Friday, August 28, 2015

Mulayam's Etawah project is becoming a political safari

Hindustan Times
Updated: Aug 28, 2015 00:24 IST

The deaths of Asiatic lions in Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Rs 100 crore pet project,Lion Safari, will hit Yadav’s plans for a grand opening of the safari, located in his native district, before the 2017 assembly polls. (HT Photo- Photo for representative purposes only)It was supposed to be Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Neverland Ranch.

The website of his pet project — Lion Safari — expands on that dream rather crudely: ‘It was a dream come true. The first pair of lions reached the Lion Breeding Centre and Lion Safari, Etawah, in April 2014. They roared on arrival’.
That roar is now muted after the death of five cubs in one month. These were not the first deaths: In October, lioness Lakshmi died, followed by a lion, Vishnu. Another lioness Kunwari is reported ill though the officials say she is fine. Experts are divided in their opinion on whether this project should be continued. One group is of the view that there is no climatic difference between Gujarat and Etawah and lions can survive in Uttar Pradesh. Another lot says that old gazetteer records show animals like neelgai, panther, fox, sambhar, bear, wolf, hyena, hare, etc in Etawah but no mention of Asiatic lions.
There are political overtones to this Rs 100 crore project as well: The deaths will hit Mr Yadav’s plans for a grand opening of the safari, located in his native district, before the 2017 assembly polls.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi targeted the SP during the general elections, saying that Gujarat gave UP the lions but Mr Yadav and company could not handle them and that the father-son duo should visit Gujarat’s Gir forest to see how safaris are done. With the lion safari not taking off, Mr Yadav’s son and UP chief minister, Akhilesh Yadav, has now expanded the scope of the project — just the way politicians do when they sense failure in development projects. He now wants to convert the ‘lion safari’ into an ‘animal safari’ by bringing in leopards, deer, bears and antelopes till lion cubs can be reared and released into the forest.
By all accounts, this project has not been thought through even though it has all the clearances. It exists because the father and son want it. And so it did not matter whether it had the required personnel or the infrastructure. It also has a political timeline.
So the safari bureaucracy will experiment once again without getting to the root cause of the deaths. Or even if they do, will they make it public?

Queens of Gir jungle

AHMEDABAD: They are the true 'lion queens' of Gir. These three women from Saurashtra - Rasilaben Wadher; Kiran Pithiya; and Darshanaben Kagada - have opted to work as foresters at Devaliya Safari Park in Sasan Gir where they rescue lions, manage their diets and look after their health. They even train officials of other states in rescue and management of wildlife.

The three had to overcome opposition from their families to work as foresters. They are praised and respected for their professionalism. In fact, the wildlife TV channel, Animal Planet, featured them in its documentary, `Lion Queens of Gir.' Rasila Wadher was among the first women foresters to join the lion rescue team. She has found herself at risk several times.

"Once I had gone with my team to rescue an injured lion," she said. "We were to tranquilize the beast. As soon as we fired the shot containing the tranquilizer, it almost attacked us. But we kept our cool and slowly walked back to our vehicles. The lion too slowly retreated into the forest."

Kiran Pithiya, 25, not only takes part in rescue operations but has to record the movement and change in behaviour of lions. She said that this sounds easy but is not.

"Recently, a lioness gave birth and I had to keep watch on the newborn cubs and movement of their mother," said Pithiya. "One day, I did not realize that it had turned dark. I was leaving the area on my bike alone when a lioness began chasing me." She realized she was in danger and immediately decided to signal to the lioness that she was a forester.

"I turned my bike around made a hat-hat and hud-hud sound," said Pithiya. "The lioness understood that I was a forester and turned back. If I had tried to speed up and escape, the lioness would have attacked and killed me."

For Darshana Kagada, talking in Hindi or English was a challenge. "I handle awareness programmes and even nature camps," she said. "As I am a commerce graduate, I used to find technical matters a bit difficult. But senior officers like Sandeep Kumar helped me understand these topics. I now speak Hindi fluently and understand English."

Lion Safari’s dream run laid to rest with Girishma’s cub

lions safari, girishma, akhilesh yadav, samajwadi party, lion safari, safari, india news
All 5 cubs dead, officials ‘start afresh’, put hopes on ‘next round of breeding’. - See more at:

All 5 cubs dead, officials ‘start afresh’, put hopes on ‘next round of breeding’.

Written by Faisal Fareed | Lucknow | Published:August 21, 2015 1:16 am
Mulayam’s pet project has now lost all cubs born here. (Source: Express Archive) For Etawah Lion Safari officials, starting from scratch is the only option left with the last surviving Asiatic lion cub dying late on August 14.
Lioness Heer had delivered two cubs on July 18 but the cubs couldn’t be saved. Thereafter on July 22, Girishma delivered three cubs but two of them did not survive. Forest officials had pinned their hopes on the third cub but he , too, lost his battle with life last week.
“Sadly, all the five cubs died, but we are starting afresh. We are hopeful of the next round of breeding and pregnancy among the lioness,” said Sanjay Srivastava, the newly-appointed director of the Etawah Lion Safari. Conceived in 2005 by Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, the lion safari has witnessed a series of deaths. In October 2014, lioness Lakshmi died, followed by a lion named Vishnu in November. This was followed by the deaths of the five cubs this summer.
Another lioness, Kunwari, is reportedly ill. Officials, however, claimed the lioness is fine. “She is taking normal diet, passing stool and, hence, there is nothing to worry,” Srivastava said.
“What happened was unfortunate. The cubs had become a pride for Uttar Pradesh; everybody was watching them but it did not go our way,” he added.
However, Srivastava said though the deaths are unfortunate, they aren’t abnormal. “As per experts, cubs born to first-time mothers have little chances of survival,” he said.
Chambal Range Divisional Forest Officer Anil Patel under whose jurisdiction the lion safari falls also said during his training at Sukkarbaugh Zoo in Junagarh, Gujarat, he had observed a similar thing. “The wildlife experts there apprised us that chances for survival of cubs of first-time mothers is quite less. We hope to do better next time,” Patel told The Indian Express. The safari also has three lions – Manan, Gigo and Kuber – from Gujarat.
Asiatic lioness have a gestation period of three-and-a-half-months after which they deliver 2-3 cubs. But time is running out for the officials as the dream project of the SP chief is unlikely to become operational before the 2017 Assembly elections in the state. Even after their birth, the cubs have to be kept in an enclosed area for at least two years before releasing them in a safari.
Meanwhile, senior officials stationed at the lion safari have returned while KK Singh, the former director, is facing a police case after an employee accused Singh of beating him and has been shifted to Lucknow. Principal Secretary Sajiv Saran has visited the safari to take stock of the situation.

