Monday, November 30, 2015

Widlife politics.

| 01 November, 2015
Asiatic lion (Getty Images)
The worst of the prevailing confrontationist, divisive, political scenario finds unhappy reflection in the manner in which two states, incidentally both BJP-ruled, are endangering major conservation projects by placing a higher priority on their parochial interests. It may not exactly be tit-for-tat, but the Rajasthan government’s refusal to allow eggs of the dwindling Great Indian Bustard (GIB) to be transferred to Gujarat for hatching and hopefully raising a new colony there is of a piece with Gujarat’s non-implementation of an apex court directive to re-locate a few lions from the Gir forest to a game park in Madhya Pradesh (incidentally also BJP-ruled) to try and create a second habitat for the last of the Asiatic lions.
Perhaps the only difference is that while the Gir is now showings signs of being unable to host an increasing lion population, the GIB continues to be on the disappearing trail - which actually enhances the importance of the translocation experiment in Kutch. Of course a breeding centre in Rajasthan would be an added bonus. While expert opinion points to the natural conditions in Kutch being suited to hosting the GIB, the question Rajasthan opts to raise is why the birds did not thrive there in the recent past? A similar query might have also been raised in the context of Sariska losing its original stock of tigers.
The tragedy of such petty parochialism is that it impacts what were conceived as national breeding programmes - hough “national” now has assumed some ugly connotations. There are, or should be, limitations to the concept of state-ownership of wildlife resources: the boundaries of their habitats were drawn by nature - not any government-appointed commission.
Although a national wildlife board does exist, its clout is limited; hence specific projects had to be put in place to cater to the elephant and tiger. Is it now necessary to have a specialised agency for each species with authority over state/local administrations? That would be ridiculous, and demeaning to “India” at large. Surely state governments can be pressured by the Centre to rise above such lowly thinking and cooperate to conserve the dwindling riches of the Indian wild, which face threats/challenges aplenty. Hopefully Mr Narendra Modi will not, yet again, opt to “sit this one out.”


Asiatic Lion attacks goat.
Clcik above link for video.

One for the album.

What's the best setting for a selfie? For artistes performing at the Water Festival in Patan, the heritage site of Rani Ki Vav turned out to be picture perfect. Your diarist spotted musicians Parthiv Gohil, Fazal Qureshi and Niladri Kumar strike a pose with Birwa Qureshi, founder of the Craft for Art initiative, and veteran actor Darshan Jariwala

Band, baaja and dollops of fun

DESIGNER of youthful quirky apparel Masaba Gupta and film producer Madhu Mantena kicked off their three-day wedding extravaganza with a bridal shower at a friend's home at Juhu. The bride's mother, the effervescent Neena Gupta, was in a happy and boisterous mood, commandeering the dance floor. We spotted Madhu Mantena scrupulously sticking to Diet Coke through the evening as he has been put on a diet by Masaba, who herself looked svelte in a long skirt and 70s style polkadotted cropped top. Masaba's designer friends Nishika Lulla and Pernia Qureishi were in attendance, as was Shilpa Shetty. The surprise winners at "Love Nest", a game about who knows their partner the best, were the newly-weds Shahid and Meera Kapoor. The bridal shower will be followed by sangeet where the Bhatt sisters Aalia and Shaheen have promised a sparkling performance for their friends, as will Shahid who will lead an "all boys" dance performance.

'Pride' of Gujarat

GUJARATIS are known for their wealth creation instinct and their sense of humour. May be that is why three lions in Gir forest ended up being named after Asaram, Narayan Sai and Hardik - three men who created quite a stir in Gujarat. Beat guards name the animals after specific characteristic trait. So while one lion was called Gabbar after the infamous villain Gabbar Singh of Sholay due to its frequent fights with other lions, another was named after Osama bin Laden for terrorising others. Going by that logic, your diarist feels that the lions named after the spiritual leaders - currently in jail for alleged rape - ought to be really lusty. And the one named after young Patidar leader Hardik Patel could be exceptional in his skill for polarisation. Either this, or those responsible for naming the lions at Gir, which is the only sanctuary in the country to house the Asiatic lion, are desperately short of imagination. Whatever be the case, there's no denying that the lions are breathing free in the jungle while their namesakes languish in jails.

