Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Demand to translocate Gir lions outside Gujarat picks up, finds "local support" following attack on villagers

Tuesday, May 31, 2016
By Our Representative

With Asiatic lions killing, in all, five persons outside the Gir National Park and Sanctuary area, the demand to translocate the big cat outside Gujarat is beginning to gain momentum. Veteran environmentalist Ravi Chellam, a top lions expert, has already fired the salvo saying this is an “urgent and necessary issue.”
Chellam, who took over as executive director of Greenpeace India following the controversial Government of India decision to withdraw its foreign donations permit in September last year, reportedly said, “The one big conservation action that has not been taken so far is to comply with the Supreme Court judgment regarding the translocation of lions”.
For years, the Gujarat government has made it a “prestige issue” in the Supreme Court, refusing to allow any translocation of the big cat to Madhya Pradesh, as contemplated by wildlife experts. It has argued how increase in its population means the lions are “comfortable” and “safe” in their existing environment.
Chellam says, “Lions have thrived in this region and their population has also increased. But the big problem is the protection of the habitat both within the sanctuary as well as in the surrounding landscapes.”
He insists, “Fairly rapid change in land-use and the construction of highways and other infrastructural projects, including fences and walls, are all fragmenting, degrading and destroying wildlife habitats.”
In a rare support, retired Gujarat forest official HS Singh, who has authored books on Gir lions, and is a member of the National Board for Wildlife, has said, “We’re sitting on a time bomb with such exponential growth of lions outside the protected areas, and this is spilling into the entire Saurashtra region.”
“The challenge is not just about developing new habitats for the lions complete 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”, he declares.
Ironical though it may seem, those upholding the cause of the Gir lion as Gujarat's pride want villagers to kill the wild cat in “self-defence” – thus providing enough ammunition to those wishing to shift the Asiatic lion to Madhya Pradesh.
Ex-Gujarat agriculture minister Dileep Sanghani, known for his closeness to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asked the state government to provide arms to farmers residing on the periphery of the Gir lion sanctuary and allow them to kill lions in self-defence.
He recently shot a letter to state forest minister Mangubhai Patel saying that “attacks on cattle have been happening for long time, but when wild animals have become human eaters, the forest department should form a committee and make arms available to farmers with liberty to kill lions.”
This was preceded by dissident BJP legislator and Patidar agitation leader Nalin Kotadia delcaring against the proposed eco-sensitive zone in villages around Gir forest, advising villagers to kill lions – leading to angry BJP cadre reaction wanting to “uphold” the Gujarati pride, Asiatic lion.
Last December, when in two separate incidents took place on the same day, with lions attacking and killing two people outside their habitat in the Gir forest, the only abode of the Asiatic lion. Gujarat officials classified the incidents as “rarest of the rare.”
Following three more killings, between May 21 and 23, Gujarat forest officials “caged” 16 lions, who allegedly turned carnivorous. Yet, the attacks have not stopped. On May 28, a 30-year-old man was attacked and was rushed to hospital.
Thanks to a sharp increase in its numbers to 523 in 2015 from 411 in 2010, the Asiatic lion has expanded its fiefdom to a staggering 22,000 sq-km across eight of the nine districts in the sprawling Saurashtra region, as against the total area of 1,412 sq km of Gir Sanctuary, known as the Asiatic lion's only abode.
Of the 1,412 sq km, 258 km forms the core National Park, a no-man territory where only wildlife can reside. The 2015 census found just 22 lions in the “fully protected” Gir National Park – a detail which the Gujarat government has still not officially declared. The actual carrying capacity of the Gir National Park is 60 (click HERE).
The lion census also found that there was a very little rise in the number of Gir lions in the forest area (Sanctuary plus National Park) – from 297 in 2010 to 302 in 2015. It suggests, approximately 220 lions are prowling outside the forest area.
The Gir forest's actual carrying capacity, ironically, is just around 250, which means more lions are now prowling outside its designated area!

Veteran of wildlife censuses

| TNN |
Ahmedabad: Since 1984, be it the Leopard, Wild Ass, Asiatic Lion or the Bird Census, especially at Nalsarovar, one man, Uday Vora, the conservator of forest, has been a part of each wildlife census in Gujarat. Not a simple member of the coordinating team for the wilds, Vora has been providing training, and even crunching the numbers when it comes to finalising the count of wildlife.

Vora was also a part of the two day vulture census which ended recently. During the Leopard census which concluded last Monday, Vora was posted in Dang and Narmada districts. He has been associated with five Wild Ass Census, 12-odd bird censuses in Nalsarovar, six Asiatic lion censuses, and an equal number of leopard censuses.

"It all began in 1984 when the Union government ordered a big cat census and it was taken up in Kutch. Since then, I have never looked back. The year next, I got associated with the lion census which was conducted by giving live bait to the lions. This has changed now, and we resort to counting by pug marks and direct sighting method," said Vora.
Vora said during the wild ass census the workers used to come across very rare species, but not many volunteers were aware of those. But things have changed, and according to Vora, the volunteers who are part of the census, now, are aware of other species apart from the main one being counted.

Vora was also responsible for developing a method that increased accuracy in counting of birds. He said earlier, before 1992, a very high number of pelicans and flamingoes were reported in Nalsarovar, but after using the new method, that number fell drastically. Vora's method calculates the number of birds based on the area inhabited by them.

He has also taken part in Gosabara and other wetland censuses, said Vora, observing that eliminating overlapping is a mammoth task. In the Nalsarovar Bird Census one has to check over 8,000 entries to avoid overlapping, he said. It is easier to eliminate overlapping in case of big cats and mammals, said Vora, but one has to take extra precaution during the birds census, he opined.

For example, he said, one would know that a leopard can move up to 8km-12 km and a sloth bear only 3km-4km in a day. Hence errors can be removed by looking at footprints and photo timings.

4 held for entering Gir sanctuary without permission

 gir national park, trespass in national park, trespass gir national park, gir national park trespass, human wildlife conflict, wildlife human conflict, human and wildlife conflict, man entered national park, man jumps into national park, man lion conflict, india news Forest Department of Gujarat has proposed to initiate drone surveillance in the forest areas of the state including in the Gir National Park, the only habitat of Asiatic Lion in the world."They confessed their offence and therefore we showed some leniency and let them go after they paid the fine," said the RFO.

AT A TIME when Gir East division has witnessed lion attacks on human in recent months, four persons were caught for allegedly entering Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary without permission and fined Rs 12,500, forest officers said on Sunday.
“The incident took place on the evening of May 22. Four persons on their way from Jamwala to Shemardi stopped midway, parked their vehicle on the roadside and entered the forest area with a view to watch lions. But they were caught by our staff for illegally entering the sanctuary area. They were let off after they paid Rs12,500 fine,” range forest officer (RF)) of Dalkhaniya in Gir East division, Bharat Parmar said.

  The RFO said that the four men belonged to Rajkot and Nadiad in Kheda district. “They confessed their offence and therefore we showed some leniency and let them go after they paid the fine,” said Parmar.