Zoo marks World Lion’s Day

LION: Emperor Valley Zoo lion Mufasa in a photograph captured on World Lion’s Day celebrated August 10.

Published on Aug 18, 2015, 3:25 pm AST
Updated on Aug 18, 2015, 3:37 pm AST
By Sandhya Santoo

IN celebration of World Lion’s Day the Emperor Valley Zoo had a display for the public on lion awareness and conservation.
Celebrated last week Monday, as part of the Zoo’s Education and Enrichment Programme, officials created a display educating the public about lions.
The Zoo is home to five African lions, one of which is a white lioness named Nala. A white lion is extremely rare and gets it’s discolouration from a recessive gene. They are not albinos, according to zoological officer Sharleen Khan.
Khan said that there are two sub species of lions in the world, the African lion and Asiatic lion.
She said that there are approximately 25,000-30,000 African lions in the world and 411 Asiatic lions remaining in the wild.
She said that lions need to be conserved since their population is declining.
Khan said, “ Lions need to be conserved. Populations are declining due to mainly habitat loss, poaching, trophy-hunting and human wildlife conflict. They need to be protected before they go extinct”.

Two months on, home stay review panel yet to visit Gir

AHMEDABAD: It has been more than two months since the state tourism department formed a committee to review alleged irregularities in granting permission to guesthouses and farmhouses to operate as home stay in and around Sasan Gir but the panel is yet to visit these areas. These establishments continue to find mention as home stay units on the tourism corporation's website.

Sources said that the tourism department had directed the committee to contact forest department officials and then review the permits. However, the committee has neither discussed the issue with forest officials nor visited the locations to review the permits as yet.

A senior officer from the tourism department said that the committee was an eyewash as there was pressure from senior BJP leaders not to cancel the permits. Officials said that a majority of those given permission were close to senior BJP leaders from the area.

Earlier this year, the tourism department had given permission to 55 farmhouses and guesthouses on the periphery of the Gir sanctuary to offer home stay services. However, it is not clear whether the permits granted were legal as the Gujarat high court had declared many of these farmhouses illegal because they were earlier being used as hotels.

Sources in the department said that these farmhouses do not qualify for approval under the home stay policy. According to the policy, the owner of a home stay unit has to stay on the premises but this is not the case with most of these farmhouses. So such permission is illegal under the policy, they added. Of the 55 establishments given approval, 52 are in Sasan while three are in Junagadh district.

A senior officer said that the department has ordered the review by the same agency which had carried out the inspection while granting the home stay permission. He questioned as to how the same agency would say that their earlier inspection was wrong.

GPS-aided cameras to keep track of Gir lions

Around 250 cameras will be installed in the sanctuary. (TOI Photo by Sandeep Kumar)
Around 250 cameras will be installed in the sanctuary. (TOI Photo by Sandeep Kumar)

AHMEDABAD: The state forest department is getting ready to install GPS-aided 'camera traps' — a network of remotely operated system with motion and infrared sensors — in the Gir sanctuary. This will allow paperless monitoring of wildlife, especially lions, and for conducting habitat studies.

A senior forest department officer said the department plans to install around 250 cameras. The entire network is expected to be ready for use by October this year.

The cameras will be installed in every 4 sq km area of the sanctuary and in places where visibility is very poor. The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the Gujarat forest department, assisted by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), will use software to track the movement of not only the lions and other animals but also beat guards.

The ZSL will give £1 lakh (around Rs 1 crore) to the state government for setting up the new monitoring system. Funds for this will also come from the state government and the Centre, said an official.

The ZSL and the forest department had signed a memorandum of understanding for protecting the Asiatic lion and its habitat. In 2014, the ZSL had launched 'Lions400' campaign to raise funds for saving the Asiatic lion.

Y V Jhala, head of WII's animal ecology and conservation biology division, said that earlier a Gir lion was given as gift to the ZSL for its zoo. In return, the ZSL raised funds and decided to support the move to install GPS-aided camera traps in Gir.

Jhala said the advantage of these traps is that they can record accurate data and help the forest department keep watch on poaching and illegal activities, besides ensuring that forest beat guards visit their designated zones. These cameras will be camouflaged and will not disturb even birds. He said the battery in each camera will have to be replaced every 15 days.

Jhala said the new system will help beat guards record any illegal activity in real time and upload it to the server for officials to take necessary action immediately.

Diamond trader held, 503 kg of smuggled sandalwood seized from his residence

Kamlesh Shah in Bhavnagar

Acting on a tip-off, a team of Bhavnagar forest division officers raided the residence of one Kamlesh Shah in Amroli area of Bhavnagar city in the wee hours and seized the sandalwood worth approximately Rs 20 lakh.

Written by Gopal B Kateshiya | Rajkot | Updated: August 13, 2015 4:25 am
Kamlesh Shah in Bhavnagar Forest officials on Wednesday arrested a diamond merchant from Surat in connection with a sandalwood smuggling case and seized 503 kg of sandalwood from his Bhavnagar residence. This was the latest arrest in this case after the Gir East Division officials held four persons on Tuesday evening.
Acting on a tip-off, a team of Bhavnagar forest division officers raided the residence of one Kamlesh Shah in Amroli area of Bhavnagar city in the wee hours and seized the sandalwood worth approximately Rs 20 lakh. “We had a tip-off that a consignment of smuggled sandalwood had been sent to Surat from Saurashtra. Based on this input, our team conducted a raid on Shah’s house and arrested him after seizing the sandalwood consignment,” said Ganga Sharan Singh, deputy conservator of forest (Bhavnagar).
The seizure in Surat comes three days after 329 kg of sandalwood worth Rs 10 lakh was recovered from a gaushala in Bhadrod village of Mahuva taluka in Bhavnagar. The precious wood was cut from Gir forests. Sources involved in the investigation said the sandalwood seized from Shah’s residence was cut from Gir East Division forests, and the merchant was likely to be handed over to officers of the division.
Meanwhile, acting on the inputs provided by Bhavnagar officers, Gir East officers arrested four persons on Tuesday evening in connection with the sandalwood smuggling. The four have been identified as Jaga Rathod, Dinesh Parmar (both from Amreli), Dhanji Sisanda and Karamshi Sisanda (both from Dhari). The four were produced in a Dhari court and were remanded to a six-day custody of Gir East forest officers.
“There were incidents of cutting of sandalwood trees from forest and revenue areas in Gir East Division around a year ago. We suspect these people were behind that theft of sandalwood,” Gir East DCF Anshuman Sharma said.
Sources said Dhanji was pointsman of Lalji Jinjala, a resident of Mahuva. Jinjala, in turn, used to sell smuggled sandalwood through Jaysukh Patel, a diamond merchant of Bhavnagar. Incidentally, Jinjala and three others were arrested by Bhavnagar forest officers Saturday after sandalwood, suspected to have been smuggled from Gir forests, was found stored in guashala.

