Friday, May 29, 2015

Rampant eco-tourism, illegal mining pose threat to lion pride.

Rampant eco-tourism could hamper the mating period and impede population growth; lions require complete privacy while mating

While Gujarat may have seen an increase in the count of Asiatic lions in the Saurashtra region, as per the latest census, local communities and civil society organisations see illegal mining and rampant eco-tourism as major challenges in maintaining the numbers.

As per the 14th lion census undertaken from May 1 to May 5 by the Gujarat government, the state now has 523 Asiatic lions in Gir forest, other protected areas and revenue areas in Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts of Saurashtra region of Gujarat,

The population has risen by 112 as compared to the figure of 411 counted in 2010. According to 2015 census, there are 109 male, 201 female and 213 sub-adult (lion cubs below the age of three years) lions in the wilderness of these four districts. The corresponding numbers, according to 2010 census, were 97, 162 and 152, respectively.

According to Ashok Shrimali of SETU: Centre for Social Knowledge and Action said, "The entire belt from Rajula in Amreli district to Talala in Gir Somnath is a mining belt. Illegal mining goes on in the periphery of the sanctuary and is the biggest threat to the increasing population of lions."

"If the existing population of the pride is to be preserved, there has to be a check on 'illegal' mining that is going on in the belt," Shrimali said.

Pointing out a further threat by 'rampant' eco-tourism, Shrimali said, "Rampant eco-tourism in the vicinity of the sanctuary and adjoining revenue areas will, in the future, hamper the mating period of a lion and lioness and thereby, reduce the chance for population growth. The pride requires complete privacy when mating. This is one aspect government will have to consider while framing the policy as the state would not want to compromise on revenue front too."

Apart from reigning in eco-tourism and illegal mining, considerable effort would be required to diversify the gene pool, if a future decline has to be arrested, said Harinesh Pandya, associated with Janpath, a local civil society organisation.

"At present, the gene pool is more of lions from Gir, who have ventured to newer locations. There is a lack of genetic variability in the pride," said Pandya.

Seconding Shrimali is a senior government official in the forest department who admitted that eco-tourism, in the future, could pose a threat to the count of the lions.

"There is concern about eco-tourism but not that much in the current scenario. Tourism in Gir and surrounding areas is not unbridled. As for cases related to illegal mining, they are dealt strictly," the official said on condition of anonymity, while rejecting an outright contention about lack of genetic variability.

Officials also note the fact that an increase of 27 per cent in lion population was an evidence that the pride was responding to management practices of the state government. "Population has segregated outside the sanctuary and spread to revenue areas. And, genetic variability that is expected is taking place. Population of lions in Amreli is different from the population of lions in Gir," the government official asserted.

Other current challenge pertain to managing the populations which have spilled out to revenue areas and renewed efforts in terms of wildlife conservation and management apart from  ensuring that development activities undertaken are in conformity with conservation requirements.

"Under the current scenario, we don't have adequate staff in revenue areas. Urgent attention is, therefore, required to manage the population which has spilled out to the adjoining areas of the sanctuary," the official said.

As a solution, efforts in terms of wildlife conservation and management have to be accelerated in revenue areas with lions acquiring their old areas, even as development activities will have to be undertaken in conformity with the conservation requirements of the animal.  Moreover, awareness among local community would also need to be enhanced regarding the acceptability of this animal. "Even agricultural practices, for that matter, need to be altered to provide favourable habitat to the pride," the official said.

Meanwhile, pointing out the need for an integrated long-term plan for conservation of lions, Sandeep Kumar, deputy conservator of forest (DCF), Sasan Gir, said, that relief and rehabilitation of lions was important as they spread out to new areas.

"We have one of the world-class rescue, treatment and rehabilitation facilities in Gir. But, as they spread out to revenue areas, we need to ensure that our monitoring systems, with the help of forest staff and Maldharis (shepherd community), are augmented. As lions spread across 22,000 square kilometres, steps need to be taken for better habitat management, water management and creating an alternative habitat," Kumar added.

Petersburg Police Find Trio of Lion Cubs in Parking Lot.

Jimmy Wales / Wikicommons
Police in St. Petersburg have come across a cage containing three lion cubs in one of the city's parking lots, a news report said Monday.
Following the discovery on Sunday, the cubs' owner provided paperwork showing that the animals belonged to him, the TASS news agency reported, citing a regional police spokesman.
"Nevertheless, police are currently checking the legality of importing these animals onto Russian territory," the police spokesman added in the report. Later a police source said the cubs would remain with their owner, TASS reported.
It was not immediately clear what subspecies of lion the cubs belonged to, or where they had come from. Populations of both African and Asian lions are falling fast despite conservation efforts.
Asiatic lions — of which there are only 250-300 left in the wild, according to the World Wildlife Fund — fall under the Washington Convention, which seeks to stop trade that will threaten the survival of endangered species in the wild.
Last June, a 50-kilogram lion cub scared passengers and staff traveling on a train from Moscow to the Siberian city of Novy Urengoi after its owner, who had smuggled the animal on board by passing it off as a domestic cat, released it from its cage and was then unable to control it, news reports said at the time.

Hakuna matata.