Entering a sanctuary area can attract imprisonment up to seven years and fine up to Rs 25,000.
Gir forest and other protected areas are the only natural habitat of endangered Asiatic lions. Lakhs of tourists go on official lion safaris conducted in tourism zone of Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary from Sasan every year. But some try to enter the protected forest without premission to watch lions and get caught.

Propagation of 4 species stopped in absence of mates

Anwar Hussain, Chittagong

  • The picture shows the lioness sitting in the Chittagong Zoo. The picture was taken on Thursday morning 
    Photo- Rabin Chowdhury

    • Some mammals of Chittagong Zoo are passing their days in extreme loneliness as they have no mates in their cages.
      Most of the lonely captive animals have already crossed half of their lifespan at the zoo which is now supervised by Chittagong district administration.
      The lonely animals have been deprived from the company of their mates for a long time and consequently the reproduction of four species of animals, including two lionesses, two male bears, two female Sambar deer (Rusa unicolor) and a male Gayal (Bos frontalis) is now at stake.
      The lifespan of an Asiatic Lion is 15-18 years in captivity. The Two lionesses of the zoo ‘Nova’ and ‘Borsha’ who were born in June 16, 2005 have reached their adulthood.
      Laxmi, mother of the duo died soon after giving birth while her spouse ‘Raj’ died in February 13, 2008.
      Two male bears which were brought in from Khagrachhari and Gazipur have already become 13 years and 6 years old respectively. The average lifespan of an ‘Asiatic Black Bear’ species is 20 years.
      On the other hand, the two female Sambar deer of the zoo are also pairlless. The average lifespan of a Samba deer is 20 years.
      Besides, a large semi-domesticated bovine called Gayal has been passing its days without a spouse.
      The zoologists warned that extreme loneliness and depression may shorten the lifespan of pair-less zoo animals.
      “The zoo animals living without a spouse for a long time will naturally turn restless and quick-tempered. The natural agility is not seen in case of a spouse less captive animal. Eventually the lonely animals stop eating food,” Prof Dr Md Farid Ahsan of Chittagong University’s Zoology Department.
      “We cannot discuss the problems of the zoo as the Zoo Executive Committee meeting is not held on a regular basis,” alleged Prof Dr Farid who is also a member of the zoo executive committee.
      Venting anger over the poor animal collection of the zoo, the visitors said that the zoo would not be able to woo the visitors unless they collect animals like giraffe, elephant, rhinoceros and hippopotamus.
      “My son has been insisting me on visiting zoo. My son was nagging me to show him Royal Bengal Tiger. To my surprise, Chittagong Zoo does not have any tiger. A zoo without a tiger has no lustre,” said Rounaque Jahan, a housewife has come to the zoo with his five-year old boy.
      “Visitors particularly the children feel disappointed when they do not see any tiger after visiting the zoo. Although the zoo authorities erected two huge sculptures of elephant and giraffe to welcome the visitors at the main entrance, the giant mammals are not found inside the zoo,” said Rounaque.
      “I feel utterly disappointed after visiting the zoo. Although the ticket price has been increased from Tk10 to Tk20, the zoo has no ostrich, elephant, tiger, elephant and hippopotamus,” said a visitor.
      Dr Md Mongur Morshed Chowdhury, deputy curator of Chittagong Zoo informed that the last tigress of the zoo ‘Purnima’ died of intestine cancer in 2012 while her spouse ‘Chandra’ died a natural death in 2006.
      “We have been making several attempts to increase diversity of the zoo. We have written letters to different zoos and safari parks of the country seeking tiger, lion and female deer,” said the deputy curator.
      “At present there is no lioness in Rangpur Zoo. An exchange can easily take place between the two zoos for a lion and a lioness,” added the deputy curator.
      Ruhul Amin, member secretary of Chittagong Zoo Executive Committee told the Dhaka Tribune that the procedures were going on for collecting spouses for the lonely mammals at the zoo.
      “The zoo set up over a six-acre area of land does not have enough space to accommodate big animals like giraffe, elephant, rhinoceros and hippopotamus,” said Amin, adding that they undertaken a mammoth project for bringing about a radical change to the zoo.


      Friday, May 27, 2016

      Lion kills 70-year-old woman near Kodinar

      TNN |
      RAJKOT: A 70-year-old woman died after being attacked by a lion in a farm in Vadnagar village, five km from Kodinar town in Gir-Somnath district, on Thursday.

      The woman, Valay Lakhani, was working in the field when the lion attacked her at around 6pm. When locals rushed to her help on hearing her cries, the lion left her and fled.

      Lakhani was rushed to a hospital in Kodinar but she died on the way. This is the fourth instance of Asiatic lions killing human beings in the last 68 days. The forest department has already caged a pride of 17 lions in Ambardi.


      Thursday, May 26, 2016

      Three people killed, Gir officials cage 13 lions

      Gir, gir lion, gir lion santuary, gir forest, gir forest human killed, gir lion attack, gir lions caged, gir lion attack, gir lion captured, guajrat news, gir santuary, india news, latest news, Three people were killed by lions in as many months in Dhari taluka (Source: Express photo by Bhupendra Rana/ File)Written by Gopal B Kateshiya
      Rajkot Published:May 23, 2016, 2:14

      Gir forest officials on Sunday caged three more lions of a pride that is suspected to have preyed on a teenage boy near Ambardi village of Dhari taluka in Amreli district two days ago. With this, all 13 lions of the pride have been caged following demands by locals as well as politicians after three people were killed by the big cats in Gir region in the last three months.
      According to locals, the pride dragged away Jayraj (14) when he was sleeping beside his father Madhu Solanki at their farm on Friday. The half-eaten body was found 500 m from the farm.

      Following the incident, the forest department set up 12 cages and captured 10 members of the pride on Saturday, said T Karuppasamy, deputy conservator of forest (DCF) of Gir East. “Three more lions were caged in Ambardi on Sunday. We have now caged the entire pride. They have been sent to the animal care centre in Jasadhar for scat analysis,” he told The Indian Express. Forest officers said that scat or excreta of lions generally carry traces of meat they consume. If traces of the boy’s flesh are found in scat of any of the pride members, the lion may remain in the cage for a long time, they added.
      The attack on Friday was the third in as many months in Dhari taluka. Forest officers suspect that one pride was involved in all three attacks.
      After the Amreli incident, former minister Dilip Sanghani, who belongs to the area, wrote to state Forest Minister Mangubhai Patel, seeking killing of lions that attack humans. The sarpanches also wrote to the Dhari DCF seeking action.
      While this is the first time that an entire pride has been enmeshed, experts blamed humans for the man-lion conflicts. “Around 40 per cent of lions are living outside the forest area, therefore such incidents may happen,” said Govind Patel, former chief wildlife warden of Gujarat and former member of the National Board for Wildlife. Bhushan Pandya, member of the state wildlife board, said, “Their (lions) behaviour is not abnormal. If people take basic precautions like not sleeping in the open, such cases can be avoided.”