Lion deaths: Centre may bring out new policy on sand mining in forest area

AHMEDABAD: Minister of state for environment and forest Prakash Javadekar on Sunday said that central government is planning to bring a new policy to allow sand mining in forest areas in order to stop the the flood waters from overflowing into the forests.

The minister made the announcement citing the death of 10 Asiatic lions and other wild animals in the recent Amreli floods in June.

"Due to the flood in Amreli recently, 10 lions along with many other wild animals have died. As per the Supreme Court's order, you cannot excavate silt gathered in rivers passing from forest area. As a result, large amount of silt have gathered in such rivers across the country," said Javadekar during an interaction with media at circuit house on Sunday.

"As a result, the river beds have become shallow and the flood water eventually spread in nearby forests. If we do not remove this silt, Forest Rivers will eventually vanish and flood will keep coming. Thus there is a need to remove this silt to avoid such situation," added Javadekar.

He further said, "We have prepared a 'sustainable sand mining policy to allow sand mining in the forest area for this purpose. We will also inform the court about it to seek permission" said Javadekar.

35 projects in Gujarat given clearance in last 15 months: Javadekar

Javadekar claimed that his ministry has cleared at least 35 projects of Gujarat, which were not given clearance since long. "When Congress was in power at the Centre, they had stalled many projects of Gujarat. In last 15 months, we have given clearances to 35 such projects of Gujarat government. Many of the projects were stuck in this ministry since 2007" said Javadekar. Some of these projects which received environmental clearance include 800 MW extension at Vanakbori thermal power station, drilling of 103 wells in Vadodara by ONGC, development of Dholera SIR and limestone mining project in Rangpur village of Junagadh, claimed Javadekar.

Gir villages take pride in their lions

AHMEDABAD: In the past decade, there has been a 4-fold increase in the lion territory in Gujarat. Villagers living on the periphery of Gir sanctuary take pride in the growth of the lion population in their area. Barring one incident of poaching in 2007 and five deaths by electrocution, the big cats have been, by and large, safe areas adjoining Gir.

Forest department officials concede that it is only because of the people living around Gir that the lions are safe outside the sanctuary. On August 10, the world celebrates World Lion Day with this year's campaign theme being, 'Saving the King of Beasts to Save Ourselves'.

The people of Saurashtra have looked after the big cats as their own and have even sacrificed their cattle for them. In an unusual show of affection for the big cats, people of Amreli organized a prayer meeting after 13 lions were washed away in the flash floods that hit the district recently.

Earlier, in 2013, the people of Kakrach (also in Amreli district) had launched an agitation after their 'Rajmata,' a radio-collared lioness, had wandered away from the area. It was later spotted in Gondal.

"The forest department captured the lioness, gave it a new radio-collar, and kept it in the zoo," said Manoj Joshi, trustee of Pariyavaran Samiti in the area. "But the local residents went to the forest office and urged the officials to free the lioness."

Even the panchayat passed a resolution and forced the forest department to free the lioness. The lioness is now 14 years old and still lives in the area.

Deputy conservator of forests Anshuman Sharma said that there have been instances where the farmers had told the forest officials not to capture the lioness as it acted like a security guard, protecting them from other wild animals, including the neelgai.

"I was once on patrolling duty when I was told by a farmer not to disturb the lioness as it was protecting his field," said Sharma. "The farmer told me that if the lioness leaves the village, he would have to hire a man to keep watch on the field at night."

Praveen Singh, who has made a documentary for a wildlife channel, on lions living outside the sanctuary, said that the big cats seemed to be doing quite well as the people seemed to trust them.

"There may be an incident or two of lion-related violence in a year but, by and large, most people take pride in the fact that the lions live among them," said Singh. "The farmers are positive about it. Many of them say that if the lions are there, deer won't come to their fields. So it is a symbiotic relationship in a way. They can sleep soundly at night."

Growing kingdom:

Of the 523 lions in the state, 211 are in Amreli and Bhavnagar district alone. This is around 40% of the total lion population of Gujarat. Officials say that, in 2005, lions were found only in an area of 5,000sqkm. This had increased to 10,000sqkm in 2010 and, in 2015, lions are found over 22,000sqkm.

Subsidy hike to cover wells around Gir not yet cleared

AHMEDABAD: The death of one more lion in Visnagar has once again raised concerns over open wells outside the Gir sanctuary. Forest department officials said they have already forwarded a proposal to increase the subsidy given for covering wells from Rs 8,000 to Rs 15,000. However, the state government is yet to give its final nod to the proposal, pending which no new project to cover wells has been taken up by the department. There are over 10,000 open wells in the periphery of the sanctuary. Officials said that on an average, the department receives around 110 lion and other wildlife rescue calls every year. Of these, around five per cent calls are about lions falling in wells. Earlier, the percentage of such cases hovered around 15 to 20 of the total rescue.

According to officials, there were more than 25,000 big and small open wells in 2008. The government then came out with a policy of giving Rs 8,000 to farmers for covering and constructing parapets around their wells. Around 24,000 wells have been covered under the project over the last five years while 1,500-odd big wells remain open. However, with lions venturing out up to Bhavnagar, the number of open wells has now reached almost 10,000.