In memory of

A connoisseur of all things beautiful, Amol Vadehra's untimely death at 37, early this year, left the art fraternity in deep shock. The Delhi-based discerning collector and heart of many a party played an important role in the functioning of the influential Vadehra Art Gallery. The bereaved family, we now hear, will institute "The Amol Vadehra Art Grant", as part of their Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art (FICA) programme. The year-long grant of Rs 2 lakh is aimed at supporting an Indian artist under the age of 40 to develop a new body of work. One of the country's most successful gallerists and Amol's cousin, Roshini told us, "Amol was extremely passionate about art and even painted. He started collecting when he was a teenager, and had an eye for the best antiquities, modern, and contemporary art. He was always in the hunt for young contemporary artists, and supported them. This grant is our way of keeping his memory as well as passion for art alive."


ALTHOUGH horse-racing is widely considered as a mug's game, punters and race-horse owners always remain optimistic about their chances of beating the odds. Recently a sporting owner, who passionately bought quite a few well-bred horses for his love of the sport, found one of his equines to have not lived up to his expectations. After trying every trick in the book, from changing the distance, equipment and even jockeys, the filly named Theory failed to win a race. Frustrated that his "theory" had not worked, the disheartened owner thought that changing her name would probably help her taste success. And he also thought changing her name could change her fortunes, if not her ability to win. But the new name he chose for Theory was very interesting. Theory was rechristened as Pracs which if spelt backwards reads SCRAP!

Civic Toilet trouble: Forest dweller can’t contest.

Toilet trouble: Forest dweller can’t contestAforest dweller in Gir was stopped from contesting the civic election because he did not have a toilet at his residence. The candidature of Lakhabhai Charan, a nomadic tribal who lives in Gir forest, was rejected by the Velavdar mamlatdar. The official cited the government's notification that makes it mandatory for any candidate to have a loo at his residence to contest the taluka panchayat election. According to government norms, a forest dweller cannot construct a toilet on his own.

A forest officer on condition of anonymity said, "As per government regulation, any construction in the forest area can be carried out only with the Eco-Development Committee (EDC)'s approval." Charan filled the form to contest the election from Kalavad constituency as an independent candidate. He is the third generation in his family residing in the forest. He has over 30 cows and buffaloes and earns a living through these cattle. There are 25 members in his family at Khambda nees area near Dudhala village in Visavdar taluka of Junagadh district.

The 51-year-old Charan wanted to contest from the reserved seat in Velavdar as Charan community living in the forest are considered a Scheduled Tribe. Talking to Mirror on phone from Khambda, Charan said, "I believe this is gross injustice to me and over 150 people living in the nees (small ghettos in the forest areas are known as nees in local lingo)." Charan said that even if he wishes he cannot construct a toilet in the nees. The construction has to happen on the directions of forest department. "We got a primary school recently, through EDC," he said.

Forest officials did conduct a survey to construct toilets for them, but so far it is only on paper. Charan even submitted an affidavit to the returning officer in this regard, but his form was rejected. Velavdar Mamlatdar and Returning Officer I R Parmar said, "It is a government rule. I cannot process the form. It is unfortunate that his form was rejected, but I am helpless. There is no exception to the rule for anyone." When asked, a senior official of the Forest and Environment Department said he was not aware of any such incident.

Barda gets ESZ cover, no lions yet.

AHMEDABAD: An Eco-sensitive zone (ESZ), 500 metres to 5.6 km away from the boundaries of the Barda Wildlife Sanctuary and covering 23 villages, has been earmarked by the Union ministry for forest and environment. With this, restrictions on mining, setting up of industries and other activities that may adversely affect the wildlife in the region have come into force.
The sanctuary straddling the border of Porbandar and Jamnagar districts, which was created in 1979 when Chandraprabha (Uttar Pradesh) experiment of lion translocation failed, is, however, yet to host any lion even after 36 years.

While demarcating the ESZ, the Union government has mentioned that Barda Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the richest and compact biodiversity patches covered on all sides by good quality dry deciduous miscellaneous forests, dry thorn forest, shrub lands and wetland forests along with bamboo patches dotted in between and it maintains rich biodiversity comprising 759 species of trees, herbs, shrubs and climbers, 22 mammal species, which include some rare species, 26 species of reptiles, four species of amphibians, 55 species of butterfly, more than 3,000 species of insects, and more than 269 species of birds.