      Sloth bear, leopard census begins today

      Fri,20 May 2016
      Summary: Ahmedabad: The three-day leopard and sloth bear census will begin from Friday. We have also roped in retired forest officials, volunteers and NGOs to help in the census which will be conducted across Gujarat." "The sloth bear census will be largely reliant on camera traps as the animal's habitat is covered with adequate number of cameras. Only local residents from Junagadh, Gir-Somnath and Amreli will be allowed to be a part of the leopard census in Gir Sanctuary and nearby areas. Apart from camera traps volunteers and forest officials will be keeping a close watch on animal movements," said the official.Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (wildlife) JA Khan said, "We have deployed 6000 forest officials for the three-day exercise.
      Ahmedabad: The three-day leopard and sloth bear census will begin from Friday. The forest department has stationed 100-odd cameras across wildlife sanctuaries to record movements of sloth bears and leopards.A senior state forest official said, "This year we have restricted the flow of volunteers and NGOs in Gir and nearby areas. Only local residents from Junagadh, Gir-Somnath and Amreli will be allowed to be a part of the leopard census in Gir Sanctuary and nearby areas.

      The decision to include locals was taken as our previous experience have taught us that volunteers from Ahmedabad, Vadodara and other parts of the state tend to be more interested in their personal photography than movements of the animal."The sloth bear census will be largely reliant on camera traps as the animal's habitat is covered with adequate number of cameras. "Of the 100 odd cameras, 50 are in Gir sanctuary and 10 cameras each in Jambughoda, Ratanmahal, Soolpaneshwar, Balaram-Ambaji and Jessore sanctuaries. Apart from camera traps volunteers and forest officials will be keeping a close watch on animal movements," said the official.Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (wildlife) JA Khan said, "We have deployed 6000 forest officials for the three-day exercise.

      Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/Sloth-bear-leopard-census-begins-today/articleshow/52353450.cms

      Gujarat:13 lions en-caged after spate of big cat attacks

      Published: 22nd May 2016 03:03 PM
      Last Updated: 22nd May 2016 03:03 PM
      VADODARA: As many as three lives were claimed in attacks by Asiatic lions in eastern Gir forests in the last two months, following which 13 lions of a pride roaming in the area were captured and en-caged in accordance with Gujarat government's orders.
      "An 11-year-old boy, identified as Jayesh Solanki, was attacked by Asiatic lioness in Dhari taluka. He was found dead in a mango orchard owned by sarpanch (village head) of Ambardi village of Amreli district on May 19," Deputy Conservator of Forest (DCF), Dhari-East range of Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, T Karuppasamy said.
      There were pug marks of a lioness near the place from where the body was recovered. His father also got injured in trying to save him, he said. "Prior to the minor's death, two others, identified as 50-year-old woman Labhuben D Solanki and 60-year-old man Jinabhai Makwana, were killed in attacks by Asiatic lions in Bharad village and Ambardi village, respectively, of Amreli district," he said.
      With the capturing of three lions last night, the total number of the big cats caught and caged has gone upto 13. This exercise would continue, J A Khan, Additional Chief Conservator of Forest (wildlife) of Gujarat government, said today.
      "Medical examination of the en-caged lions would help in ascertaining as to which of the felines attacked the minor boy (Jayesh Solanki). At this juncture, it can not be said with certainty that the lions have turned into man-eaters," he said.
      The process of awarding compensation of Rs 2.25 lakh to the kin of the victims has been initiated, Karuppasamy said, adding a case of accidental death has been registered by the police in each of the incidents and further probe is on.
      Local residents as well as leaders of Amreli have been demanding action against man-eater lions for quite some time. Man-lion conflicts are rare in and around Gir forests, said to be the last abode of Asiatic Lions, where as per the last census conducted in 2015, the count of the big cat stood at 523.


      10 lions encaged after spate of big cat attacks in Gujarat

      Press Trust of India  |  Ahmedabad 
      Ten out of a pride of 13 lions have been encaged in accordance with government's orders after three people were killed by big cats in eastern Gir forests in the last two months.

      "We have caught 10 lions so far. We are screening the area to trace the other big cats that are said to be members of the pride of 13 lions roaming in the area," Deputy Conservator of Forest (DCF), Dhari-East range of Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, T Karuppasamy said.

      "Out of the 10 lions, four are male and six are female. Next, we would conduct pug mark identification exam and tests to find traces of human hair, bone and remains of clothes from their bodies to ascertain the man-eaters among those," he said.

      "The man-eaters, once identified, would be sent to Sakkarbaug Zoo in Junagadh where such lions are kept, while the others would be relocated to a safer zone," the DCF said.

      "An 11-year-old boy, identified as Jayesh Solanki, was attacked by Asiatic lioness in Dhari taluka. He was found dead in a mango orchard at Ambardi village of Amreli district on May 19," Karuppasamy said, adding, "there were pug marks of a lioness near the place from where the body was recovered. His father was also injured in his futile attempt of saving him."

      "Before that incident, a 50-year-old woman, identified as Labhuben D Solanki and 60-year-old man, Jinabhai Makwana, were killed by Asiatic lions at Bharad and Ambardi villages respectively in the same district," he said.

      The process of awarding compensation of Rs 2.25 lakh to the kin of the victims has been initiated. A case of accidental death has been registered by police in each of the incidents and further probe is on, the DCF said.

      "People residing in the East Division of Gir forests have been issued warnings of possible big cat attacks from time to time. But they don't follow instructions, causing such tragedies to recur," Karuppasamy said.

      Locals as well as leaders of Amreli have been demanding action against man-eater lions for quite some time.

      In the wake of rising incidence of the attacks, BJP leader from Amreli, Dileep Sanghani, has written to the state Forest and Environment Minister Mangubhai Patel, seeking killing of lions that attack humans outside the reserved forest area.

      Man-lion conflicts are rare in and around Gir forests, said to be the last abode of Asiatic Lions, where as per the last census conducted in 2015, the count of the big cat stood at 523.


      Lion falls into 100-ft well in Gujarat, rescued

      The lion after it was rescued from the well in Amreli—Photo: Rajan Joshi
      The lion after it was rescued from the well in Amreli—Photo: Rajan Joshi

      A four-year-old Asiatic lion, which had fallen into a 100-foot-deep dry well in Amreli district’s Jadakla village in Amreli district, was rescued and later released into the Gir forest, officials said on Sunday.
      “Last morning, several women from the village saw the lion chasing buffaloes on the farm of one Mayabai Ahir,” Ram Kumar More, Range Forest officer (RFO) at Savarkundla, said.
      “When the women screamed, the lion changed its track and accidentally fell into the well. When the villagers alerted them, forest officials rushed to the spot and rescued it using a thick rope after nearly four hours,” he said.
      More said a veterinary team entered the well first to ascertain if the lion had sustained injuries. When it was clear that the big cat was unharmed by its fall, he was pulled out. According to More, forest officials did not tranquilise the lion before rescuing him from the well. "The temperature was over 43 degrees Celsius and hence it was not advisable to tranquilise him. After being rescued, the lion was kept under observation for eight hours and then released into Gir forest on Saturday night,” he added. —PTI