Officials said that due to lack of funds the department has not been able to cover the big wells, which are turning into killer wells. They said that now it is not possible to cover the wells for Rs 8,000, so they recommended a hike in subsidy.

Rajasthan spanner in proposed Gir lion relocation to MP

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Updated: Aug 08, 2015 20:49 IST

The proposed shifting of Asiatic lions from Gir to a protected zone in Madhya Pradesh has run into fresh hurdles with the Rajasthan government contending that it could lead to conflict with tigers.

The Gujarat government too is planning a second home for Gir’s lion population, described by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the pride of the state.
Modi as chief minister of Gujarat had opposed the lion relocation project though the Supreme Court in April 2013 directed the Central government to shift some of the endangered animal from its only home in India to a man-made green habitat in the Shivpuri district of Madhya Pradesh, where over 100 years ago both tigers and lions co-existed.
But, the Rajasthan government --- not a respondent in the Supreme Court case --- has now questioned the possibility of co-existence saying relocation of lions can endanger tigers from Ranthambore national park in Rajasthan which have shifted base to Kuno through a natural corridor.
The Rajasthan government has also provided camera trap evidence to show that tigers from Ranthambore have been spotted 135 kms away in Kuno.
At least, four tigers from Ranthambore and nearby forests have been spotted in Kuno in the last three years, said an official of the Rajasthan government.
“In such a scenario, there needs to be a study done on whether the two species of big cats can co-exist. There is a possibility that either tiger or lion may die during a conflict,” a senior state government official said.
Fayaz Khudsar, a biologist with Delhi University on whose petition the apex court had ordered relocation of lions, said there has been no scientific research on the subject in central India.
“A small paper published by wildlife historian Mahesh Rangarajan found that lions and tigers had co-existed in Shivpuri district before they were hunted down over 100 years ago,” he said.
The new evidence from the Rajasthan government was more than enough to help the environment ministry to make Rajasthan part of the committee set up to examine lion relocation after the SC order.
Rajasthan has been made a member of the Asiatic Lion Management Committee and its claims were being scientifically examined, a ministry official confirmed.
Wildlife activists said the decision would further delay implementation of the Supreme Court’s order as the ministry will seek more time for implementation.
“The issue of lion-tiger conflict had been extensively dealt in an expert committee report submitted to the Supreme Court. I will file an application in the court praying for direction to get its 2013 order implemented,” Khudsar said.
The Gujarat government has further dented the possibility of relocation by deciding to explore another home for lions in Amreli district in Saurashtra region. This, wildlife activists, say will kill the possibility of relocation of lions to Kuno-Palpur.
“Lions can be relocated as Amreli has Gir-like dry deciduous forest and the weather is also similar,” a state government official said, adding that Amreli had lions before they were confined to the protected areas in Gir National Park.

Lion Safari head who ‘thrashed staff for leaking news’ shunted

Etawah lion safari, Anil Patel, UP govt, chambal range, leaking news, lucknow news, indian express

The next day, Singh left the Lion Safari and refused to return.

T - See more at: Express News Service | Lucknow | Published:August 8, 2015 1:54 am
Lion Safari at Etawah The Uttar Pradesh government has transferred Etawah Lion Safari director K K Singh, replacing him with Anil Patel, who was posted as divisional forest officer, Chambal Range.
Singh’s transfer comes following an attempt to murder case was lodged against him after he allegedly assaulted an employee “for leaking the news” of the death of four cubs that were born at the Lion Safari, which is dream project of ruling Samajwadi Party’s chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.
“I have been transferred and attached to Lucknow Forest Headquarters and no specific work has been given to me,” Singh told The Indian Express.
Soon after the four cubs died at the Lion Safari in a week in July (total six, including two adult lions in nine months), the campus was placed out of bound for the media and others. Chief Wildlife Warden Rupaq De who was sent there to find out the reason leading to deaths is still camping at Lion Safari.
On July 26, the employees at Lion Safari staged demonstration against K K Singh for allegedly assaulting one Rishi Yadav after accusing him of leaking reports to the media. The employees locked the main gate and refused to join duty. The situation was brought under control after police reached the spot and lodged lodging a report against Singh on charges of assault and attempt to murder. No arrest has been made in the case so far.
The next day, Singh left the Lion Safari and refused to return.
Meanwhile, asked about the police case lodged against him, Singh claimed that he is unaware about any such development.
After assuming power, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had put the Lion Safari, his father’s pet project, on top priority. Four pair of Asiatic lions were brought to the centre between April and September 2014 for breeding but one of the females died in October followed by a male on November 16. On July 18 this year, two cubs died soon within 24 hours of their birth, followed by another two of three that were born four days later.

Is it time to find a second home for Gir's free-ranging population of Asiatic lions?

(As India celebrates the…)

ET Bureau Aug 8, 2015, 04.00AM IST
By Dhurjoti Bhattacharya

By any standard, the story of the Asiatic lions in the Gir Forests of Gujarat can be dubbed as a conservation success. Their numbers have risen steadily— from 20 lions in 1913 to 523 this year. So much so, it has become a tight existence in the 1,412-sq km swathe of forests across Amreli and Junagarh districts of Gujarat, which the Asiatic lions call home. The lions from Gir are now moving out, straying well beyond the designated protected area.
The healthy population of lions in Gujarat—the only state in India where lions still live in the wild—is something worth celebrating. But the situation is fraught with risk. For the Asiatic lion, the issue is no longer of numbers. Survival, however, is still the issue. Is there room enough in Gir for the burgeoning lion population? Some 40 per cent of lions live largely outside the Gir protected area. From the conservation standpoint, isn't it time some of the lions were translocated to other favourable locations, a move that could secure the long-term survival of the Asiatic lion in India?
One of the factors that have made Gir a revival success story is the relatively conflict-free cohabitation of humans and lions. With their numbers rising, this model of peaceful coexistence will be seriously strained. In the long run, as the lions move into areas dominated by human habitation, the instances of conflict could rise.
There are more immediate concerns. Lions straying out of the sanctuary face dangers like being trapped in floods, getting hit by speeding vehicles, or they become targets of human action. The warning signs of the impending crisis are already there. As many as 13 lions died in the recent flash floods in the Shetrunji river in Amreli district. "The river is infamous for sudden floods. The herd of lions got caught in one of these," said an Amreli resident.
Multi-Pronged Strategy
Gir's revival can be attributed to a multi-pronged strategy—the firm implementation of wildlife protection laws, swift compensation for the cattle or other casualties caused by lions, and a strong network of NGOs working to raise awareness about conservation.
"People have been made to understand that harming lions would definitely land them behind bars," says Junagarh-based former journalist and lion enthusiast Sibte Hussain Bukhari. "The speed with which the forest department provides compensations helps keep tempers in check."
Success comes with its own problems. The Gir Forest is unable to sustain the steadily increasing numbers. The informal lion habitat area has doubled—from 10,000 sq km in 2010 to 20,000 sq km in 2015. During this period, some 1,500 villages in eight of the nine districts of Saurashtra region have become part of the lion habitat. If this growth in lion population sustains, then instances of man-animal conflicts will increase. The strategies that have been effective are unlikely to be successful as more and more villages become part of the informal lion habitat.
The signs of a crisis in the making are already there. "There is one significant fact about the recent lion deaths: none of these occured in the sanctuary area," said a source from the area.
Why are the lions straying out? Is it the search for food? Senior forest officials say that there is no dearth of its prey within the sanctuary. What takes the lion out of the sanctuary across the Saurashtra region is its inherently expansionist character. "This is a good sign, the lions spilling over signifies that their numbers are rising. But it also puts the onus on us to be more alert and responsive," said a senior forest official.