rutam vora
All is well in the jungle. Lion numbers are up and conservation is a success. But what happens next as the big cat moves out of Gir?
The largest five-yearly lion census, held between May 2 and 5 in Gujarat, saw the numbers of the big cat increase by a whopping 27 per cent (also the highest growth in all previous censuses) from 411 lions counted in the 2010 census. Asiatic lions once roamed from Palestine to Palamau, but by the 20th century, their numbers were restricted to the Gir region in northern Gujarat. Even within the region, the lion courted extinction till a few decades ago, with numbers dropping to a paltry 50. Now, according to the latest census, Gujarat is home to 523 lions.
In 1880, British officer Colonel James Watson is said to have undertaken the first lion census in Gir, reporting the presence of only 12 lions in the region. Over the next few decades, the then state of Junagadh undertook intermittent lion censuses. It was only after the formation of the Gir sanctuary in 1965 that the first official lion census was held.
The 2015 lion census was the 14th exercise on the trot. But it was unique on many counts. For the first time, the census covered nearly 22,000 sq km, more than twice the area covered in 2010. Camera traps were also used for the first time. The exercise saw the participation of 250 volunteers, including representatives from NGOs, teachers and doctors. A 2,500-strong brigade of forest and security officials and enumerators ensured that the exercise went off smoothly. Many volunteers took a break from their professional engagements to take part in the census.
For four days, enumerators trekked the dry deciduous forests of Gir tracking the Asiatic Lion, placing themselves at the forest’s waterholes. Most river beds had dried up, except for River Hiran, where water still flows. The method used for counting was Total Block Counting method, which is based on direct sightings of the animal.
Armed with GPS, GIS instruments and night-vision cameras, teams of enumerators sat on watch for the animals to come by. They wrote down specific characteristics of the animal on a sheet of paper printed with the sketch of a lion’s face and body. After each sighting, enumerators noted down unique identification marks on the lions — colour of hair and eyes, belly folds, scars, or tufted ends of tails. For instance, lion ‘Kaan-kata’ was identified by the cut on its ear, lion ‘Langdo’ had a distinctive limp and lion ‘Baando’ didn’t have a proper long tail.
The teams then marked the presence of the lion on physical maps and tagged the location on electronic maps. In several instances, trackers took help from the Maldhari tribe (local cattle-herders). “We were paid a daily wage to accompany them and help locate the lions. We have lived here for decades, we know the beast and its movements better than the forest guards,” says a Maldhari.
Preparations for the exercise began nine months prior and foresters started tracking movements of the lions a week before the actual census. For the enumerators, the census was a round-the-clock job. “They had to be at the spots throughout the process. They came with tiffins and water bottles. You never know when the animal will come to a waterhole,” says forester DP Dave at Sasan-Gir.
The kingdom expands
In India, historical records reveal that till a few hundred years ago, the lion roamed in areas north of the Narmada — what are now the states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Gradually, the populations migrated towards Gujarat and concentrated around Gir.
The species is now restricted to 1,882.6 sq km of the Gir forest area in Saurashtra. Nearly 75 per cent of the area, 1,421 sq km has been declared as Protected Area, which comprises 258.7 sq km of the national park and 1153.4 sq km of the sanctuary area. An additional 470.5 sq km of buffer zone serves as reserve forest. This means that lion presence has increased by more than 10 times the Protected Area.
As per the forest department’s estimate, a pride (five to eight lions) requires roughly around 40-50 sq km of territory. The increase in big cat population has resulted in a shrinking of the habitat, which explains why the lions have begun to move out of the forest areas. The census reveals that the big cats have expanded their territory to the coastal areas of Savar-Kundla, Amreli, Palitana, Mitiana, Pania and Babra Vidi. The lion footprint has spread to eight of the 11 districts of Saurashtra.
“Lions are moving out of the forest area in search of prey. Even if the lion has visited a place once, it has to be included as a lion-sighting area,” says Dr Ansuman Sharma, deputy conservator of forests, Gir (East). In the 2010 census, the exercise covered 41 villages, while this time the number has gone up to 76. GA Patel, former member of the National Wildlife Board and ex-chief wildlife warden, adds that “the increase in population has led to infighting among the males. The weaker ones are leaving the jungle.” Out of 523 lions, Gir is home to only 302 of them.
Project Lion
In India, the lion’s share of conservation of wildlife species is dedicated to protecting the tiger. While the Central government has made efforts by providing additional financial support over the years, the fact remains that ‘Project Tiger’ is top priority. “Under ‘Project Tiger’, the government has spent ₹488.58 crore. For elephants, they have spent ₹48.71 crore. The centre has also released a total of ₹206.09 crore under the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats in the last three years,” says Rajya Sabha member Parimal Nathwani, who introduced the pitch for lion as the national animal. “It is high time that the centre shifts its attention to the conservation of the Asiatic lion.” The status of the national animal has also seen its share of politics. Until 1972, the lion was a national symbol when the Indira Gandhi government launched ‘Project Tiger’ and the tiger unseated the lion. Since last year, however, the Modi government has been pushing for the lion’s return.
As the lion habitat spreads, the challenges that lie ahead for conservationists are the impending human-lion conflict in non-forest areas and the maintenance of a diverse gene pool. “The forest department has no infrastructure to protect the animal. There are no studies yet on lion behaviour outside the forest area,” says Patel, adding that an open savannah-type protected plains is an option for the lions’ expanded territory.
Members of the 8,400-strong Maldhari tribe say that the State government is not doing enough to protect lion cubs. “Male cubs are getting killed by bigger males. Some die on railway tracks. A strict vigil is needed to safeguard them,” says a young Maldhari. Last month, three cubs were run over by a goods train on the railway line between Pipavav port and Liliya taluka, which has a lion settlement.
With the latest census figures, plans are afoot to source more data on lion territories, their vulnerability to poaching and areas of conflict with the locals. “We are planning to have an Asiatic Lion Landscape Scheme aimed at habitat improvement and conflict management. Also, we are planning to form a task force to tackle issues related to lions and spread awareness for lion conservation,” says PK Taneja, additional chief secretary, forest and environment department.
While the State government has laid out ambitious plans to protect the lion, it has to increase its engagement with the Maldhari tribe. “It is their co-existence with lions that has benefited in conserving the endangered species. We must congratulate them for taking care of the lion,” Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel said while announcing the census estimates.
(This article was published on May 22, 2015)

150 new water points set up for Asiatic lions in Gir forest.

Press Trust of India  |  Vadodara 
Last Updated at 15:42 IST

In a bid to provide succour from the sweltering heat to the growing population of Asiatic lions, the forest department has set up 150 new artificial water points in Gir national park for the convenience of felines to quench their thirst.

Deputy Conservator, Gir National Park, said 150 new water points have been constructed in the last two years, apart from the 400 already existing water points across the wildlife sanctuary covering eight districts of Gujarat.

According to the latest announced early this month, the number of Asiatic lions in Gir sanctuary, the only abode of these big cats, has increased from 411 in 2010 to 523 this year.

"These artificially created water points are being filled up at regular intervals. We are doing it manually, through tractor-driven water tankers, solar pump sets and wind mills," Kumar told PTI.

Earlier, there were nearly 400 artificial water points which have now been increased keeping in view the rising number of lions.

The water points are being filled from last couple of days after mercury soared to 44 degree Celsius across the Suarashtra region.

Since the seven rivers - Hiran, Saraswati, Datardi, Shingoda, Machhundri, Ghodavadi and Raval - which pass across the Saurashtra region tend to parch during summers, additional arrangements are ought to be put in place, he said.

As per the latest census, there are 109 male, 201 female and 213 sub-adult Asiatic lions (cubs below age of three years) in the sanctuary.

Apart from Asiatic lions, the Gir forest also has a considerable population of leopards, spotted deers, sambar, Neelgai, chinkaras, antelopes and over thousand species of birds.

Task force to study growing habitat of Asiatic lions in Gujarat.

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Gujarat government has decided to form a high-level task force to study the growing habitat of Asiatic lions, after the latest census revealed that their population has increased outside the protected area of Gir National Park and Sanctuary.

Posted on: 10:54 AM IST May 18, 2015 IST | Updated on: 1:08 pm,May 21 May 2015 IST
Ahmedabad: Gujarat government has decided to form a high-level task force to study the growing habitat of Asiatic lions, after the latest census revealed that their population has increased outside the protected area of Gir National Park and Sanctuary.
The forest department will form the task force to analyse the census data in the wake of growing lion population outside Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, the sole home of the Asiatic lions, officials said.
The aim of the task force will be to prepare a report about growing habitat of lions outside the sanctuary and suggest measures to reduce man-animal conflicts, they said.
"We will chalk out a plan based on the census data, which suggests increase in habitat area of lions. I have asked the officials to form a task force comprising 4-5 senior officials to suggest corrective measures on how to reduce threat on lions and decrease man-animal conflicts," Additional Chief Secretary (ACS) in state forest and environment department PK Taneja said.
As per the 14th lion census, the results of which were revealed on May 10, 2015, the lion population has gone up to 523, which was 411 in the 2010 census.
While the Gir sanctuary is spread across 1,412 sq kms, the census report of 2015 suggests that the habitat area of the lions has increased to around 22,000 sq kms, which is almost double than 2010.
Out of total 523 lions spotted during this census, 268 were registered in Junagadh district, 44 in adjoining Gir-Somnath district, 174 in Amreli and 37 in Bhavnagar.
When asked if the state government was considering to extend the sanctuary limits or form a new sanctuary where lion habitat is found, Taneja said the committee will also look into these aspects. He also pointed out the need for re-deployment of forest staff to keep a check on lion movement outside the sanctuary.
"The task force will also suggest us all necessary steps to be taken for re-deployment of forest staff in areas outside the sanctuary. Before taking any decision on forming a new sanctuary, we need to analyse several aspects about the availability of herbivores as well as quality of forests," Taneja said.
Officials also admitted that lion population has significantly increased outside the sanctuary, particularly in Amreli district, where the number of the big cats has gone up from 108 in 2010 to 174 in 2015.
"Amreli as well as Bhavnagar are showing significant presence of lions. To avoid chances of man-animal conflict, we are now establishing regular communication with locals and farmers. We are also providing training to social forestry staff to handle the situation," Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) CN Pandey said.
"We have also launched an Asiatic Lion Landscape Scheme last year to handle lion population outside the sanctuary. Our main aim is to improve the habitat of lions in those areas and take measures for better conflict management," Pandey added.