      Taking a break

      Sticking together:An Asiatic lioness rests with her cubs at Sasan Gir on a hot afternoon. Usually, there is a lull in wildlife activities in afternoons. Sasan Gir has been successful in increasing the count of Asiatic Lions, which are found only in India, over the years. According to 14th Asiatic Lion Census 2015, the number has been risen to 523 (27 per cent jump compared to previous census in 2010). Their population was 411 in 2010 and 359 in 2005—Photo: Sandeep Rasal
      Sticking together:An Asiatic lioness rests with her cubs at Sasan Gir on a hot afternoon. Usually, there is a lull in wildlife activities in afternoons. Sasan Gir has been successful in increasing the count of Asiatic Lions, which are found only in India, over the years. According to 14th Asiatic Lion Census 2015, the number has been risen to 523 (27 per cent jump compared to previous census in 2010). Their population was 411 in 2010 and 359 in 2005—Photo: Sandeep Rasal

      Asiatic lion no more endangered species? Govt of India Rajya Sabha reply raises unanswered questions

      Wednesday, May 11, 2016

      By Our Representative
      Is the Asiatic lion, living in and around the Gir sanctuary in Junagadh district of Gujarat, no more an endangered species, at least in Government of India perception? It would seem so, if the latest list of endangered species released by Union minister for environment, forests and climate change Prakash Javdekar in the Rajya Sabha are is indication.
      Interesting though it may seem, the Gujarat government “officially” even now thinks that the Asiatic lion is an endangered category, even though it happily states in the state forest department website that has been removed from the list of “critically endangered” species.
      To quote from website says, “Based on the recent lion population estimation held in May 2015, the current population of Asiatic Lion stands at 523, an increase of 27% over last five years.” The result is that, “The status of Asiatic lion has been upgraded from critically endangered to endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2010.”
      In an answer to a question by Rajya Sabha MP from Chhattisgarh Parimal Nathwani, an ethnic Gujarati, the minister said, there are 20 animal species and 16 plant species in the endangered category in Gujarat (click HERE for the MP's media release on the subject).
      Source: Gujarat forest department website
      Gujarat’s 20 “endangered species”, the minister said in his written reply, are black mahaseer, golden mahaseer, leatherback sea turtle, green sea turtle, Indian white-backed vulture, long-billed vulture, red-headed vulture, steppe eagle, greater adjutant-stork, great Indian bustard, lesser florican, sociable lapwing, spotted greenshank, forest spotted owlet, dhole, caracal, blue whale, fin whale and Indian wild ass.
      Nathwani, who is also one of the topmost executives of the Reliance Industries Ltd, wanted to know about “increase in the number of endangered species during the last two years, the names of such species with the areas/regions of their habitation, whether wildlife habitats are being destroyed due to mining activities in the country and the special efforts being made by government to stop/prevent damage/ destruction of wildlife habitats.”
      The Gujarat government officials appear perplexed about whether the Asiatic lion should be placed under the endangered category. While one official said, “I have not come across any such thing”, another said, the Asiatic wildcat “cannot be called endangered anymore.”
      The logic provided by the official is, “Since the Asiatic lion does not just live in the Gir national park and sanctuary, so far it’s only abode, and has been moving out because of its increased population, there is reason to believe that it is not endangered.”
      The official said, “The carrying capacity of the Gir forests (national park and sanctuary) is a little more than 200 Asiatic lions. Now, the wild cat can be found in large parts of Saurashtra, leave alone Gir forests, thanks to a progressive rise in its population.”
      While the official said he believes IUCN “may have” taken into account this factor while “removing” the Asiatic lion from the endangered list, officially, there is “no evidence” on this.
      “In spite of the lions living in only one area, the IUCN listed them as endangered – a species still threatened but showing promises of recovery”, an expert site leading with the subject said (click HERE for IUCN’s redlist).
      Quoting IUCN officials, the site added, “Asiatic lion exists as a single isolated population in India’s Gujarat state. The number of mature lions has been increasing, all occurring within one subpopulation (but in four separate areas, three of which are outside of the Gir forest protected area). Since the population now extends beyond the boundary of the lion sanctuary, and the numbers are stable, the subspecies is listed as endangered based simply on the population size.”

      Lion dies of illness in Mysuru zoo

      Officials and staff pay homage to Shankar, the lion who died of illness at the Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens in Mysuru on Tuesday. DH Photo

      Mysuru, May 11, 2016, DHNS
      Shankar, a male Asiatic lion aged 8 years 2 months, died at Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens (Mysuru Zoo) here on Monday night.
      Shankar, which was received from Sakkarbaugh Zoo, Junagadh, on March 6, 2011, was found dull and it had stopped consuming food since April 30. Following experts’ opinion, it was taken into the squeeze cage and necessary treatment were started on May 2, according to a press note from S Venkatesan, Executive Director of Mysuru Zoo.

      As the lion failed to respond to the treatment, the zoo authorities were in contact with the Hyderabad Zoo Lion Safari and Shivamogga Lion Safari veterinarians. Professor C Ansar Kamran from Veterinary College, Hassan, was called for expert opinion on May 7. Later, blood examination revealed that the animal was suffering from liver and kidney problem. The treatment was being carried out under the guidance of Dr Ansar Kamran. However, all efforts and treatment to save Shankar went in vain.

      Asiatic lion in Mysuru zoo dies

      It was suffering from kidney and liver problems

      After the death of a male African cheetah at the zoo last month, an Asiatic lion, which was eight years and two months old, breathed its last on Monday.
      The lion, Shankar, had been brought to the zoo five years ago from Sakkarbaugh Zoo, Junagadh, Gujarat.
      Zoo authorities said the lion had become dull and stopped eating since April 30. On May 2, the animal was taken into the squeeze cage and treatment begun.
      “We got in touch with veterinarians of Hyderabad Zoo Lion Safari and Shivamogga Lion Safari on treating the animal. On May 7, C. Ansar Kamran, Department of Medicine, Veterinary College, Hassan, was called and his opinion sought,” said zoo executive director S. Venkatesan.
      Blood examination revealed that the animal was suffering from kidney and liver problems, the zoo executive director, said in a release.
      Nevertheless, the treatment continued since then following Prof. Ansar Kamran’s advice. Till Monday morning, the animal showed no interest in food.
      With the death of the lion, the zoo is now left with an Asiatic lioness, Gowri, who was brought along with Shankar from Gujarat under an exchange programme.
      But Gowri too has health problems and has not fully recovered from an ailment despite treatment. Gowri had once delivered a cub which did not survive.
      Asiatic lions have been listed as endangered species, found only in the Gir forest in Gujarat. Sakkarbaug Zoo is famous for breeding Asiatic lions.