The Challenges
Faiyaz Barejiya, a resident of Chitravad Gir village, about 10 km from the Gir Forest, argues that lions move out of the protected area because they are innately "lazy". "A lion", says Barejiya,"prefers an easy prey like a cow or buffalo for food rather than hunt down a deer or neelgai". He says that lions regularly make their way into villages,"drink water, make a kill and leave". This could provide a plausible explanation for the rising incidence of lions being hit by speeding trains and vehicles. Since January 2014, as many as 10 lions have been killed in"road accidents".
Dr CN Pandey, the principal chief conservator of forest, Gujarat, acknowledges that protecting the lions has become more challenging over the years. "There have been a number of lion deaths on railway tracks, so we have initiated fencing along the tracks," Pandey said.
The department is making several "positive interventions" in the areas outside the sanctuary where the big cats are settling. "We are developing water bodies in the areas where they may need water holes, working with NGOs to raise the awareness level of the people, and trying to bring down the response time in case of a rescue operation or a man-animal conflict situation," Pandey said.

Number of lions, tigers, elephants increased over the year: Prakash Javadekar, Environment Minister

PTI Aug 6, 2015, 07.19PM IST

NEW DELHI: Population of wild animals like lions, tigers and elephants have increased over the years across the country, Rajya Sabha was informed today.
"Estimates of population of major wild animals indicate that there has been an increase in their numbers. The number of Asiatic lion has increased from 304 in 1995 to 523 in 2015, while that of tiger from 1,411 in 2006 to 2,226 in 2014 and of elephant from 25,569 in 1993 to 29,391-30,711 in 2012," Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said in a written reply.
He said incidences of loss of human lives and damage to crops by wild animals were reported in various parts of the country from time to time.
From 2012-13 till now, a total of 72 people have died due to attack by tigers while a total of 769 people lost their lives in elephant-human conflicts.
"Degradation of the habitat including, depletion of water and food availability is considered some of the reasons for wild animals to come out of its natural habitat.
"Wildlife management primarily focuses on improvement of habitats of wild animals by augmenting the availability of food and water in forest areas to reduce the entry of animals from forests to habitations," he said.
Javadekar said assistance was also provided to states for payment of ex-gratia relief, management of wildlife conflict situations and construction of physical barriers wherever feasible. In many parts of the country, anti-depredation squads have also been set up to drive away problematic animals.
Keeping in view the losses to crops inflicted by the wild animals, the Ministry in December last year had issued an advisory to states highlighting the legal provisions under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 to deal with the human- wildlife conflict situations.
He said the Ministry has also issued a detailed advisory in June this year regarding the priority actions for management of human wildlife conflict.
"The state and UT have been requested to institute a 'Human Wildlife Management Strategy' along with other suggested measures for the proper management and prevention of human wildlife conflict situations," he said.

Asiatic lion dies after falling into well

Asiatic lion, Asiatic lion population,

Forest officials ruled out any foul play in the incident. Veterinarians who conducted a post-mortem of the carcass have concluded that the lion died of drowning.

By: Express News Service | Rajkot | Published:August 6, 2015 6:25 pm
Forest officials ruled out any foul play in the incident. Veterinarians who conducted a post-mortem of the carcass have concluded that the lion died of drowning. (picture used for representation only) An Asiatic lion died after falling into an open well in Piyava village of Visavadar taluka of Junagadh district in Gir West division late on Wednesday, forest officials said.
The incident came to light when residents of Piyava village alerted local forest guards that a lion was floating in a well of a farmer. However, by the time rescuers reached the spot at around 10 pm on Wednesday, the animal had died and they could only fish out its carcass.
“The well in which the lion fell is in bed of a river and covered by bushes. Even a human being would not come to know that there is a well. We believe, the lion fell into it accidentally when it went to the river to drink water,” Ram Ratan Nala, deputy conservator of forest (DCF) of Gir West division told The Indian Express on Thursday.
The DCF said that the lion was around eight years old.
Forest officials ruled out any foul play in the incident. “Veterinarians who conducted a post-mortem of the carcass have concluded that the lion died of drowning. They further said that it must have fallen in the well less than 24 hours ago,” added Nala.
Incidentally, a lion was allegedly electrocuted on agricultural field of a farmer in Moti Monpari village of Visavadar after it came in contact with a live electric wire which the farmer had set around his field to ward off wild animals like wild boars and blue bulls from damaging his standing crop. But after finding the lion dead, the farmer had pushed its carcass in a culvert to make it look like the carnivore was washed away in a stream. Seven persons were arrested in connection with that incident.
The death comes weeks after 11 lions were killed in flash floods in Amreli district in June. Asiatic lions are an endangered species and their only wild population in the world is surviving in Gir forest and adjoining areas in Saurashtra region of Gujarat. The 2015 lion census had pegged the number of the top predator at 523.