The lion is India's.

For Asiatic lion's sake, Gujarat should allow some to leave Gir

After the impressive findings of the latest tiger census, which indicated a robust 30 per cent rise in their population in the past five years, the lion headcount this year has shown an almost equally impressive 27 per cent surge in the number of these big cats in a similar time span. The Gir forest in Gujarat, the only remaining abode of Asiatic lions (Panthera leo persica), which have vanished from all other habitats in the subcontinent and neighbouring countries, now has 523 lions, against 411 in 2010. These rare lions, which were put in the "critically endangered" category by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2000, were upgraded to the "endangered" class in 2011 in view of the steady increase in their numbers. There are good chances now that they may be taken out of the threatened bracket as cubs of less than three years of age and having a full breeding life ahead of them form a sizable chunk of their current population. Africa is the only other place where lions still exist but their count there has rapidly shrunk over the past decades.

However, the 2015 lion census has thrown up some disquieting trends as well, which merit urgent attention. The most noteworthy among these is that the lion population has reached almost the saturation point in the core area of the Gir national park. Their number is rising mainly in the areas outside the protected zone - thus bringing them close enough to human habitations to cause man-animal conflicts. The Gujarat government has stonewalled all queries, and maintained that locals do not grudge the predation of their cattle by lions. Even if this is true - and it stretches credulity - it is unlikely to remain so if the lion population continues to rise.

The Gujarat government now has to be conscious of the larger picture and do what is best for the survival of the Asiatic lion. The last surviving population of Asiatic lions should no longer be kept in a single habitat in Gir; instead, it should be dispersed to other areas where they used to roam about till the beginning of the 20th century. Restricting them to a solitary locale exposes them to grave risks due to disease epidemics, genetic deformities, forest fires or other unforeseeable calamities. In this context, it is worth recalling that the bulk of the lion population in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park was annihilated in the early 1990s by epidemics, forcing the authorities to look for a second home for them. The Gujarat government, with a focus geared more towards tourism rather than on conservation, has prepared a proposal to open another lion sanctuary close to the present one to ease the pressure on the Gir forest in the Junagarh area. However, that is really not the same thing as providing a wholly new homestead to these lions. Madhya Pradesh has already expressed keenness to provide a safe home for the Asiatic lions in the Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary; but Gujarat has refused to part with any lion for this purpose. The Supreme Court's order in 2013 for relocation of some prides to the Kuno park has also remained unimplemented, as Gujarat does not want to lose the distinction of being the lone home for this rare lion species. A fresh appeal is said to have been filed for the reconsideration of the apex court's earlier decree citing some new grounds for opposing the transfer of lions. However, regardless of the final judicial verdict, it would be in the best interests of the Asiatic lions if the Gujarat government relented and allowed these lions to inhabit more than one territory.

Living with 'PRIDE'

Living with 'PRIDE'
The remarkable growth of lion population in the state (by 27 per cent), is not just a matter of joy but one of concern too. Especially, considering the possibility of conflict between man and animal in the new territories where the animals have been spotted. The recent headcount of the majestic animal revealed that lions cover an area of 22,000 sq km in the state. Of 523 lions, 93 have moved beyond the limits of the Gir Forest National Park — the count was 74 in 2010.

This movement indicates that the conflict between man and animal has increased and is moving to other areas, too. In this scenario, shifting the lions to another state may not be the ideal solution. That, in fact, lies with the people of Gujarat, especially the people settled in Saurashtra. As per reports, lions have been spotted in territories outside Junagadh, with several being spotted in Amreli (Savarkundla, Rajula, Jafrabad towns), Bhavnagar, Mahuva also the riverbank of Shatrunjay in Palitana. Going by its nature, lions never adopt to a new place unless well acquainted with the land.

In the case of these new places, which lack forest cover, lions have found shelter in bushes and farmlands. The animals have been moving out of Gir to these lands in the last few years, but have always returned to Gir. This time around, the lions did not return to the Gir Forest National Park. Not surprising since the capacity of the park was surpassed a decade ago. As per statistics, Gir has space for not more than 275 lions, forcing the exceeding numbers to move out. In such a situation, there is an urgent need to create awareness among residents of these new territories on how to 'behave with lions'.

This should be among the state government's top agendas. And it is possible! The Maldharis of Gir have been maintained this decorum since decades and now the people living in other parts of Saurashtra need to adapt this style of dealing with lions. A lion's behaviour changes as do the phases of his life. For instance, it requires complete privacy when mating. But is approachable if it is alone. During our days in the Gir forest, we encountered lions several times; we would maintain proper distance and the lion would walk away. But not maintaining this decorum may result in conflict between man and animal.

That is why there is an immediate need to help people develop a rapport with the lions. The government should start camps and awareness programs to help the residents deal with this change in their environment and be prepared for situations. For instance, how to react and what to do when a lion enters your farm? Interestingly, the lions seem to be loving their new habitat considering the success ratio to get prey is 8:1 in the forest but 3:1 in the new habitat. People of Saurashtra love lions and aren't bothered even if their livestock is destroyed occasionally.

And several take pride when they spot an Asiatic lion. But there is a limit to their tolerance. Unless awareness is created and a harmonious method of living is formulated, there is a likelihood of conflict between man and animal, leading to hatred. After all, we cannot grow forests and will not be able to tell people to make space for lions or reduce farm land. So the best option is to learn how to live with the 'pride' and maintain the dignity of the Asiatic lions.

Conservation of Gir lions a success; but conservationists fear risks of single-location reserves.