      A 9 Year-Old Asiatic Lion Drowned After Falling Into Jamni River In Amreli District

      A 9 Year-Old Asiatic Lion Drowned After Falling Into Jamni River In Amreli District
      Nine-year-old male lion slipped into the river and drowned. (Representational Image)



      1. Incident occured on May 4, the lion slipped from a 35-foot high hilltop
      2. Forest officials found the lion's carcass floating in the river
      3. The 2015 Lion Census pegged their population at 523
      "The incident occurred on May 4 (Wednesday) in Dhari forest range area when the nine-year-old male lion slipped into the river from a 35 feet-high hilltop," Amreli's acting District Forest Officer C P Ranpariya told PTI.

      The incident came to light when patrolling staff of the Forest Department saw the big cat's carcass floating in the river and fished it out, he said.

      Injuries found on the posterior side of the body indicate that a crocodile fed on it, he said, but ruled out any fight between the two.

      A post-mortem conducted on the spot confirmed that the lion died of drowning, he said, adding, the lion may have fallen into the river about three days ago.

      Asiatic lions are an endangered species and their only wild population in the world is surviving in Gir forests and adjoining areas in Saurashtra region of Gujarat, the official said.

      The Lion Census of 2015 had pegged the number of the top predator at 523, he said, and added that 197 Asiatic lions inhabit the Dhari range.


      ZSL London Zoo's Land of the Lions Takes Themed Design to a New Territory

      ZSL London Zoo's Land of the Lions Takes Themed Design to a New Territory

      5 May 2016ZSL London Zoo’s newest exhibit, Land of the Lions, connects visitors with the big cats and their native habitat like never before.

      Highly detailed immersive theming has transformed 2,500m² of England’s capital zoo into the Gir region of India complete with a train station, Hindu temple and a street of shops.

      The Endangered Asiatic lions wander close to the manmade structures as they do in the wild and visitors are afforded exceptional views.

      The exhibit is further brought to life by chance encounters with other animals native to the region in authentic settings including langur monkeys 'raiding' one of the shops.
      Blooloop spoke to the project’s lead designers, Ray Hole Architects, ZSL London Zoo and specialist theming company, Paragon Creative, about the rewards and challenges they faced when creating the largest and most immersive exhibit in the zoo’s history.
      ZSL London Zoo Land of the Lions Immersive Exhibit

      A Matter of Pride

      “Our number one inspiration was our Asiatic lion pride,” says Robin Fitzgerald, Senior Project Manager at ZSL London Zoo.  “We wanted to create an incredible new home for our London-born lionesses Heidi (above), Rubi and Indi and our newest resident Bhanu, who joined us from Assiniboine Zoo in Winnipeg, Canada.
      “Then, we were inspired by the Asiatic lions’ wild home in the Gir National Park, along with the village of Sasan Gir, where the community lives in such close proximity to the wild lions.”
      ZSL London Zoo Land of the Lions Immersive Exhibit Gir Forest
      “The interesting aspect is how the locals of the area live extremely closely yet harmouniously alongside  the lions and how their paths cross on an almost daily basis as the lions wander into the villages,” agrees Paragon Creative’s David Johnson. “The theming and detail of the area is all based upon this concept.”
      Fitzgerald adds, “We wanted to communicate the message that Asiatic lions only exist in the wild in this one small area in India, so were tasked with recreating parts of the region in the exhibit to support this messaging.”
      ZSL London Zoo Land of the Lions Immersive Exhibit

      Balancing Animal Husbandry with Visitor Experience

      In order to create an authentic setting, the zoo carried out extensive research, sending a design team out to India to experience the Gir region at first hand.
      “We had to balance animal husbandry with visitor experience and this directly translated into the creation of the landscape,” explains Fitzgerald.
      “We researched the typical planting soil and topography found in the Gir region and balanced this with visitor viewing area requirements while always keeping lion welfare at the forefront of our plans. It was paramount that they have an engaging environment with, for example, heated snoozing rocks, high viewing platforms and both sunny and shaded areas."
      ZSL London Zoo Land of the Lions Immersive Exhibit Gir Forest
      “This exhibit also differed from others before it as we looked at the region as a whole, its people and customs and the human/animal interaction that takes place there, which is truly unique. So the railway platform, ranger’s house and the high street are all there to tell the story of how close and special this interaction is.
      “We also had the benefit of the Conservation Programme Field team, which was set up as part of this project to fully understand the issues and daily challenges of conservation in the region.”
      ZSL London Zoo Land of the Lions Immersive Exhibit Asiatic Lions

      A Courageous Commission

      Ray Hole of Ray Hole Architects describes the zoo as ‘very courageous’ for commissioning a project of such scope:
      “The overriding purpose of this new exhibit is that it becomes a fundamental part of ZSL’s mission – aimed not only at bringing increased awareness to the ongoing plight of the last stronghold population of this IUCN Redlist(ed) Endangered subspecies (estimated to be 523 animals in 2015), but also form part of an European Endangered Species Programme, dedicated to growing a genetically healthy and thriving captive population.”

      Visitor & Animal Environments

      Once the area for the new exhibit had been identified, the next step was to define the project’s strategic brief.
      ZSL London Zoo Land of the Lions Immersive Exhibit
      It was decided that 4 principal animal environments and 5 visitor environments were required:
      Animal Environments
      • Asiatic Lions – to occupy 2 contrasting environments
      • Hanuman Langurs – to occupy 2 interconnected areas
      • Vultures
      • Plus a number of other species – Flamingo, Mongoose and Muntjac
      ZSL London Zoo Land of the Lions Immersive Exhibit
      Visitor Environments
      • Village and Suburban High Street
      • Ruined Fort
      • Railway Station and Railway Bridge
      • Girnar Hills and Riverside Trail
      • Lion Temple
      Additionally, the zoo was keen to provide a luxury and unique accommodation experience for guests, which led to the creation of the Gir Lion Lodges within the exhibit.
      ZSL London Zoo Land of the Lions Immersive Exhibit Gir Lion Lodge

      Making the Most of Existing Assets

      Ray Hole Architects began by exploring how they could make best strategic and economic use of the zoo’s existing infrastructure:
      “We wanted to exploit these existing “assets” as an integral part of the new exhibit – reinforcing our practice’s philosophy of reduce, re-use and recycle – but which helps to reduce Capex and OpsCosts also.
      “In addition, we wanted to exploit existing building facades as new enclosure boundaries whilst providing expanded and diverse vistas from within and beyond the new exhibit across the adjacent landscapes – including the surrounding (Royal) Regents Park.”
      ZSL London Zoo Land of the Lions Immersive Exhibit
      Crucially, says Hole, the large size of the exhibit allowed the designers to “increase the density and variety of animal/visitor engagement whilst providing the maximum space for the animals, allowing them free choice of location and movement within the exhibit.”
      The agreed timescale for the project was 18 months from inception to completion – ambitious enough when dealing with an empty site but fraught with challenges in a busy zoo.
      “We were working on a very busy ‘building site’ on and over some quite challenging terrain,” says Johnson. “However our talented install teams have worked on a wide range of challenging sites over the years and handled the install challenges very well.”
      ZSL London Zoo Land of the Lions Immersive Exhibit
      Fitzgerald says, “We had to work around beautiful protected trees, utilise existing structures, all while remaining open to our visitors and being careful not to disturb our more than 18,000 animal residents.”
      Key to the success of the project would be the depth of visitor engagement delivered by close encounters with the lions and immersive storytelling.
      ZSL London Zoo Land of the Lions Immersive Exhibit