Cecil the lion: Minister condemns 'barbaric' slaughter

ENVIRONMENT Minister Rory Stewart today condemned the “barbaric” slaughter of Cecil the lion and pledged to help protect the world's most endangered species.

Cecil the lionEPA
Cecil was Zimbabwe's most famous lion
After announcing £5million funding to combat the poaching of tigers, rhinos and elephants, he said: “I think this barbaric action with Cecil has really focused the attention on lions. We also need to be focused and sensible in terms of making sure that we are genuinely prioritising our resources towards the most endangered species.
“The particular lion issue I am keen for the British Government to focus on at the moment is the Asiatic lion, which is a distinct species of lion, and which is now found only in Gujarat and if it were to be lost, and we are now down to a few hundred, would be a real tragedy.”
On the question of African lions, Mr Stewart said Britain is working two ways: on a political front and also protecting habitat. Ministers, for instance, have been in touch with counterparts in Zimbabwe as well as the EU after the killing of Cecil by an American hunter looking for the ultimate big game trophy.
I think this barbaric action with Cecil has really focused the attention on lions
Rory Stewart
Secondly, says Mr Stewart, we must also protect the wildernesses where not only lions but also so much other wildlife depend on for survival.
Mr Stewart praised for campaigning for greater lion protection by highlighting the animals’ links with so much British symbolism.
The new Defra minister said: “The Express’s campaign to make us understand that one thing to do is focus on a particular animal, particularly an animal as iconic as the lion which has this extraordinary symbolism and resonance in our history, can be a good way to proceed.
“If you look at the environmental movement going back to the 1950s, a lot of the great successes have come about by focusing on charismatic or iconic species, the World Wildlife Fund with the giant panda, has done an enormous amount to raise awareness."
Much of the £5million pledged to the second round of the Government’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund will filter down to the local communities and law enforcement agencies protecting these precious habitats.
Among the 19 projects that benefited in the first round of funding was helping Mozambique villagers in an area where both black and white rhinos are poached.

Funding also went to helping protect snow leopards in the Kyrgyz Republic, protecting ploughshare tortoises in Madagascar and designing a “gold standard” wildlife protection technology in Kenya.
Speaking about protecting wild spaces, Mr Stewart added: “A lot of this is about habit in which they live and that’s not just true about lions but all species. If we can get the habitats right and the environment right, that’s not just going to benefit one species but it is going to benefit species across the board because the pressure on many of these animals, on tigers for example, of which there are very few left in the world, is fundamentally the loss of their habitat and humans encroaching on it.”
“I would like to see the UK Government frame this conversation, or make people think about protecting the environment in which they operate.
“I would like to engage British citizens, British volunteers. The organisation that tagged Cecil the Lion is working with volunteers to map climate change species in a wood in Oxfordshire. I would like to see connection between Cecil, the issues of the lions with what we can do in Britain.”

Take care, do not provoke this lion


Aesop’s Fables is history cum legend. ‘Amar Chitra Katha’ survives though on a limited scale. Not many people know what happened between Androcles and the Lion. For many years cinematic lions (including the famous MGM breed) which were shown tearing cowering human victims from limb to limb provided live entertainment to bloodthirsty Romans in their famous arenas dominated world cinema. Occasionally the humans fought back. One of them, Samson, defeated a lion with an unusual weapon, the jawbone of an ass. The lion, as a fiercely hunted animal in many parts of the world, sought shelter in remote parts of the world.  The tamed varieties of the King of the jungle, with their teeth and claws pulled out, were even trained to perform in circuses and in artificially-staged fights. They succumbed to film heroes who, in real life, fled from rabbits and asses. The Indian producer seldom gave up. Film journalist, founder and editor of political magazine Mother India, Baburao Patel, known for his vitriolic comments spoofed the fight scene of the black and white version of Samson and Delilah (‘Aurat’), starring He-man hero Premnath and Bina Rai, that the lion was too strong for the hero who thought of a brilliant counterattack, ignored the animal’s vulnerable body parts and vigorously tickled it all over. Unable to control its laughter, the lion laughed uproariously and fell over roaring in laughter. The desi ‘Samson, seizing an opportunity, put his hands into the lion’s open mouth and tore it, killing it. The awed enemy fled in terror.
The Samson legend stayed but not the episode from the film or the comments of the critic. To most Indians, the lion was still the king of the jungle though occasionally outwitted by smaller animals like the rabbit. Wonderful TV Channels like Discovery brought this fact closer. Even Walt Disney had to agree! The Indian lion was associated with the legend of Bharat – symbolising bravery and courage, along with the Tiger. It is not known how the Asiatic lions came to be so closely associated with Gujarat. What was the link between the strictly vegetarian Gujarat and its strictly non-vegetarian lions? The various theories put forth on this issue did not satisfy scientists and zoologists
In the meantime, the Kuno wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh laid a claim for a second lion sanctuary in the state with the argument that the Asiatic lions could not be the monopoly of just one state. Already Gujarat claimed monopoly over Gandhian thoughts, the 2002 riots, Ambani refineries, prices of Amul Milk and other products which alone refused to comedown. No wonder the relocation of the Gir lions became a political issue. For once, the BJP-dominated Gujarat had to lock horns with Madhya Pradesh, another BJP stronghold where the stranglehold of the Sangh Parivar was only threatened with the startling recent revelations over dozens of examinations and manipulated results conducted by the state government. These scandals did not spare the Chief Minister who was assiduously playing second fiddle to Narendra Modi, the supreme hero of the Sangh parivar. The Sangh Parivar was worried whether a rival had finally emerged on the BJP leadership scene.
The major worry for the NDA government was the likelihood of shedding its long held stand that Asiatic lions really needed a second home outside Gujarat’s Gir sanctuary, maintaining the current ‘status quo’ and continuing with the present arrangement. How far is it true that the Union government is likely to present a fresh stand before the Supreme Court? The government had to contend with the views of the earlier governments whose environment ministries backed the relocation move.
Public opinion, now more alive, resulted in more public interest legislation cases against the SC judgement of April 2013 which stated that the Lion Relocation Plan was the best for the species because it was against monopoly ownership for wild animals by any agency. The highest court in the country dismissed several petitions against the judgement filed by the Gujarat government. It has no more legal options in the matter. The current one could well be the last on the issue. Relocating the Big Cats to the Gir forest was a successful move. It was the only venue which stood the test of time. Was it possible now? While the matter has become a legal issue, there is no response of any kind from the government
Legal experts are firm in their view, pointing out that the SC had not wavered its basic stand on the issue even while admitting several stay orders on it. The inevitable conclusion is that the court stand of April 15, 2013 was still valid. It has to be implemented without further delay. The SC issued directives for setting up of a 12-member expert committee to prepare a detailed plan for the relocation of the lions.  In April, the Committee submitted a 56 page report to the state government which included details on the ‘soft’ capture of the lions and their release in Kuno.
There is nothing new in the proposal nor the solutions suggested. Asiatic Lions experts, for more than 25 years have been expressing reservations how animals confined to one specific geographic region could be easy victims to natural disasters like floods, earthquakes. Today there is no escape from such natural calamities. Why not spare a home for the animals, queries a well-known naturalist. Unfortunately, the issue generated state and regional pride, personified in the presence of Prime Minister Modi, who had hogged all the credit for Gujarat’s development. He would not like to let go credit for development of the lion culture. Any proposal to shift the lions (even some of them) would not to be his liking. When Modi roars, even lions have to listen.