Prerna Katiyar, ET Bureau May 17, 2015, 07.04AM IST

Kalyanji Bhai Jamuna Das Bhai Godhasara was plucking raw mangoes on his farmland in Dhava, a village in Gir Somnath district, on May 1 when a lioness attacked him.
Godhasara was lucky as the lioness retreated after simply injuring him. To the unaided eye, this may appear to be a case of a carnivore attacking its prey — call it man-animal conflict — as can be expected in a jungle terrain teeming with wild beasts, but the reality is just the reverse.
Locals will tell you that the lions — and lionesses — of Gir rarely attack humans unless provoked. In this case, a family in the neighbourhood of Godhasara had many visitors for a family marriage and apparently the lioness, along with her two cubs, was resting in the nearby farmland. It is not rare for the big cats to move beyond their natal territory in the 20,000 square km forests of Saurashtra and be spotted inside villages.
Villagers say that the visitors from the marriage home frequently went to see the lioness and her cubs and even threw things at her. This, the locals say, was the trigger for the lioness to attack.
Gir in the southern Saurashtra peninsula of Gujarat, which is the lone abode of the Asiatic lion in the wild — some 523 Asiatic lions live there as per the 2015 census — is otherwise a place where humans and lions live peacefully.
"Lions do not live with us. We live with the lions here. There is no question of fear [from the lions]," says Parbat Bhai Seva Bhai Chavda, a Maldhari tribal who resides in the heart of the Gir forest.
"They are our identity," adds Chavda, who owns two buffaloes and three cows. The tribal group of Maldharis ('mal' means livestock and 'dhari' protector), who are traditionally cattleherders, have been living closely with the felids for the past several decades.
"Gir lions is a remarkable conservation success story...But unless we translocate and establish at least one additional population, all the success achieved over the last 100 years may come to naught"
Ravi Chellam, wildlife biologist
There are nearly 8,400 Maldharis living in the Gir Forest National Park. Around 300 Vanya Prani Mitras, or friends of the forest animals, have been recruited to ensure that the lions are not attacked if they stray into nearby villages. Incidents of lion attacks, they say, are few and far between.
But attacks on their cattle are not as infrequent. "Sometimes the beasts pick up one of our cattle — but that's their food. It does not disturb us," says Haresh Chowda, another Maldhari who runs a tea stall for tourists and owns 11 buffaloes and four cows.
Apart from the Maldharis, a group of people of African origin known as the Siddis reside on the fringes of the forest in village Jambur. They were reportedly brought by the Nawab of Junagarh from the African shores for laying railway tracks in the region. Today, they have adapted to the Gujarati culture and lifestyle. They are mostly involved in construction work by the day and dance to the African tunes by the night for tourists.
According to the 2015 census, the total lion population is up 27% from 411 in 2010. "Factors like timely rescue, improvement in habitat, water management, mitigation of man-animal conflict and more awareness among the locals have contributed to the rise in lion count," says Sandeep Kumar, deputy conservator of forests, Gir National Park and Sanctuary.
The Gir lion is now out of the "extinct" category and listed as "endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Although it represents one of the most successful conservation efforts, first by the Nawab of Junagarh and today by the Gujarat government's forest department, that the lions are located in a single region and face the threat of a wipeout in case of a epidemic is the fear that keeps conservationists awake at night.
Call of the Wild
Asiatic lions once roamed from Turkey, north of Africa, Persia (Iran), Israel, Mesopotamia (Iraq), Palestine, Baluchistan, to many parts of India. In the Indian subcontinent, the carnivore lorded over Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Jharkhand.
But rampant game hunting and killingsin Sasan-Gir, which was formerly the hunting reserve of the Nawabs of Junagarh and colonial personnel, led to a marked decline of the felid. Lions also struggled to survive one of the most severe famines between 1901 and 1905.
According to Divyabhanusinh Chavda, author of The Story of Asia's Lions, during the freedom struggle of 1857, a British officer, George Acland Smith, shot as many as 300 lions — all by himself! By 1893, the count, say records, was a dismal 18 for a single subpopulation in Gir.

SC to hear Taj group plea to reopen hotel in Gir forest sanctuary.

First Published: Fri, May 15 2015. 08 26 PM IST
Shreeja Sen

A bench headed by chief justice H.L. Dattu said the issue of unsealing could not be considered by them without hearing the other side

New Delhi:
The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear the issue of unsealing a Taj group resort located in the Gir forest sanctuary in Gujarat.
In April, a two-judge bench of the Gujarat high court refused to intervene in a sealing notice given to the Taj group resort by the forest department for not having the requisite no-objection certificate.
A bench headed by chief justice H.L. Dattu said the issue of unsealing could not be considered by them without hearing the other side, and issued notice to state authorities.

Lessons from Gir.

Updated: May 15, 2015 01:01 IST
The credible contribution of forest dwellers in ensuring an increase in the Asiatic lion population defies all the misconceptions that they are often the root cause of wildlife destruction and habitat fragmentation (Editorial, May 14). Instead, these tribes have proved their integral and close-knit relationship with the forests. As these tribes have proved their worth, the government can proactively involve them in biodiversity conservation. I am sure that there are many such examples in forest stretches in India as it is they who understand the environment more pragmatically than any of us. The Gir lesson also shows that the time has come to respect their traditional rights over land, minor forest produce and water.
Nitin Chauhan, Noida, Uttar Pradesh

Gujarat sitting on eco-sensitive zone plan for lion sanctuaries

AHMEDABAD: The lion population has increased by 27% per cent in Saurashtra, but vital lion sanctuaries in the state including Sasan Gir, Mityalal and Paniya are still waiting for government to declare the limits of their eco-sensitive buffer zone.

Supreme Court made it mandatory for all sanctuaries in the state to have an eco-sensitive buffer zone which will end the setting up of industries including hotels and construction other than that by local residents. Also, this would end mining in the areas under the eco-sensitive zone.

Forest department officials claim that they have sent the proposal to the Union government for final approval, but confirmed sources said the proposal has still not been sent to the Union government for final approval. Officials said that the Union ministry of environment and forests had in 2013 made it clear that no new proposal would be accepted after April 1, 2013. Officials said that the sanctuary's proposal is still in waiting and as a result of the absence of the eco-sensitive zone, construction is flourishing there.

Officials said that the department had once sent the proposal to the environment ministry and was rejected for technical issues. Ever since, then the revised proposal has not been sent to the Union government for final approval. Officials said that the Union ministry, while rejecting the proposal, asked the department to involve local people including the panchayats but it has been over two years and the plan has not been modified and sent.

The officer said that for Mitiyala and Paniya, the department had prepared one proposal, including these with Sasan Gir sanctuary and hence the these two sanctuaries are also without the nod from the Centre.

Gujarat fires lion count barb at MP.

Monday , May 11 , 2015
Our special correspondent and PTI
Sasan Gir, May 10: The Asiatic lion population has gone up by 112 to 523 - a piece of good news that has prompted the Gujarat government to show the claws to neighbour Madhya Pradesh.
Quoting the five-year lion census figures, Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel said: "The neighbouring state of Madhya Pradesh also carried out a tiger census according to which the number of tigers declined. I am sure that our Prime Minister will look into it."
The state governments of MP and Gujarat, both run by the BJP, have been fighting a legal battle on translocation of Asiatic lions from Gujarat's Gir sanctuary to the Kuno Palpur sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh

On April 15, 2013, the Supreme Court had ordered translocation of Asiatic lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh, saying that the species is facing the threat of extinction and needed a second home.
Narendra Modi, then Gujarat chief minister and the current Prime Minister, had filed a curative petition challenging the Supreme Court order, but it was rejected in June last year.
The issue is pending before the Supreme Court after a Rajkot-based non-governmental organisation called the Wildlife Conservation Trust (WTC) challenged the translocation order.
Chief minister Patel said the male lion population was estimated to be 109, almost half of the 201 lionesses. The number of cubs is estimated to be 213. The 2010 census had counted 97 male lions, 162 lionesses and 152 cubs, totalling 411.
The lions' habitat area has increased to 22,000 square kilometres, which has almost doubled in five years, Gir Sanctuary superintendent Sandeep Kumar said.
The census, which began in May 1 and ended on May 5, is said to the largest in terms of area covered and personnel involved. More than 2,500 forest officials and volunteers, including 11 wildlife experts, were appointed as observers this time.

India's lion population sees 27% increase.

