jayant Patel and G B Shah yesterday refused to grant relief to the hotel group against the state forest department's notice about sealing of the resort which does not have a no-objection-certificate.

The company has moved the court against the notice which says that it should close down the resort by April 15.

Further hearing would be held on April 23.

The High Court took up the issue as a upon the representation of Anil Chudasama who alleged that the local authorities prevented him from carrying out farming on a plot of land purchased by him.

He later found out that the plot had been originally allotted to local people who lived within the Gir forest and who were resettled outside the sanctuary. But some of them sold these lands and migrated back to the forest.

He also alleged that hotels and resorts were operating in the area without any permissions and the land around the sanctuary was being sold, which is prohibited.

The government closed 55 commercial establishments in the area subsequently.

Forest dept proposes drone surveillance in state jungles.

Forest Department of Gujarat has proposed to initiate drone surveillance in the forest areas of the state including in the Gir National Park, the only habitat of Asiatic Lion in the world. Forest Department of Gujarat has proposed to initiate drone surveillance in the forest areas of the state including the Gir National Park, the only habitat of Asiatic Lion in the world.
By: Express News Service | Ahmedabad | Updated: April 15, 2015 4:43 am
Forest Department of Gujarat has proposed to initiate drone surveillance in the forest areas of the state including the Gir National Park, the only habitat of Asiatic Lion in the world, for the protection of the forests and wildlife in the state.
The proposal has been sent to the state government for its approval after the Forest & Environment minister and officials of the department attended the recent two-day conference of state Forest & Environment ministers and officials of the department in New Delhi.

A senior official in the government said that Gujarat has a vast forest area and it was very difficult to keep a close vigil on it manually since we have a limited man-force available.

“And therefore, we have moved the proposal for introducing e-surveillance of the forest areas. The experiment has been successful in Panna Tiger Reserve of Madhya Pradesh and it can be replicated here in Gujarat also,” said the officer.
“We can have drones employed in key areas, you set the coordinates and it can keep the aerial vigil and send the video or photographs on a computer to be handled by a forest official,” the officer added.
In its proposal that was sent after the conference in New Delhi, the Forest Department has also sought to increase the fine for cutting trees in the reserved forest area. “Under the provisions of the Indian Forest Act, 1927, the punishment for cutting a tree is fine of Rs 500. Now, this provision is there since British era. And the fine amount is not commensurate with the present economic condition and so, its purpose of deterrence seems to be defeated,” said a senior officer.
“And so, it has been proposed to increase the fine amount for cutting trees in reserved forests significantly from Rs 500 to Rs 50,000,” the officer added.
Meanwhile, the Forest Department has also proposed to initiate welfare activities for the front level officials of the departments like guards and rangers.
According to a Forest Department official, these front line officials are guarding our forests day in and day out. And so they need to be provided with proper facilities for their families like residential quarters and education facility. And so, the officer added, it is proposed to provide them quarters and schools near it.

First Published on: April 15, 20154:32 am

Op-Ed: Gaza family rescues lion cubs after zoo is destroyed.

By Megan Hamilton     Apr 12, 2015 in World
Palestine - When Israeli air strikes devastated Gaza in 2014, the Rafah Zoo, located in the southern Gaza Strip, was also a casualty of war, struggling to recover from physical damage and the resulting economic freefall.