      The Anchor Experiences - a No-Barrier Approach

      “The ‘anchor experiences’ comprise the 360 degree Lion Temple and Sasan Gir Railway Platform Encounters – supported by an array of other experiences,” says Hole.
      “Both distinctively different settings stage exciting opportunities for animal:visitor proximity - creating the illusion of a no barrier environment.”
      ZSL London Zoo Land of the Lions Immersive Exhibit
      The ‘no barrier’ approach finds its ultimate expression at the Temple where the public are separated from the lions by 5m high-tensioned cables designed to ‘disappear’ when the viewer focuses on the animals.
      “You’re only separated from the lions by only fine wires,” says Fitzgerald.
      “You can hear, smell and feel the power of these animals and it’s unnerving in the most exciting way imaginable. I don’t believe there is a comparable lion exhibit that gives you this experience.”
      ZSL London Zoo Land of the Lions Immersive Exhibit
      “We particularly loved the theming we applied to the 360 Lion Temple,” says Johnson. “This particular area stood out to us due to its size, architectural complexity and stunning finish.”
      Hole also cites the Temple as a highlight: “creating the sense of being in the Lions environment. The closer you approach the lions the less built environment is surrounding you.
      “We had to carry out special tests on sight interference (natural light on cables/size of cables) and loading on the tension cables.”
      ZSL London Zoo Land of the Lions Immersive Exhibit
      Further close-up views are afforded on the Railway Platform through more familiar glazing.
      The project’s clever repurposing of existing features has offered numerous and unusual opportunities for animal encounters:
      “A day den has been modelled from a family home where lions have invaded the back yard,” says Hole.
      ZSL London Zoo Land of the Lions Immersive Exhibit

      An Immersive Experience

      “The original lion exhibit water feature has been (re)contextualised to create a river edge between lions and visitors; elevated views into the Gir Forest are given from the Railway Bridge; and the Girnar Hills overhead walkway trail provide glimpses at different levels as the thematic access ramp meanders down to the riverside level. Additional lion encounters also occur through the peripheral railway goods yard fencing looking across the Mongoose enclosure.”
      The immersive experience is further enhanced by: “the deliberate creation of viewpoints that include other visitors in different parts/levels of the attraction – again reinforcing the sense of visitors within the Lions' landscape – and not simply a staged view through a glass portal – sounds, smells and vibrations from low frequency growling are all incorporated.”
      ZSL London Zoo Land of the Lions Immersive Exhibit

      Hair Raising Fun

      There are lighter-hearted elements, too. Information posters have been designed in Bollywood style. There are humorous references to the lions around the exhibit in Indian-style advertising hoardings.  Educational elements are imaginatively presented in context – the barber shop is used to explain why male lions have manes and offers fun photo opportunities to ‘mane yourself’.
      ZSL London Zoo Land of the Lions Immersive ExhibitThe depth and scope of Land of the Lions also required new skills from even the most experienced team members:
      “We developed techniques that we had not tried before with regard to the mixing/combining of materials for the scenery,” says Johnson.
      “We also produced a lot of the main rockwork armatures off site and transported them to site to then secure to the as-built block work walls prior to meshing up and applying the Themecrete finish. This was another first for us, which proved to be very effective!”

      A Testament to Team Work

      Despite the enormity of the project, it was delivered on time -  clearly a testament to effective team-working.
      “Ray has an infectious enthusiasm that instantly rubbed off on to the project team,” says Fitzgerald. “Not only did our partnership with him result in a steady stream of practical solutions to the concept, but he added a refreshing, creative edge that really took the exhibit to another level.”
      “The client team was wonderful,” says Johnson. “Throughout the project they were very supportive, very encouraging and helped us tremendously to keep on track. This makes working on a project like this much easier when everyone is working together towards the same goal.
      "We have worked with Ray Hole on a number of great projects in the past so it was a pleasure to work with his talented team again.”
      ZSL London Zoo Land of the Lions Immersive Exhibit
      “We enjoyed filling the design/imagineering gaps between the traditional interpretation support from the in-house team and specialist attraction thematic – and this is where our introduction and collaboration with Paragon was essential,” says Hole.
      “This project was also being created in parallel to Kidzania (another RHA/Paragon collaboration) – so we can imagine more synergy (business development, project strategy and design/implementation) in the future.”
      ZSL London Zoo Land of the Lions Immersive Exhibit
      Land of the Lions was opened by HM The Queen on March 17th 2016. When asked which areas individual team members are most proud of, their answers echo one another.

      Making the Messaging Real and Exciting

      Johnson: “To be honest, we’re proud of the entire exhibit. The final result was quite breath-taking.”
      ZSL London Zoo Land of the Lions Immersive Exhibit
      Hole: It’s not necessarily the bit – but the whole we are most pleased with – as we have achieved a good “sweet spot” across a very large attraction. Furthermore the density of engagement moments/locations and types is very high.”
      Fitzgerald: This type of exhibit engages the visitor deeply, giving them access to a different world, which in turn makes the messaging real and exciting.”
      ZSL London Zoo Land of the Lions Immersive Exhibit
      Johnson says the project is already inspiring other zoos to take a more thematic approach to experience design:
      “Since Land of the Lions opened, we have actually had a call from another major UK zoo who had seen what we achieved and have already asked for potential help on future projects at their site. This is the biggest compliment that we can receive.”
      The list of projects on the go for Ray Hole Architects includes West Midlands Safari Park (Water Park) as well as master planning for Paradise Park and a destination resort in Cambodia.
      ZSL London Zoo Land of the Lions Immersive Exhibit

      A Room With A Zoo

      So what next for the ZSL London Zoo?
      “Our Gir Lion Lodge is opening in May, which will give visitors the opportunity to spend the night in the heart of the zoo. We’ve designed nine colourful private cabins within the Land of the Lions exhibit to immerse people even further in the world of the Gir National Park.
      “If waking up to the sound of a lion’s roar is on your bucket list then this is the experience for you. It’s absolutely unique.”
      Images kind courtesy Paragon Creative, Ray Hole Architects and ZSL London Zoo.
      ‘Sleep like a lion’ design on the fence by Ged Palmer
      Poster Design: The Lion’s Roar - Jo Thompson, Beyond the Forest- Matt Cotterill, Four Days of Love - Jonny Burrows, Claws, paws and snores - Rosey Taylor, Younger Man - Matt Cotterill, Comeback - Rosey Taylor, Crucial Judgement - Rosey Taylor, The Incredible Tail - Rebecca Low, London Pride - Rebecca Low