11 May 2015 From the section India

India says it has more Asiatic lions than it did five years ago.
The lion population had risen from 411 in 2010 to 523 in 2015, Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel said, quoting the findings of the latest lion census.
Gir forest in the western state of Gujarat is the only home to Asiatic lions.
Once widespread in Gujarat, their numbers shrank to a mere dozen in the early 20th Century, mainly due to hunting and drought.
However, in the last century their population has soared, thanks to a ban on lion hunting and several preservation measures.
The latest census conducted earlier this month by 2,500 officials and volunteers found 109 adult males, 201 adult females and 213 cubs over 21,000 sq km area of Gujarat's Saurashtra region - which includes Junagadh and 10 other districts.
Forest official CN Pandey told BBC Hindi's Ankur Jain that the lions were photographed and tagged by GPS during the census.
"Enumerators recorded unique identification marks like scars on the face, the shape of ears, tuft of hair on tail, colour, and belly folds. Using all this information with location details we removed overlapping and reached the final count," said Mr Pandey.
But the increase in lion numbers has posed fresh challenges to their safety, our correspondent says.
Environmentalists say some 40% of the lions now live outside the forest area and 260 lions have died in the past five years.
They say open wells and live wires on farms, poachers and passing trains and trucks have turned the Saurashtra region into a "death field for the Asiatic lion".
Also, man-animal conflict has grown - lions have killed 14 people and wounded 114 others in the past two years.

Enable Big Cats to Thrive, End Extinction Fears.

Published: 13th May 2015 06:00 AM
Last Updated: 13th May 2015 12:51 AM

The latest census of India’s population of the endangered Asiatic Lion shows that their numbers are up 27 per cent from those thrown up by the previous census conducted five years back. In 2000, the Asiatic Lion was declared the most endangered large cat species in the world by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The latest census shows that India has managed to bring back the Asiatic lion from the brink of extinction through a single protected reserve. While the rise in their population is welcome, it also poses fresh challenges for managing their habitat and conflict with humans. The slow and promising growth in their numbers is satisfactory, but 50 lions still die annually due to a variety of threats. Experts suggest the big cats need to be relocated to another habitat to ensure their safety because a single sanctuary is detrimental to their safety.
However, despite the Supreme Court ruling in 2013 that some of them should be shifted to another sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, the Gujarat government has repeatedly tried to appeal the decision and refused to transfer the lions. The rise in their population in Gir sanctuary should not be treated as an excuse to cling to its fauna, which they regard as the “pride of the state”. In the larger interest of preserving Asiatic lions, the Gujarat government must start cooperating and put everything else aside to save the lion via the translocation programme of the magnificent animal.
Considering that there have been reports of the tiger population increasing by 30 per cent, the rise in the number of lions suggests conservation programmes have finally begun to show results notwithstanding the hazards of their shrinking habitats due to the rise in human population and also of poaching. It goes without saying that these wonderful creatures are high revenue earners for the government because they attract tourists from far and near. The resultant infrastructure for visitors also boosts job potential. India is one of the rare nations where both the lion and the tiger can be found. It must make the most of the “achievement” by expanding the wildlife sanctuaries and creating new ones since the two species have to be kept separate. Having succeeded in saving them from extinction, India has to enable them to flourish.

Transfer surplus Gir lions to MP, says Dijvijay Singh.

New Delhi | May 13, 2015 12:01:13 AM IST
Senior Congress leader Digvjiay Singh on Wednesday called for the translocation of 'surplus' lions from the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh.
Taking to Twitter, Singh said, "Gujarat has been denying lions from Gir to be translocated to MP despite MP having made all arrangements in Kunu National Park."
"Now Gujarat has surplus lions it should allow lions to be translocated to MP There should be no ego issue as both states are BJP ruled," he added.
In 2013, the Supreme Court had ordered the translocation of Asiatic Lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh, stating that since the species is facing extinction, it needs a 'second home'.
However, the Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat governments are reportedly engaged in a legal battle over the same.
The Rajkot-based NGO Wildlife Conservation Trust has also challenged the order.
A census carried out this month has fixed the lion population in Gir, Gujarat at 523.

Human remains found near dam in Gir -Somnath district.

RAJKOT: Forest department and police have launched a probe after a human skeleton was found near Raval dam in Jasadhar forest range in Gir-Somnath district on Tuesday.

Some people suspect that the man identified as Ramesh Koli may have been killed by a lion. Forest department officials said that they are verifying this as the place where the skeleton was found is a protected area and prohibited for humans.

"Local forests officials and police have reached to the spot. Human skeleton and scattered pieces of clothes have been found near Raval dam on Raval River. This is forest area prohibited for humans," said deputy conservator of forests (Gir-East division) Anshuman Sharma. Local residents said that the man may have gone into the forest area where a lion attacked him.

"It would be too early to say that the man was killed by lion but the forest department and police are probing it to zero-in on the exact reason,'' Sharma added.

Lion may snatch national animal tag from tiger.