Many of the animals didn't survive, and those that did faced cruel conditions and malnourishment. Nearby, the Fathi Zoo suffered a similar fate. Saad Al-Jamal, who is from Palestine, purchased lion cubs Max and Mona from the Rafah Zoo, thus rescuing them. While Max and Mona are safe right now, Al-Jamal said he realizes that living among humans, the cubs will soon become dangerous to the family and will have to be relocated, Mashable reports. He hopes to raise the cubs and encourage them to have babies so that a lion cub petting zoo could open in the region, Metro reports. "They're living inside the house just like the children," Al-Jamal said. "They eat and drink inside the room and they have a bed that they both sleep on." He added: "They will of course be moved to a larger area nearby at a park location where they will be kept in cages safely as they get older." Mohammad Juma, owner of the Rafah Zoo, said the economic situation has forced some desperate measures. "Because of the amount of animals, the bad economical situation, lack of leisure activities and that you don't have enough food or money ... this (situation) would make you sell anything you have to save the rest of the animals!" Many of Gaza's zoo animals were smuggled via tunnels that link the territory to Egypt, Global News reports. In 2013, two newborn lion cubs that were proudly unveiled by Hamas rulers in Gaza, died shortly after.
Max and Mona  the refugee lion cubs of Rafah in Gaza.
Max and Mona, the refugee lion cubs of Rafah in Gaza.
Screengrab via TIG Media
While desperate circumstances forced the relocation of little Mona and Max, lions do not fare well when being kept as exotic pets. Unfortunately, it's become hugely popular for people who love exotic pets to keep lions, tigers, and other big cats, The Humane Society of The United States (HSUS) reports. Estimates say that there are 5,000 to 7,000 tigers in the U.S., yet less than 400 of them are in zoos that are accredited by the association of Zoos and Aquariums. Even if born in captivity and hand-raised, lions and other big cats keep their predatory instincts, and they injure and kill people all the time. There have been hundreds of attacks on humans by big cats in the U.S. over the past two decades, as this report compiled by the HSUS notes. All of these cases are gut-wrenching, but none of them more so than the horrific tragedy that occurred in Zanesville, Ohio in 2011. Owner Terry Thompson opened all of the enclosures and fences at his farm and then killed himself, according to the report. Fifty animals escaped and the sheriff's office told residents to stay in their homes and it was recommended that schools close. A sign warned motorists on the local interstate to stay in their cars. In the resulting melee, 48 animals were shot and killed by sheriff's deputies; including two wolves, six black bears, two grizzly bears, 18 tigers, three mountain lions, and 17 African lions. The big cats killed a baboon and a macaque monkey who was also released has never been found. It's assumed to have been killed and eaten by the cats. The Columbus Zoo took in three leopards, a grizzly bear and two monkeys. It's reported that Thompson was recently released from prison after serving a one-year term on weapons-related charges. All these magnificent creatures dead. Just like that. How horribly sad. In the wild, big cats roam over vast distances, and no cage is ever adequate enough to promote the health and well-being of these beautiful creatures and they suffer immensely in captivity, the HSUS reports. Allowing everyday citizens to own these cats poses unnecessary risks to the public, and to the cats themselves. It is certainly admirable that Al-Jamal and his family are caring for these adorable cubs, but what's going to happen when they turn into frustrated and caged adult lions in a war-torn civilization? The African lion is nothing short of iconic, but in the wild, their numbers are plunging downward, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reports. Key lion populations are found In protected areas in Botswana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia. With only 30,000 to 35,000 living in the wild today, their numbers have dropped by 30 percent in the last 20 years, the WWF reports. Even in the aforementioned protected areas, their populations have declined by more than 40 percent. These big cats are seriously vulnerable to habitat loss and conflict with people, and the problem is intensifying. Land is being cleared for agriculture, and that's destroying and fragmenting habitat for lions. It's also reducing the numbers of their natural prey, the WWF reports. So lion populations are becoming small and isolated, and introducing them to a number of threats. Lions who live outside of the protected areas are likelier to prey on livestock, especially if their natural prey is in short supply. Local farmers often retaliate if their herds or livelihoods are impacted by lions. The area's human population is increasing, taking up more land for livestock and agriculture, so the problem is worsening. Conflict with humans is now one of the biggest threats to African lions.
A handsome pair of male and female Asiatic lions.
A handsome pair of male and female Asiatic lions.
By Altaileopard (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
African and Asiatic lions are subspecies of the species Panthera leo. The Asiatic lion, (Panthera leo persica) is not faring any better and is perilously close to extinction, having once ranged throughout the Mediterranean to India, and covering most of western Asia, where it was also known as the Persian lion. Living now in the small Gir Forest National Reserve in India's Gujarat State, the population of these marvelous cats once dropped as low as just 13 individuals in 1907 due to years of persecution by trophy hunters, World Lion Day reports. After hunting was banned, their population increased to 185 lions in 1975. Since then, it has increased to around 411 lions today. Plus, their population range has expanded into the nearby Girnar Forest, and that has increased their habitat from 1,883km2 to around 10,0000km2. However, Asiatic lions still face the daunting threats of habitat loss, prey loss, poaching, conflict with humans, inbreeding, and disease. Their populations are small enough, in fact, that a natural environmental disaster--the outbreak of a single epidemic disease, a severe drought, or a large bush fire could bring about their extinction. While some positive gains have been made in favor of Asian lions, the fight to save these big cats is far from over, and I have to really wonder what the future will be for all wild lions. Will all of them eventually wind up caged like Max and Mona, or will they wind up crammed into the tiniest parts of the world's last remaining wild lands? Or — will they be relegated to the pages of books on extinct animals? I hope I never find out the answers to these questions.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of

MP seeks rly's help to prevent accidents of Asiatic lions.