'Over 1 lakh hectares forest land approved for development projects'

PTI Aug 4, 2015, 05.50PM IST

NEW DELHI: The government has accorded approvals for use of around 1.25 lakh hectares of forest land for various development projects during the last three years, the Lok Sabha was informed today.

"The government grants prior approvals under the Forest (Conservation) Act 1980 to use forest land for the purpose of various development projects.
"During the last three years including the current year, the central government has accorded approvals over 1,24,133 ha of forest land for such development activities," Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar informed the Lok Sabha.
He said that forest areas for such activities are approved by the central government under section 2 (ii) of the forest conservation act 1980 with adequate environmental safeguards and afforestation measures in lieu of forest land proposed to be utilized for development activities.
"During the last two years and the current year, an area of about 78,301 ha has been prescribed for compensatory afforestation as part of environmental safeguards," the minister said.
Replying to another question, Javadekar said that ten lions have been reportedly died due to excessive rain and flood recently in Bhavnagar and Amreli districts of Gujarat.
The number of Asiatic lion has increased from 411 in 2010 to 523 in 2015 in Gir Forest National park and nearby habitats of Gujarat, the Minister said.
He said that the matter of translocation of a few Asiatic lions to Madhya Pradesh from Gir National Park area was considered by the Supreme Court and the matter is subjudice.

With Modi as PM, will Centre echo Gujarat opposition to shifting of lions?

Sources in the ministry of environment and forests said the Union govt is likely to present a fresh stand before the SC in response to a PIL filed against the relocation of a batch of lions to the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in MP.
Sources in the ministry of environment and forests said the Union govt is likely to present a fresh stand before the SC in response to a PIL filed against the relocation of a batch of lions to the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in MP.
NEW DELHI: Is the Centre under NDA dispensation preparing to change its long-held position that Asiatic lions need a second home outside Gujarat's Gir sanctuary, and instead tilting towards the view of the state government which has steadfastly opposed the idea?

Sources in the ministry of environment and forests said the Union government is likely to present a fresh stand before the Supreme Court in response to a PIL filed against the relocation of a batch of lions to the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh.

How the Centre nuances its response before the court remains to be seen, particularly since the environment ministry, under previous regimes, was involved in conceptualizing and facilitating the relocation project.

The PIL, filed by Rajkot-based NGO Wildlife Conservation Trust, is the third legal challenge mounted against the Supreme Court judgment of April 15, 2013, in which the court had pronounced that the lion relocation plan was in the best interest of the species. "No state, organization or person can claim ownership or possession over wild animals," the court had observed.

Gujarat government, whose subsequent petitions against the judgment were dismissed by the court, has exhausted its legal options in the case. The PIL, therefore, could well be the last legal challenge against the SC's verdict.

It is learnt that ministry officials, under guidance from the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), are preparing their response which may factor in the 'sensitivities' involved in translocating the big cats from Gir in Gujarat, the only place where free-roaming Asiatic lions are found.

TOI's formal queries to the ministry on the issue went unanswered. Officials said since the matter was in the court, the ministry would not like to comment on the issue.

"The Union environment ministry took a position in court. How can it go back on it?" asks wildlife biologist Ravi Chellam, an expert on Gir lions and one of the moving forces behind the relocation project.

"The Supreme Court, in its wisdom, did not stay its order while admitting the various challenges against its judgment," says Chellam. "So, the court's ruling of April 15, 2013, stands. It's high time the order is implemented."

In the judgment, the court had asked for an expert committee to be formed to prepare an action plan for the translocation. The 12-member committee comprised wildlife experts and officials, including the chief wildlife wardens of Gujarat and MP.

After accounting for comments and objections from members, particularly the official from Gujarat, the committee submitted a 56-page draft action plan to the ministry in April this year. It laid out a detailed plan on which Gir lions should be captured and how the animals should be "soft-released" in Kuno. It proposed that eight to 10 lions, including five to seven females and their cubs, be translocated.

The plan has been pending approval since April.

The lion translocation plan was mooted in 1993 as experts felt that Asiatic lions, restricted to Gir, were vulnerable to epidemics and natural disasters — events such as the floods that hit the region a little more than a month ago and killed at least 13 of the big cats. "A second home away from Gir is like an insurance policy for the lions' survival," says Chellam.

Gujarat, where lions are often linked with Gujarati pride, has been bitterly opposing the plan. Ajay Dubey, a Bhopal-based RTI activist who filed a contempt petition last year seeking implementation of SC's order on lion relocation, alleges that the Centre's likely change in stance on the issue was linked to Narendra Modi's elevation as prime minister.

"Rs 400 crore of public money has been spent since 1993 on developing Kuno as a prime lion habitat. Who will account for that?" he asks.

Meanwhile, no date of hearing has been fixed in the PIL filed by Wildlife Conservation Trust against the relocation. "The court had asked six parties to file their replies to our petition. Only Gujarat government has responded. The replies of the others, including the Centre, is awaited," said WCT's counsel T Gokani.

Aslan, Heer turn crowd-pullers at Chhatbir.