May 9, 2015, 6:50 am IST in On My Plate | India | ET
It’s tigers versus lions again. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is apparently considering making lion the national animal. The Times of India has reported that the National Board for Wild Life (NBWL), which in 1972 had picked the tiger as national animal, is now packed with MPs from Gujarat who want the honour to go to the lion. Gujarat is the home to the endangered Asiatic lion.
The 1972 decision was based on two factors—the tiger is found across the country and globally it is associated with India. Now, it seems, Gujarat’s pride might trump this, though there are others who fervently want the cow to become the national animal. Interestingly, the tiger is missing from nearly all the official symbols of India. The national emblem remains the stylised lions of the Ashoka pillar at Sarnath, surmounting the Dharma chakra. The armed forces and government departments use the Ashoka lions set in different designs. The Presidential flag has the Ashoka lions along with an elephant.
Most Indian states use the Ashoka lions, though some have their own symbols, often derived from those of royal courts in that state. Kerala has elephants, Uttar Pradesh a pair of fish, Arunachal Pradesh got hornbills and Nagaland has a wild bull. Sikkim has a pair of splendid dragons, Manipur uses a dragon-lion and Karnataka has lions with elephant heads. The animal on Odisha’s state seal is not clearly identifiable, but may be some kind of deer. None has tigers.
The only national institution that is using the tiger is the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The central bank’s symbol of a tiger under a palm tree is one of the most widely disseminated Indian emblems because it appears on one corner of our currency notes.
It is on the ten rupee note, along with an elephant and rhino, and old two rupee notes had fine tiger depictions.
But apart from the obligatory Ashoka lions, no lions have ever featured on our currency notes.
The choice of the tiger goes back to founding of the RBI 80 years ago. The bank was meant to appear both a part of the government and also partly independent. So it was felt that “the seal should emphasise the Governmental status of the Bank, but not too closely.” The solution was to take the East India Company mohur, but “replace the lion by the tiger, the latter being regarded as the more characteristic animal of India!”
The mohur’s design was one of the most celebrated images of British India. The famous British sculptor and designer John Flaxman had created it in 1835 to depict British power in India by showing a lion, the symbol of Britain, under a palm tree, one of the symbols the British had started using for India. “The palm appears on medals in specific context of the imperial, but also of oriental, overseas or exotic,” explains Dr Shailendra Bhandare, a specialist in South Asian coins at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, who has traced its use across a series of medals issued by the British in India.
The tiger had also been used as a symbol of India on such medals, but in a specific context. This was in medals made to commemorate the victory of the British over Tipu Sultan, the “tiger of Mysore” at the Battle of Seringapatam. This medal design shows a British lion defeating an Indian tiger. The association of these animals is significant because Tipu was probably the first Indian ruler to identify his power very strongly with the image of a tiger.
This is the central mystery of the lion versus tiger issue in India. Lions were always geographically limited in India and are actually missing from historical accounts for long stretches whereas tigers are widespread and well documented. Yet it is the lions which were used as symbols of royal power starting with the Ashoka pillars. Both Hindu and Muslim rulers used lion symbols, including Moghul rulers such as Babur (the meaning of whose name is tiger).
This practice went to the farthest parts of South Asia, such as Sri Lanka which uses lion symbols despite never having had population of native lions.
Lions became generalised symbols for royal, patriarchal power. Lions live in open grassland, so are more visible than tigers in jungles.
They live in prides, where the male obviously lords it over the females, whereas the tiger is solitary. Male tigers have their distinctive mane, but male and female tigers are similar. The lion announces itself with an impressive roar, while tigers growl more circumspectly.
So, as a symbol of self-important power, the lion scores over the tiger.
The geographical presence of lions also matters. They were found in North Africa and the Middle East in the places where Western civilisation was born, and their iconic value dates from those centuries. Lions appear in the Bible and in Islamic texts, from which they gain symbolic weight. But even earlier empires like the Assyrian and Persian ones had used them. In fact one fascinating, if contentious, theory is that the Indian use of lions as a symbol came from there.
This theory has been put forth by historian Romila Thapar and her nephew, the wildlife expert, Valmik Thapar in their book Exotic Aliens. In her opening essay, Thapar meticulously notes the long history of lions in imagery in the Middle East and how this spreads eastward.
In India, meanwhile, the references are rare and nearly always in reference to royal authority. And their earliest depiction, in the Ashoka pillars, seems linked to the king’s desire to spread Buddhist teachings “which when recorded drew on the simile of being heard as widely as was the roar of the lion.”
The Ashoka lions then could have been less depictions of an Indian animal, but more like those dragons on Sikkim’s seal – fantasy creatures to guard and spread Buddhist doctrine.
And their greatest modern success came on July 22, 1947, in the Constituent Assembly, when Jawaharlal Nehru presented a new Indian flag with one major change from the earlier Swaraj flag with the spinning wheel at the centre. Nehru said that a more symmetrical symbol would be more practical, which is why the founding fathers thought of the Dharma Chakra, which would represent both the spinning wheel and the ideals of Ashoka.
It is in this context that the lions became part of India’s national emblem, as guardians of the Dharma Chakra. There’s no reference to real lions and Thapar’s argument is that there may never have been – they are just general symbols of authority. That’s exactly what they were for the British too, since Britain has never had native lions. The lion was just a symbol for the state, as mythical as the unicorn with which it is paired in the symbol of the United Kingdom. Against this widespread use of the lion, Tipu stands out for being one of the few to use a tiger.
In more modern times, Subhas Chandra Bose was one of the few to use a fiercely leaping tiger in the flag created for Azad Hind Fauj. Tipu was, in fact, obsessive about it. As Kate Brittlebank notes in her essay ‘Sakti and Barakat: the Power of Tipu’s Tiger’ it appeared “on the uniforms of his soldiers, on his coins, as wall decoration, on his flags and, in probably the most spectacular example, on his throne, which displayed a massive gold tiger head with crystal teeth.”
Brittlebank argues that Tipu, ruling a South Indian kingdom of both Hindus and Muslims, deliberately chose a symbol that appealed to all these traditions. The tiger featured in both the Devi and Shaivite cults present in Mysore. And it was Tipu’s personal reinvention of the term Asad Allah, or Lion of God, the term used for Ali, the son-in-law of Muhammed, who he saw as his personal patron. Appropriate for his Indian kingdom, Tipu was the Tiger of God, and the British extended this image to show India as a tiger defeated by the British lion. There is a syncretic, specifically subcontinental sense to Tipu’s choice that still makes it relevant.
It is unlikely, of course, that this occurred to the RBI when it picked the tiger 80 years ago. They wanted to pick something quickly, and substituting an Indian tiger for Flaxman’s British lion was an easy option. But it failed to impress the Deputy Governor of that time, Sir James Taylor. It looked, he wrote in an internal memo, “like some species of dog, and I am afraid that a design of a dog and a tree would arouse derision among the irreverent.”
Taylor tried to have it changed, but bureaucratic and practical delays in the preparation of plates meant that nothing could be done. The RBI deserves credit for its support for the truly Indian symbol of the tiger, but it is sad that in its emblem – as opposed to the beautiful tigers on its currency notes – it has never been able to move on from the underwhelming tiger of 1935. Perhaps the Bank could mark its 80th anniversary with a redesign that finally gives India the emblematic tiger that it deserves.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.

Asiatic lion count in Gir goes up to 523, increases by 27 per cent since 2010.

Asiatic lionsDarshan Desai   |   Mail Today  |   Ahmedabad, May 11, 2015 | UPDATED 12:33 IST

Of the big cats in Gir, 109 are males, 201 females and 213 cubs.
The number of Asiatic lion in Gujarat's Gir sanctuary has gone up to 523, an increase of 27 per cent since 2010, when the last census showed the count at 411.
Releasing the numbers at Sasan Gir on Sunday evening, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel attributed the increase to persistent conservation efforts of the State Forest Department hand in hand with wildlife enthusiasts and local population.
Out of the 523, 109 are males, 201 females and 213 are cubs. The number of lions has grown steadily over the years from 180 recorded in the 1974 census, 359 in 2005, 411 in 2010 and 523 this year.This time, the count covered 1,500 villages of eight districts in the Saurashtra region, against two districts which was covered in 2010.
Asiatic lion

The 2015 census has recorded a huge rise in lion count.

 While the maximum number of lions was spotted in Junagadh (268), the highest increase was registered in Amreli district (174) lions. Besides this, 44 lions were spotted in Gir Somnath and 37 in Bhavnagar district.
"The lion is basically reclaiming its territory in newer areas and hence is venturing out. This census was significant to know the number of lions in regions outside the protected areas and on the basis of this future conservation strategies will be charted out," Chief Conservator of Forests, Wildlife, Junagadh, Anirudh Pratap Singh said.
Officials claim the population has grown because of improved breeding base. "Factors like rescue, habitat improvement, water management, man-animal conflict mitigation and creating By Darshan Desai in Ahmedabad awareness have contributed to increased numbers," according to Sandeep Kumar, DCF, Wildlife, Gir sanctuary.
Forest officials described the 2015 census as the most scientifically driven, since it was conducted with state-of-the-art gadgets, including global positioning systems, camera traps, digital cameras and computer tabs.
This was to discount possibility of repeat counts as well as to get the new location of the lions outside the sanctuary and the protected areas (PAs). Around 2,200 officials, forest guards, wildlife experts and volunteers were deployed in the week-long survey.

India's Asiatic lion population rising.