Last Updated at 13:32 IST
MP Parimal Nathwani has requested the to speed up work of barbed wire fencing near railway tracks in Gujarat's Amreli district to avoid accidents and enable free movement of Asiatic lions and other animals of the Gir forest.

Nathwani, in a letter written to Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, has also requested for construction of an under passage for the movement of lions in Amreli.

The barbed wire fencing on a 30-km stretch near the railway track in Amreli is required to save the lives of Asiatic lions, he said in the letter.

The Gir national park and wildlife sanctuary in western is the only habitat for Asiatic lions.

Notably, three Asiatic lion cubs were crushed to death under a goods train near Pipavav station in Amreli last week.

The accident had occurred when a lioness and three cubs were crossing the railway track near Rampara village close to Pipavav as the train was going to Surendranagar, Nathwani mentioned in his letter.

He also cited some earlier mishaps in which two lionesses were run over by a goods train near Pipavav in January 2014, a lion was mowed down by a train near Savarkundla in February last year and a cub was crushed to death by a goods train near Bherai at Rajula in May.

Nathwani said that the officials had earlier assured that the speed of trains near Gir forest in Amreli would be reduced but it has not happened leading to accidents involving the Asiatic lions.

Nathwani requested Prabhu to also consider the demand of not running goods trains during morning and evening hours when there is more movement of lions on rail track in Amreli.

He also demanded that training be imparted to more train drivers to sensitise them about lions, on why the big cats need to be protected and what can they (drivers) can do to ensure the safety of animals, if found on tracks.

The lion population has steadily increased in Gir forest, more than doubling from a low of 180 in 1974 to 411 big cats as of April 2010, sources said.

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

Roar data: Hi-tech census to track the number of Gir lions.

The forest department will use latest technology in a bid to keep track of Asiatic lions at Gir forest in the first ever hi-tech census, scheduled to begin next month. 
The department will use global positioning systems (GPS), geographic information systems (GIS), tablets and digital cameras to track the king of the jungle. 
In another first, the census has been expanded to 1,500 villages in eight districts of Saurashtra, covering 20,000 square km. 
The area of the census has been expanded to 20,000 square kilometers following a rise in incidents of lions straying into public places
The area of the census has been expanded to 20,000 square kilometers following a rise in incidents of lions straying into public places
This has been done following increase in cases of lions straying outside the protected forest areas. 
The last survey in 2010 covered only three districts and 10,000 square km. With latest technology at their disposal, the forest department hopes to achieve utmost accuracy in the census. 
As many as 10,000 tablets will be distributed to officials to enable them to record sightings. 
According to the deputy conservator of forest (wildlife) of Gir Sandeep Kumar, a remote server will be automatically updated whenever enumerators record an input in their tablets. 
“This way officials in the control room will have continuous real-time information,” he said. 
A lion cub which was mowed down by a train in Amreli district
A lion cub which was mowed down by a train in Amreli district
Besides keeping a record on the number of lions, a system has been evolved to track the direction in which the carnivore is headed. 
“The GIS and GPS  will enable the department to estimate every pride’s movement,” the deputy conservator said while adding that this will ensure that no two enumerators record the same pride of lions. 
“Thus, there will be no overlapping of information and the results will be more accurate,”  he said. 
Officials will also try and record the identification marks like shape of the ear, spots on the face and nose, body size, prominence of belly fold, skin colour and density of hair on the tail among other things on every lion. 
Meanwhile, Wednesday’s incident where three cubs were run over by a train, is not new to the national park. 
Two lionesses with her three cubs were crushed to death by a train near Pipavav in January last year, followed by a lion near Savarkundla in February and a seven-year-old cub near Rajula in May.
In 2014, two lions were mowed down by a speeding vehicle on Bhavnagar-Somnath highway and a nine-month-old lioness was knocked to death by a vehicle near Gir National Park in June.

3 Asiatic lion cubs run over by goods train in Gujarat.

Written by Gopal B Kateshiya | Rajkot | Updated: April 8, 2015 11:17 pm
AFTER a lull of around a year, railway tracks in Amreli turned graveyard for endangered Asiatic lions yet again as three cubs were mauled by a goods train near Pipavav port late on Wednesday evening. The accident also comes a day after a lion was found dead in mysterious circumstances near Mahuva town in the neighboring Bhavnagar district on Tuesday.
While two cubs were cut into pieces, the third one was hit by the train and later died, forest officers said, adding their mother lioness escaped unhurt though. The incident took place near Rampara village, a few kilometres away from Pipavav port.