Besides Barda, another sanctuary that is waiting to hear the roars of lions is Kuno-Palpur. A 12-member committee has been formed to oversee translocation of Gir lions to Kuno-Palpur sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh in the light of an April 2013 order of the Supreme Court.

Sources said that both these projects — Barda and Kuno — were designed to shift some of the Gir lions in a bid to save them from extinction in the case of an epidemic or natural calamity. Recently a study, titled 'Assessment of Barda landscape for reintroduction of lions', by Wildlife Institute of India (WII) experts Y V Jhala and his team of Kausik Banerjee, Parabita Basu, Stotra Chakrabarti and Subrata Gayen, has pointed out how Barda was actively taken up as an alternative site for translocation of Asiatic lions by the Gujarat forest department when Kuno-Palpur was being proposed by wildlife biologists in 1990.

In order to save the Gir lions from becoming extinct, Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary of Chakia Forest Division, Uttar Pradesh, was taken up where one male lion and two lionesses were released. Lion numbers increased to about 11 within eight years. However, these big cats in Chandraprabha were killed within a decade of initial reintroduction, mostly due to retaliatory killings.

The Gujarat forest department subsequently selected Barda hill as an alternative site for reintroduction of Gir lions. Barda hill was declared a wildlife sanctuary on February 12, 1979 but nothing moved till the 1990s. In 1990s, wildlife biologists selected Kuno in Madhya Pradesh as a potential reintroduction site. Following this, Barda was considered as an alternative site by Gujarat because of its eco-climatic and human community resemblance with many parts of the Gir landscape.

Barda can be good home for lions: Experts

The WII study states that in the case of Barda, connectivity with Gir area is not desirable. Hence, the lion population in Barda would need to be managed artificially as a 'meta-population' where lion movement is human-controlled with appropriate checks for disease and to avoid catastrophic mortality caused by an epidemic. This would increase the importance of conservation. With this, the long-term viability of lions in Saurashtra will be enhanced by adding Barda, the report states.

He gets up close to the king of beasts, then... Snap!

Nov 12, 2015, 5:00 am SGT
Dhruv Anant Wadkar, 16, has come as close as 1.5m to a lion.
In the past two years, the young photographer has made two trips to the Sasan Gir National Park in Gujarat, India, the only home to the Asiatic lion. Each time, he spent more than 10 days at the park.
"I had always wanted to photograph the lion, as it's the king of the beasts, but I never had the chance," said Dhruv, who started wildlife photography at the age of seven.
He is displaying 50 of his best works at The Art Space @ Suntec. The exhibition, titled Vignettes Of The Asiatic Lion, opened on Tuesday and ends on Saturday.
"It's like a common space, although we are taking a risk by going into the park. You need to be mentally prepared - it might kill you if you let down your guard," said Dhruv, who was born in Hyderabad, India. He now attends the ISS International School Singapore here. His father is the regional director for commercial operations for a global animal health company and his mother is a vice-president in a local bank.
At the park, Dhruv would spend four hours in the morning and two hours in the evening - every day - waiting for and observing lions.
"Once we found a lion at the outskirts of the park at 1 am. I had just fallen asleep and got a call to go there quickly," he recalled. "All I had was a small torch and I could see the lioness' eyes glittering in the dark," he said. "I shot as much as I could, knowing that I might not get this opportunity again."
Dhruv, who has taken photographs of a wide variety of animals, from birds to leopards and bisons, said: "I see similarities between animals and human beings, in their expressions and greetings, and in the way that they interact."
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2015, with the headline 'He gets up close to the king of beasts, then... Snap!'.

A big day for lion cubs!

Updated: November 5, 2015 05:40 IST 
Harish, Harika and Harsitha would be celebrating their first birthday on Thursday. And to make the celebrations a grand affair for the three Asiatic lion cubs, the Nehru Zoological Park has ordered a cake too!
Harish, the lion and Harika and Harsitha, the lionesses, were born on November 5 last year to Antony and Saina. The zoo-born felines have been in good health and growing up well, according to the zoo staff.
“We have decided to celebrate their birthday with the animal keepers and also the visitors and so we ordered a cake,” the zoo Curator, Gopi Ravi said. The zoo, at present, has 24 lions which include 20 Asiatic lions.