Census finds 27% increase in number of endangered lions found in their only habitat in the world – the Gir forest of Gujarat
Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica), female, lioness with her cubs, Gir Interpretation Zone or Devalia Safari Park, Gir Forest National Park, Gir Forest National Park, Gujarat, India, on 10 March 2015.
Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica), are the smaller cousins of African lions. Above, a lioness with her cubs, in Gir Interpretation Zone or Devalia safari park, in Gir forest in Gujarat, India. Photograph: Matthias Graben/Corbis
Wildlife experts have welcomed census figures showing India’s population of endangered Asiatic lions has increased in the last five years in the western state of Gujarat.
Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel said officials counted 523 lions, up 27% from the last census conducted in 2010 in Gir sanctuary, the last habitat for the big cats globally.
The census was conducted over five days earlier this month in the 20,000 sqkm (7,700 sq m) sanctuary and surrounding forest lands.
“There are 109 male lions, 201 females and 213 cubs in the Gir sanctuary and nearby forest areas of Junagadh district,” Patel said on Sunday.
Officials have said the experts conducting the census used a combination of direct sightings, photographs and GPS tracking technology to document each lion and avoid double counting.
About 2,500 people, including wildlife experts from India’s top universities, participated in the counting process.
The last census in 2010 showed 411 lions, up from 359 in 2005.
WWF India director Diwakar Sharma welcomed the numbers but said the larger population posed challenges for managing their habitat and conflict with humans.
“This is good news on the conservation front but bigger populations in bigger areas increases the challenge of managing land, human and animal conflict,” he told AFP.
“There (also) has to be some other place far away from Gir (for lions) so that in a time of catastrophe, we don’t lose the population.”
The Gujarat government is fighting a Supreme Court ruling in 2013 for some of the lions to be moved to a wildlife sanctuary in a neighbouring state to ensure their long-term survival in case of disease.
The cats are a subspecies of lion which are slightly smaller than their African cousins and have a fold of skin along their bellies. They are a major attraction for tourists to Gujarat.
India faces intense international scrutiny over its conservation efforts because it is home to many endangered species, including tigers.
Conservation efforts were hailed in January after 2,226 tigers were spotted in a country-wide census, a 30% increase in the population from 2010.
Authorities across Asia are waging a major battle against poachers, who often sell tiger body parts to the lucrative traditional Chinese medicine market, as well as other man-made problems such as habitat loss.

No second home for lions even as numbers grow.

New Delhi: The substantial increase in the Asiatic Lion’s population in Gujarat may be good news for wildlife lovers but has experts worried about the implications of rising numbers in a limited area.
As their population rises in the Gir forests of Gujarat, Asiatic lions are venturing out of the protected areas in their last home on the planet, increasing the threat of man-animal conflict. There are also fears of an epidemic breaking out among the animals as they remain confined to the Gir forests.
In particular, activists are agitated about the non-implementation of a Supreme Court order that directed shifting some of Gujarat’s lions to the Kuno wildlife sanctuary in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh. The Supreme Court, in its April 2013 order, directed the Union environment ministry to shift some lions to Kuno by October 2013.
Following this, an expert group, including officials of the environment ministry, Gujarat government, Madhya Pradesh government and individual experts such as Ravi Chellam, Y.V. Jhala and A.J.T. Johnsingh, prepared a draft action plan for shifting the lions.
The Gujarat government appealed against the apex court order, saying the lions will face competition for food from Kuno’s tigers, and the threat of poaching. The court rejected the appeal, but there has not been much movement since then.
Meanwhile, in the wild, lion numbers have grown.
On Sunday, the Gujarat government released the latest lion census figures, which said Gir’s population of Panthera leo persica, the Asiatic lion, has grown nearly 27% from 411 in 2010 to 523 in 2015. Asiatic lions, which evolved in Europe, are believed to have moved South over millennia, and now only survive in Gujarat. It is now classified as an endangered species. The African lion, with larger numbers, live in sub-Saharan Africa.
Regarding the shifting of lions, an environment ministry official said, “Recently, there has been some movement on the issue, but it could have been faster had Gujarat not been so uncooperative.” The expert panel which met in February, meanwhile, decided to revise the original action plan.
Ajay Dubey, secretary of non-governmental organization (NGO) Prayatna which has long been fighting for moving the lions, said the NGO has filed a contempt petition for non-implementation of the order.
“It is great news that the population of lions has increased. But it is very painful that the order of the Supreme Court of the country is not being implemented. We are now thinking of sitting on dharna at Janta Mantar to highlight that their numbers have increased. The issue now requires urgent action,” Dubey said.
“Gujarat has already exhausted all legal remedies available,” said a member of the expert committee, who requested not to be named. He said the state government is still looking for reasons to try and stop the transfer of the lions. “Sooner or later, they will have to do it. They are coming around to this realization. The pace is still very slow and none is sure how and when it will be done,” he added.
Asked about the space crunch at Gir, state minister for environment, forest and tribal development Mangubhai Chhaganbhai Patel said provisions are being made for increasing the protected area for lions. He, however, refused speak about moving the lions, saying the matter is pending in court.
Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh has been quietly preparing the second home for Gujarat’s lions, and has informed the expert group that the prey base in Kuno has increased. Its government has already spent over Rs.60 crore on developing the sanctuary and relocating villages.
The lion has been repeatedly called the pride of Gujarat by the state’s chief minister, Anandiben Patel, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his stint as Gujarat chief minister. Modi also opposed the translocation idea when he headed the state.
Lion reintroduction is a long-term programme encompassing action over 25 years in accordance with the guidelines issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The plan was to bring several dozen lions to Kuno over a period of 15-20 years.

Asiatic lions face danger in 'overcrowded' Gir, some of them need relocation.

Asiatic lionsTDarshan Desai   |   Mail Today  |   Ahmedabad, May 12, 2015 | UPDATED 10:07 IST

The census shows a 130 per cent increase in population of lions living outside the protected area of the forest.
The increase in the Asiatic lion population in Gujarat forests is surely a reason to rejoice for the state government and to pay reverence to the people of Saurashtra region for nurturing the wild cat while taking all inconveniences in their stride. But it is in the very impressive number - 523 lions, up from 411 in 2010 - that hides a tough challenge of conservation.
The 2015 census, which was the biggest ever covering as many as 22,000 square km, has found a rise of only 4.4 per cent or 14 lions in the sanctuary and protected forest areas while there has been a mind-boggling increase of 130 per cent or 96 lions in areas of human habitation with increasing commercial activities.
"It is to the credit of the local population that the lions have survived, flourished and grown, but the fact that the growth is happening outside the protected area in what are essentially human-dominated landscapes cannot remain a happy situation forever," points out renowned wildlife expert Ravi Chellam, who has worked extensively on Gir lions.

He maintains that the Supreme Court judgment regarding translocation of lions is still valid and needs to be implemented. The reason for as many as 14 lions getting killed during last one year alone in accidents, including 10 in rail mishaps, lies in the dispersal of the king of the jungle in search of prey base and water. Forest officials said that this is because the carrying capacity of the protected areas is only 260 lions.
Asiatic lions

The census shows a 130 per cent increase in population of lions living outside the protected area of the forest.

 "We are basically sitting on a time bomb with such exponential growth of lions outside the protected areas and this is spilling into the entire Saurashtra region (eight of the nine districts)," asserts H.S. Singh, a member of the National Board for Wildlife and a veteran Gujarat forest officer.
He says, "The challenge is not just about developing new habitats for the lions, all with prey base and water points, which itself is a Herculean task, but also about managing the near-impossible man-animal conflict which is already happening."
Singh is not wrong. As many as 258 lions have died of accidents and natural reasons between the previous census in 2010 and the count now.
"This statistic is adequate to understand the magnitude of the challenge that lies ahead and serves us a reminder that we must relocate some lions," says a senior official, who does not wish to be named as the state has made it a prestige issue in the Supreme Court with the argument that it will not part with Gujarat's lions.
The death figure suggests that the clash of the carnivore with human population and its economic activities has become inevitable. There are high-speed railway lines going to Pipavav Port in Amreli district, which has registered the maximum increase in the number of lions. Besides, there are five state highways passing through the forests.