“The accident occurred at around 7:30 PM when the lioness came out of a thicket of gando baval (prosopis juliflora) with her three cubs. Coincidentally, a goods train on its way to Pipavav port also happened to pass through the same stretch. Since the track is lined by gando baval on either side, niether pilot of the train nor our railway trackers could spot the lion pride, resulting in death of the three cubs,” assistant conservator of forest (ACF) of Amreli, CB Dhandhiya told The Indian Express.
The ACF further said that the cubs were around four months old and that their mother had escaped unhurt. The train had been stopped after the accident, Dhandhya added.
This has been the first train accident involving Asiatic lion casualty since September last year. This has been also first such accident in Amreli district since May last year. Four Asiatic lions were killed in three different accidents on this railway line in first five months of year 2014. This had prompted the forest department to hire eight railway trackers on a contract basis while also engaging 45 others as daily wagers to secure the tracks.
The railway line connects the busy Pipavav port to the rest of India and crosses Rajula taluka, where, according to forest officers, around 60 Asiatic lions have settled. The track also passes through Liliya taluka of Amreli, another area where the big cats have settled for the last 10 years.
State government has set aside Rs 10 crore to fence stretch of the railway track in Rajula but it has not materialised as yet and the railway line continues to pose danger to the endangered carnivore which have settled in protected and revenue areas of Amreli.
According to the 2010 census, there were 411 Asiatic lions in Gir forest and protected areas in Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts in the Saurashtra region of Gjujarat. This area is the only natural habitat of the Asiatic lions in the world.

Dozens of rooms of luxurious hotels in Sasan Gir area sealed.

April 08, 2015  
In a major crackdown on rooms that have been constructed without permission in luxurious hotels in Sasan Gir area of Gujarat, the district administration following High Court order today conducted
Prant officer of Mendarda taluka of Saurashtra region in Gujarat today conducted a major sealing drive during which dozens of rooms in top luxurious hotels in Sasan Gir area were sealed as they were constructed withought permission.
A team of Mendarda prant officer, local police, PGVCL(power distribution company) and Forest department sealed 32 rooms of Fern hotel, 20 rooms of Club Mahindra Resort, 13 rooms of Greenland, 11 rooms of The Gir Jungle and 4 room of Gir Resort.
The sealing drive has taken place following Gujarat High Court order in response to a public interest litigation.
Gir forest area in Gujarat is last place on the earth that has population of Asiatic lions. Following Gujarat Tourism’s global campaign titled as ‘Khushboo Gujarat Ki’ this area has witnessed many fold increase in arrival of tourists in recent years. This attracted number of businessmen to set up hotels and resort in this area. However local environment activists claimed that many hotels and resorts had constructed extra rooms without permission. The High Court ordered actions against such constructions following which the district administration has conducted this sealing drive.
- DeshGujarat

Asiatic lion found dead in Mahuva.

By: Express News Service | Rajkot | Published on:April 7, 2015 6:05 pm
AN ASIATIC lion was found dead in mysterious circumstances on the side of Kankaria lake near Mahuva town of Bhavnagar district on Tuesday but forest officers said they did not suspect foul play prima facie.
The lion, about 2.5 year old, was found in a thicket of gando baval (prosopis juliflora) on the side of Kankaria lake on Bandar Road at around 7 am. Later, its carcass was taken to Animal Rescue Centre in Ranigala for post-mortem.
“The lion was found dead in thicket of gando baval near the lake. There were no marks of outer injury on its body but veterinarians who conducted its post-mortem has concluded that the big cat died due to respiratory failure. To decipher the exact cause of its death, we have sent its viscera samples to Forensic Science Laboratory in Junagadh,” Ganga Saran Singh, deputy conservator of forest (DCF) of Bhavnagar told The Indian Express.
The DCF further said that circumstances primarily did not point to any foul play. “But we are investigating the case and nothing can be said conclusively at this stage,” said Singh.
The officer added that the dead lion was part of a group of two lions. “The other lion was spotted some 50 metres away from the carcass,” he said.
Incidentally, a lion was allegedly electrocuted in Vaghnagar village of Mahuva in October last year while a cub of the predator had been killed after falling in a well a week before that.
Ranigala forest in Mahuva is part of Greater Gir area where Asiatic lions, the endangered species of big cats, have settled. According to 2010 census, there 411 Asiatic lions in Gir forest and protected areas spread across, Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts in Saurashtra region of Gujarat. The next lion census is likely to be conducted in May this year.

Pilikula to get hippos, lions, white peacock.