CHANDIGARH: Mahendra Chaudhary Zoological Park, Chhatbir, is roaring back into the popularity charts, thanks to Aslan and Heer.

Crowds are swelling with each passing day to catch and snap the two cubs roll over the grass, wrestle with each other and match their paws under the watchful gaze of their mother Heli. As both parents and children watch scenes reminiscent of 1990s hit animation movie The Lion King play out in front of their eyes, they are probably unaware their treat could have been bigger. Aman and Heena, the siblings of the two cubs, were transferred to a zoo in New Delhi as repayment of loan in lieu of Abhay, the Asiatic lion who fathered the four cubs, under a loan deal programme. But residents are not complaining. On Sunday, a group of special visitors celebrated Friendship Day with the three lions.

"Certainly, there is a considerable increase in the number of visitors to the zoo safari. The kids are excited to watch the cubs play. Among those children who visited the zoo on Sunday included a few from St John's High School. They had come with their families,'' says zoo field director Manish Kumar Gandhi.

On June 28, 2014, Heli, the six-year-old Asiatic lioness, gave birth to the four cubs, an event that took place after more than 15 years in Chhatbir. After six months under observation, the cubs were released in specially created show area in February and then in the safari in May. In June, the zoo recorded its highest-ever footfall.

After the cubs were one year old, the zoo authorities shifted Aman and Heena to Delhi and made the safari a permanent home for Heli, Aslan and Heer, a move that is attracting visitors in droves. Naresh Dhiman, a resident of Sunny Enclave in Zirakpur, who is a regular at Chhatbir, brought his son along this time. "My son was thrilled to see Aslan. Initially, he never believed that animals are named. It was only after he saw the records and verified from zoo staffers that he became aware. We are happy that the zoo is returning to its glory which it had lost over the last one decade,'' says Dhiman.

Jericho, Cecil the Lion’s brother, feared dead in Zimbabwe

By on
Indira Maha, a Asiatic Lion basks in the spring sunshine in her new $20,000 state of the art enclosure at Sydney's Taronga Zoo September 17. The zoo opened its Big Cats complex for the endangered species - RTXEZ3H
Indira Maha, a Asiatic Lion basks in the spring sunshine in her new $20,000 state of the art enclosure at Sydney's Taronga Zoo September 17. The zoo opened its Big Cats complex for the endangered species
Jericho, the brother of Cecil the lion, was reportedly shot dead in Zimbabwe. The non-governmental organisation Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force said that Jericho was shot and killed by a hunter at the Hwange National Park.
Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, told ABC News that about 30 minutes following the park’s announcement regarding the ban on hunting lions, leopards and elephants, he received a phone call saying Jericho was shot by a hunter and died at 4:00 p.m. local time.
“It is with huge disgust and sadness that we have just been informed that Jericho, Cecil’s brother has been killed at 4 pm today,” the Facebook post made by Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force said. “We are absolutely heart-broken.
A lion researcher from Oxford University, however, told CNN that the satellite collar of the lion indicated Jericho was alive and moving as of 8 p.m. local time. An Oxford spokesperson said they are seeking clarification on the conflicting reports.
In early July, Cecil the lion was killed by an American dentist from Minnesota named Walter Palmer. It was Jericho who took care of his cubs after his death. Rodrigues made it clear that the hunter has still not been arrested. The sudden death of another lion from the family made the call for extradition of the killer of Cecil even louder this time.
According to the Associated Press, a cabinet minister gave assurance that the process has already begun but the dentist will surely be punished. “Unfortunately it was too late to apprehend the foreign poacher as he had already absconded to his country of origin,” the Environment, Water and Climate Minister of Zimbabwe Oppah Muchinguri said to AP. She also assured Palmer will be made accountable. “Almost 5000,000 people are calling for his extradition and we need this support. We want him tried in Zimbabwe because he violated our laws,” Muchinguri said.
Contact the writer at, or let us know what you think below.

Last one of five cubs at Etawah lion safari survives on cow milk.

Saturday, 1 August 2015 - 7:15am IST | Place: Lucknow | Agency: dna | From the print edition
Lone ranger: The cub weighing just over 100 grams is fed 40 ml of milk five times a day, every time with fervent prayers on their lips for the little one to open its eyes
  • safari
In an example of what can only be called nature's incredible irony, the last one of the five cubs recently born at the lion safari and breeding centre in Etawah is surviving on the milk from a cow, who would be the big cat's prey in normal circumstances.
Veterinary experts, top UP Forest Department (UPFD) officials and the UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav himself is crestfallen after the death of four cubs in quick succession over the past week. The one surviving cub, which is yet to open its eyes, is literally the last hope for doctors keeping an eye on him 24x7. After all, it's the future of the chief minister's dream project which is at stake.
Last year, a young lion Vishnu and a lioness Lakshmi brought from the Gir forest in Gujarat had died at the lion safari, raising serious doubts over whether this experiment of transplanting the Asiatic lions in UP would succeed.
"The latest tragedy should not disappoint those involved in the experiment," says Ram Lakhan Singh, a renowned expert on big cats and former Chief Wildlife Warden of UP. He says the Fisher Forest in Etawah, where the expansive 350-hectare lion safari is coming up, had a history of lions over 50 years ago.
"So, there is no reason that lions can't be bred here once again," he asserts, adding rather philosophically: "Failure is a part of trying."
Since the chief minister is himself monitoring the situation closely, there is an unwritten gag order on all UPFD officials. As such, no one is willing to answer any queries on the "sensitive" issue.
A senior UPFD official, speaking in anonymity, said the survival and breeding of the ferocious cat in Etawah was fraught with complications and high risk of initial failure since the very beginning.
"This group (of Asiatic lions) is drawn from a very limited range of genetic make-up, only available in Gir. In such a situation, there is much inbreeding, and thus the mortality rate is high as the immunity levels are low," he explained.
Besides, he said the two lionesses had abandoned their five cubs as they were first-time mothers, and there was no other experienced mother lioness around. But, despite all the odds, the experiment "has all the probability of success" as the ground situation, vegetation, climate and topography are all favorable for lion breeding.
For the moment, the doctors attending on the lone cub weighing just over 100 grams assiduously feed it about 40 ml of milk five times a day, every time with fervent prayers on their lips for the little one to open its eyes and give them the little ray of hope they so desperately need.