CM Anandiben Patel goes on safari in Gir national park.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Chief Minister Anandiben Patel went on a safari in the famous Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary (GNPWS) to watch Asiatic lions in their only natural habitat in the world

By: Express News Service | Rajkot | Published on:May 12, 2015 4:50 am
A day after declaring results of the lion census 2015, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel went on a safari in the famous Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary (GNPWS) to watch Asiatic lions in their only natural habitat in the world on Monday.
The CM went on safari early in the morning with Forests and Environment Minister Mangubhai Patel, Additional Chief Secretary (forest) P K Taneja, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and head of forest force C N Pandey, chief wildlife warden of Gujarat, S C Pant and other senior forest officers accompanied her.
Patel also visited the animal rescue centre at Sasan Gir and interacted with women forest officers engaged in rescuing wild animals. The CM also met women groups which have traditionally helped conserve lions in the area.

More Lions, More Problems in Gujarat's Gir Wildlife Sanctuary.

More Lions, More Problems in Gujarat's Gir Wildlife Sanctuary
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File photo of lions at the Gir sanctuary in Gujarat

Ahmedabad:  The good news is that there are now 112 more Asiatic lions in Gujarat than there were in 2010. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi's thrilled. "News that made me very happy- 27% increase in Asiatic lions. Kudos to locals, officials & wildlife lovers whose efforts led to this," Mr Modi tweeted.

The not-so-good news, at least for humans, is that 93 of those magnificent but deadly beasts have been spotted outside the area of the Gir National Park & Wildlife Sanctuary, that is, closer to human habitats.

Five years ago, only 74 out of 411 Asiatic lions were found outside the National Park. This year, 93 of 523 lions -- a 126 percent increase from 2010 -- have moved beyond the protected areas of the National Park, according to the 14th Asiatic Lion Census 2015. Lions have now been spotted in Amreli and Bhavnagar districts in Saurashtra, which are 50-100 kms from the National Park. The Gir covers an area of 22,000 square kilometres - almost double the area covered in 2010.

Forest officials say that the movement of lions to newer areas is good, because it means more breeding bases are being created. Along with those increased bases, though, wildlife authorities also see the need to increase the size and number of protected areas for the Asiatic lions. This will keep man-animal conflict under check and also allow better wildlife management, they say.

Forest officials add that communications links between forest patrol teams, in areas where lions are in big numbers, has to be improved. "We also need to create more awareness amongst the 'maldharis' -- the locals livings in the forest areas -- on how to avoid man-animal conflict, and, more importantly, on how to improve the landscape, which includes increasing the prey base in the forests," says Dr Sandeep Kumar, Deputy Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), Gir.

Even Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel stressed the need for better coordinated efforts for the conservation of Asiatic lions. "The responsibility is not just of the forest department. We will have to involve other departments like irrigation, revenue, non-governmental organizations," she said.

Leopard mowed down by train near Keshod.

RAJKOT: A male leopard was crushed to death under a moving train near Magarvada village of Keshod taluka in Junagadh district on Monday.

According to sources, the leopard may have tried to cross the railway track and met with the accident. The leopard is believed to be around two-and-a-half-year old.

Forest department officials were informed about the incident at around 6.30am following which they rushed to the spot to conduct further inquiry.
Sources said that many leopards are found in the area where the accident occurred but it is for the first time that a large cat has been crushed under the train. Keshod is close to the Gir forest.

Earlier too, there have been at least three accidents where leopards have been run over by vehicles on highways in Saurashtra and South Gujarat.

Modi happy with jump in Asiatic lion count.

With Rising Numbers, Lions Overflowing Gir? Latest Census Hopes to Find Out.

With Rising Numbers, Lions Overflowing Gir? Latest Census Hopes to Find Out
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In the 2010 census, the lion population in Gir was tagged at 411.

Ahmedabad:  Is the Gir lion overflowing the borders of Gir? Are their numbers so high? These are the two vital questions wildlife experts hope to answer in a lion census that got underway this weekend.A spate of man-animal conflicts in recent years points in that direction, which is good news for the Asiatic lions but calls for better management by wildlife authorities.
But for now, the challenge before the experts is to establish it. To this end, they are depending on state-of the-art equipment.
"We want this to be a perfect exercise hence the technology -- GIS, GPS, camera traps, digital cameras, zeroing in on their groupings, their sizes, structure, composition, with the use of technology," said Dr Sandeep Kumar, DCF, Wildlife, Gir sanctuaryEnumerators will carry out what they call a total block counting method, which is based on direct sighting. Indirect evidence, such as pugmarks, will not be considered.
The Gir covers an area of 22,000 sq km - almost double the area covered in 2010, when the lion population was pegged at 411. Each of the 2200 enumerators will be handling around 1000 km each.
The count will cover eight districts of the Saurashtra region, apart from the 1,400 sq km area of Gir sanctuary. Besides, 625 points for sighting lions have been identified through a nine-month research.
"The moment a lion is spotted through satellite view, his location will be recorded through the Global Positioning System," said an enumerator, Prachi.
"A lion will be photographed and its unique identification marks - scars on face, shape of ears, belly folds will be recorded,'' Dr Kumar added.
Story First Published: May 05, 2015 01:30 IST

Asiatic lion's total goes up, may touch 500.

AHMEDABAD: The first round of Asiatic lion census that ended on Tuesday, has raised expectations that the population of big cats in the state may now be around 500, an increase of 15-22% in the last five years. Those involved in the census said that the number of sightings of the lions was very encouraging, with indications that their population outside the Gir sanctuary had risen substantially.

Forest department officials said that what was particularly encouraging was the number of cubs in the age group of 0-3. They were sighted in good numbers and this was a sign of healthy conservation. The officials said that in the sanctuary area, including the core area of Gir National Park, the count has been constant.

"This was because the sanctuary was saturated and had more lions than its carrying capacity. According to a study, the carrying capacity of sanctuary and the national park was around 250 lions and cubs but around 290 lions were estimated to be there in Junagadh and Sasan Gir Sanctuary," said an official.

Sources involved in the census said that the big cats were sighted more in the area of Amreli, Bhavnagar and even coastal areas. For this reason, their population in these areas is expected to be higher, the sources said.

The officials said that the 2010 census had shown that the number of lions outside the sanctuary in the coastal areas, Amreli and Bhavnagar was only 114 but this time their number is expected to rise considerably and may even cross 150. Sources in the government said that some new areas too may be added to those where the lions are currently known to exist.

(Getty Images photo)

Sources said the count had revealed that there are nearly six satellite pockets which the big cats had made their home. These include Sasan Gir; Mitiyala; Kankraj and Liliya; coastal belt of Savarkundla and Rajula; Gir; and the sixth was Bhavnagar and the area on the banks of Shetrunji River.

However, sources said that the last census had shown that the adult male-female ratio was 97 males against 162 females. This year too there would be improvement in the ratio and the count of adult males and females was likely to be around 280 lions to 290 lionesses.