A white peacock from the Chennai zoo will be arriving in Pilikula zoo soon. File photo
Updated: April 5, 2015 10:04 IST
Govind D. BelgaumkarA white peacock from the Chennai zoo will be arriving in Pilikula zoo soon. File photo
Hippopotamuses from the zoo in Thiruvananthapuram, Asiatic Lions from Gujarat and a white peacock from Chennai zoo will soon be arriving into Dr. Shivarama Karanth Biological Park, according to Director of the park H. Jayaprakash Bhandari.
He told presspersons that preparations were on to get the animals and also to send some of the animals and reptiles to other zoos in the country from here.
He said the approval of the Central Zoo Authority was awaited for the transfer of three hippopotamuses, a pair of Asiatic lion and the white peacock. The zoo will need additional hands to take care of these animals and efforts were on the recruit the required staff.
The biological park, which is the only captive breeding centre for king cobra (kalinga sarpa) will exchange the reptiles with the zoos that come forward to give animals or birds to it. The Pilikula Zoo was also breeding barking deer and mouse deer, which too could be exchanged.
Zoos notified the access animals, reptiles and birds available with them and those that do not have a species could seek their transfer, subject to approval of the Central Zoo Authority.
He said the zoo had attracted over 5 lakh people in the last financial year and the gate collection had touched Rs. 1.5 crore compared to Rs. 60 lakh to Rs. 70 lakh during the previous years. Adults are being charged Rs. 50 and children Rs. 20 for entry into the park. Students coming from schools and colleges were enjoyed a concession.
Mr. Bhandari said an additional aviary was under construction. The existing aviary shelters several species.

Sealing drive near Gir to hit tourists.

By TNN | 4 Apr, 2015, 03.11AM IST
AHMEDABAD: People making plans to go lion spotting in Gir sanctuary this summer vacation should prepare to face a severe shortage of rooms and inflated tariffs. The majority of hospitality units will be shut following the Gujarat high court crackdown on illegal hotels and farmhouses in and around the sanctuary.

The HC ordered action against the illegal encroachments after it took suo motu cognizance of an anonymous letter complaining that forest management in Gir has become subordinate to the tourism industry. The government immediately identified 128 such 'encroachers', who run hospitality units in the buffer zone around sanctuary across three districts — Junagadh, Amreli and Gir-Somnath. Of them, the authorities first targeted farmhouses and 72 such places have been sealed.

Out these 72, the owners of 50 farmhouses have moved the HC and complained that the sealing took place indiscriminately. "Officials left only a few rooms open in small farmhouses for use by families living on the farm. We also applied for permission to rent space to tourists under the state's homestay policy, but no response has come so far," said one farmhouse owner and a litigants in the high court, Devayat Vadher.

According to Vadher, authorities sealed nearly 70% of rooms in small farmhouses. He said that most tourists are from the middle class and can not afford expensive hotels, and hence prefer to stay in small places.

The problems won't affect economy class tourists, but more affluent visitors may be affected. The HC has ordered for the formation of a committee for each district to check on luxury hotels. There are 34 big hotels around the sanctuary with permission to operate 390 rooms all put together. The committee is tasked to seal the remaining rooms and disconnect power supply to them.

The possible shortage of rooms for tourists may lead to locals coming up with alternative arrangements. "Local farmers may put up tents for tourists as they did last Diwali," said a senior forest official.

On an average lion leopard kill 12 cattles in a day.

AHMEDABAD: On an average around 12 cattles including buffalos and cows have been killed daily by the Asiatic Lion and Leopard in Junagadh, Gir Somnath and Amreli district. In the last two years, the bigs cats have killed 8,161 cattles of which around 68 per cent of the kill was by the Asiatic Lions, who have ventured out of the Gir Forest and have made the nearby areas as their permanent homes.

The state government in reply to the question of Visavadar MLA Harshad Ribadiya has in the two years from February 1, 2013 to January 31, 2014 there were 2862 killings of cattle by Lion, while the same by leopard was 1694.

Similarly from February 1, 2014 to January 31, 2015 there were 2688 killings of cattle by Lion, while the same by leopard was 917. The state government further said the attacks on cattle by Lions was more in Amreli and Gir Somnath area. According to the figures given in the assembly, of the 5550 killings by Lions in two years, 2318 around 41 per cent killing were in Amreli, while another 37 per cent were in reported from Gir Somnath. The remaining 22 per cent killing were in Junagadh.
The figures further state that the killing by leopard in Amreli district was very low as compared to Junagadh and Gir Somnath.

Forest officials refusing to be quoted said that the number of leopard in Amreli was very low which was also reflected in the killings. The officials further said that the high killings in Amreli was because the lions have moved in several villages in Amreli and Gir Somnath and have made these areas as their permanent homes.