      Companies in this Article

      Lion enclosure to be renovated for gibbons: Assiniboine Park Zoo

      A special breed of monkey is coming back to the Assiniboine Park Zoo.
      The zoo announced Wednesday the lion enclosure will be renovated to house white-handed gibbons, which will come back to the zoo later this year.
      “Assiniboine Park Zoo was home to gibbons for many years and they were always a favourite with our visitors,” said Gary Lunsford, Head of Zoological Operations at the Assiniboine Park Zoo. “We’re pleased to have this opportunity to create and maintain a spacious and naturalistic home for this species, and we are very happy to be welcoming them back to our zoo family.”
      The renovations will happen in two stages. The first will see the indoor portion of the exhibit renovated throughout the summer and fall for the gibbons to move in over the winter. Then the outdoor portion will be reconstructed to open in spring of 2017, said the zoo.
      Once renos are done, a pair of young gibbons will move in. "An endangered species and part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) program, white-handed gibbons are small, arboreal apes found mainly in tropical rainforests in Southeast Asia," said the zoo.
      The zoo's former Asiatic lions, Bhanu and Kamal, were moved to zoological facilities in England as per recommendations from the European Endangered Species program earlier this year.


      Saving Gir's lions

      Efforts to protect the once critically endangered Asiatic lions in Gujarat have helped the animals grow their population
      May 1, 2016, 5:00 am SGT 
      Martin Fletcher
      One spring afternoon, I drive with a guide into the Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary - 1,410 sq km of beautiful and exquisitely tranquil deciduous forest in a corner of Gujarat in India seven hours by car from the teeming metropolis of Ahmedabad. Sandy tracks lead us through a landscape of pale browns and yellows carpeted with the fallen, plate-sized leaves of teak trees.
      We cross the dusty beds of dried-up rivers. We see strutting peacocks and flocks of green parakeets, langur monkeys frolicking in the trees, herds of spotted deer, great antlered sambar and the huge antelope that Indians call nilgai grazing in the dappled sunlight.
      Then we find the animals we have really come to see, though their beige fur camouflage them well.
      There are seven in all, dozing by a water hole: two lionesses and five cubs. The mothers acknowledge our arrival with a cursory lifting of their heads before returning to their slumbers, but I am thrilled.
      I have travelled more than 6,400km to see these creatures. The Asiatic lions of Gir are the only wild lions left anywhere outside Africa and their survival has been little short of miraculous.
      Unlike in Africa, where too many villagers still see lions, elephants, rhinos and other endangered species as competitors for scarce resources, here, people revere and protect the lions in their midst.
      A century ago, fewer than 20 were left in the world. Today, there are more than 500. Their recovery contrasts starkly with the fate of Africa's lions, which have been assailed so relentlessly by hunters, poachers and human encroachment that scarcely 25,000 remain.
      The credit for that recovery belongs not just to the sustained efforts of the Gujarat Forest Department, but also to two long- forgotten minor Indian princes and the astonishing attitude of local villagers.
      Far from fearing the lions, they welcome and honour them - even when they kill their cattle or, on occasion, humans.
      "This majestic creature has been rescued from the brink of extinction. It's one of the greatest conservation success stories in the world," my travelling companion, regional programme manager Gitanjali Bhattacharya for the Zoological Society of London, declares after our jeep safari ends.
      The London Zoo last month opened Lands Of The Lions, a permanent exhibition featuring several Asiatic lions in settings designed to replicate those at Gir.
      "Not only has the lion's future been secured, but we're now entering a second phase where the lion is beginning to regain some of its old territories. Unlike in Africa, where too many villagers still see lions, elephants, rhinos and other endangered species as competitors for scarce resources, here, people revere and protect the lions in their midst."
      Asiatic lions are slightly smaller than their African counterparts, with more modest manes and a fold of loose skin along their stomachs.
      Long ago, they were found right across the Middle East and northern India, from the Mediterranean to the Bay of Bengal. But during the 19th and early 20th centuries, they gradually vanished. Maharajas and British colonialists had shot almost all of India's too - all but a handful in Gir which was the hunting estate of the Nawab of Junagarh, Saheb Sir Muhammad Rasul Khanji II.
      Junagadh is now a typically bustling Indian town of 160,000 people more than 60km from Gir.

      • Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary (www.girnationalpark.in/index.html) is in south-western Gujarat. The headquarters are at Sasan Gir, which is about 65km from Junagadh and about 350km from Ahmedabad.
        Sasan Gir is a seven-hour drive from Ahmedabad. The nearest airports are at Diu, which is about 110km away, or Rajkot, which is about 100km beyond Junagadh. Trains from Junagadh to Sasan Gir take about 21/2 hours. Buses are also available from Ahmedabad and Junagadh.
        Gir is open to tourists from Oct 16 to June 15 each year. Guided jeep safaris last three hours and begin at 6 and 9am and 3pm each day. They cost about $246 a jeep for foreigners, with each jeep taking a maximum of six passengers.
        Reservations can be made three months in advance. Because tourist admissions are strictly limited, it is necessary to book as early as possible.
        There are several reasonably priced hotels in or near Sasan Gir. The Taj Gateway (gateway.tajhotels.com/en-in/gir-forest/) is one of the closest and best. Rates start from about $196 a night.
        Ampersand Travel (tel: +44-0- 20-7819-9770 or go to ampersandtravel.com) offers bespoke wildlife tours to Gujarat. A seven-night tour, including accommodation at The Lodhi, Delhi; Taj Gateway, Ahmedabad; and Taj Gateway, Sasan Gir, starts from US$4,110 (S$5,520) a person based on twin-sharing, including international direct flights from Singapore , domestic flights, private airport transfers and privately guided safaris in Gir National Park.
        Singapore Airlines offers direct flights from Singapore to Ahmedabad starting from $702 return. Air India offers daily flights from Singapore to Ahmedabad via Delhi starting from $734.
      I visit its museum one afternoon, hoping to learn more about the nawab, but there was only a portrait of him resplendent in flowing robes and turban.
      This much is known, however. In 1890, the Duke of Clarence visited Junagadh and the nawab had trouble finding a lion for him to shoot. According to one count, there were just 12 left. He duly declared Gir a protected area, if only to ensure he still had some lions left to shoot.
      In 1911, the nawab was succeeded by his son, Sir Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III, who loved animals so much that he owned 300 hugely pampered dogs. The museum has a portrait of him, sitting with a bejewelled dog at his feet.
      The new nawab banned all shooting at Gir. He thus saved the lions, but failed to save himself. Being Muslim, he enraged his Hindu subjects by trying to lead Junagadh into the new state of Pakistan following India's partition in 1947. He was forced to flee to Karachi. There, he died - of rabies - in 1959.
      By the time Gir was made an official sanctuary in 1965, it had about 170 lions and that number has continued to increase.
      Today, there are more than 520. At least 150 of those now live outside the sanctuary and range across 20,720 sq km of bush and farmland.
      In 2005, they became the first carnivores to have their conservation status downgraded from critically endangered to endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
      The Gujarat Forest Department has done its job well. In the 1970s, it moved thousands of traditional cattle herders called Maldharis out of Gir and resettled them elsewhere, triggering a sharp rise in the number of boar, deer and other animals on which the lions prey.
      It employs about 300 dedicated rangers, many of them women dubbed "Queens of the Forest", who constantly track the lions armed only with sticks called lathis.
      "It's a beautiful animal," says Ms Rasila Vadher, who heads one of three rescue teams that are on standby for calls from rangers or villagers about sick or injured lions. The teams bring about 100 lions a year to a state-of-the-art treatment centre at the park's headquarters, most of them injured in fights with other lions.
      At the centre, she shows me a steel cage in which she has occasionally been lowered into wells to tranquillise and then extract lions that have fallen in.
      I can hear some of the rescued lions in their curtained cages, but I am not allowed to see them lest I add to their trauma.
      The forest department has also established several smaller, satellite sanctuaries. It has built walls around thousands of open wells so the lions do not fall in. It has fenced off many kilometres of railway lines after several lions were hit by trains and introduced a 20kmh speed limit on a line - replete with hand-operated signals and points - that passes though the sanctuary.
      Funding is no object. As Gujarat's chief minister before becoming India's Prime Minister in 2014, Mr Narendra Modi ensured that the forest department had all the resources it needed.
      That lavish funding means Gir can limit the number of tourists it admits each day. Inside the sanctuary, I see practically none.
      But the lions also owe their resurgence to the people living in and around Gir.
      They are vegetarian, so hunt neither the lions nor the animals they eat. They are extremely devout and the lion occupies a special place in the Hindu pantheon of living creatures as it is the animal on which the goddess Durga rides. More prosaically, the lions scare away the nilgai, boars and deer that eat the farmers' crops.
      One day, I visit a "ness", one of the primitive settlements of the few hundred Maldharis who still live inside the sanctuary and survive by selling their cattle's milk and dung.
      I meet  Karim, a 70-year-old woman with a leathery face and gold nose ring. She lives in a mud-walled hut with numerous barefooted grandchildren, protected from Gir's wildlife only by a thorn fence.
      She says her husband had twice been attacked by lions, both times when he was trying to protect his cattle, but insists: "The lions are like gods. They need food."
      She is much more afraid of the sanctuary's many leopards and one 10-year-old grandson still bears the scars of a recent leopard attack on his face and neck.
      Villagers outside the sanctuary express the same reverence. They do not mind if the lions sometimes kill their cattle, though this is a poor area where camel carts still outnumber tractors. Occasionally, they leave old or weak cows out for them.
      "It's their right. This is the lions' land," says resident Bhupat Babuy Bhuvva whose village, Dhanej, loses three or four cows a month.
      Once or twice a year, perhaps, the lions kill humans, but the villagers excuse them even for that. They know to steer clear when the lions are mating, hunting or having cubs and they can read the warning signs - the roar, the raised tail, the pawing at the ground. "Only when humans make mistakes do they get attacked," Ms Vadher, the rescue team leader, tells me.
      Two years ago, a lioness killed one drunken youth and injured another near the village of Rajula, when they tried to take pictures of her two cubs on their mobile phones.
      Dr Chavinath Pandey, formerly Gujarat's chief wildlife warden, went to the scene and met a female relative of the dead boy.
      "She said the lioness was not at fault. Our children were at fault. The villagers didn't want the lioness taken away. I was amazed and moved," he tells me when we meet in the Nawab of Junagarh's former hunting lodge, now the forest department's guesthouse. "This is a place where the big cat and local people are in complete understanding with each other and, to my mind, that's the reason the lions are surviving so well."
      What does dismay the villagers, however, is the death of a lion.
      When 10 drowned in flash floods last summer, hundreds of people gathered in the village of Krankach, prayed before garlanded photos of the lions and pledged never to let such a disaster happen again.
      When a lion, frightened by an oncoming car at night, jumped off a bridge near Sasan Gir and killed itself, the townspeople closed their businesses for a day to mourn.
      Watching the lions sleeping peacefully in Gir that afternoon, I rejoice at a rare success in the usually bloody and depressing field of modern conservation.
      The challenge the forest department now faces is how to prepare hundreds of villages further away from Gir for the likely arrival of lions in future years. It needs to teach the villagers to protect their cattle, avoid confrontations and co-exist with the animals.
      Dr Pandey sees few limits on the lions' expanding habitat. He says there is enough food, water and shelter for them to move much further afield. "It's difficult to see a maximum limit... In 20 years' time, you might find lions around Ahmedabad," he says, to my astonishment.
      That is more than 300km from Gir.

      Gujarat Day: Why the Western State Is a Beautiful Jewel in India's Crown

      Runa Mukherjee Parikh @tweetruna
      First published: May 1, 2016, 12:37 PM IST | Updated: May 1, 2016
      There is more to Gujarat than it just being a minister’s model of development *coughs*. May 1 is celebrated as Gujarat Day since its formation in the year 1960. The state is, contrary to popular belief, more than just a dry state. Some of the best Indian monuments, food, folk dances belong to Gujarat and make it a beautiful jewel in India’s crown.
      Rann of Kutch
      If you want to experience one of its kind white desert, then it is the Rann of Kutch you have to visit. Sprawled over a humongous area, the rann is known for its salt, its colourful villages and people, its art (Kutchi embroideries anyone?) and now, it even has a three-month long touristy utsav to its name. For the adventurer in you, the rann is a must check on the wanderlust list.
      The Asiatic Lions live in the Gir forest, their only habitat in the world. Gir is the frontrunner when it comes to conservation efforts – numbers of the majestic beasts rose to 523 in 2015, a stupendous growth that brought them back from the brink of endangerment. This beautiful Gujarat forest is a must for the wildlife enthusiast as unlike other jungles, you are sure to spot the animal here.
      Gujarati food is known across the world for its unique taste and its popularity among vegetarian foodies is staggering. Be it that dhokla sitting calmly on your plate or undhiyu which is a mixed vegetable dish turned on its head or the grand assortment of farsaan (or snacks) that your friends ask for whenever you visit that aunt in Amdavad, the food is just delicious.
      When Amitabh Bachchan asks you to spend a few days in a place, you spend a few days in that place. However, you can take your pick from a wide range of places - the hills of Saputara, Somnath Temple, the pristine beaches of Diu, the UNESCO heritage site Rani-Ni-Vav or the Sun temple at Modhera, Gujarat is teeming with places worth a dekko.
      Gujarat ka namak khaya hai!
      The state is the country’s largest producer of milk thanks to Amul. It is also provides more than half of the nation’s salt requirement.
      History galore
      Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel and the first Pakistani prime minister Mohammad Ali Jinnah, were all Gujaratis. Add historical sites like Dandi, Valsad, Sabarmati Ashram to the mix and it is a piece of our independence story packed in a single state.
      Who in the world doesn’t know how to bust a few Garba and Dandiya moves? Make that no one. The two most vibrant dances belong to this state. Ask a Patel living in any part of the world how they stay connected to their roots and pat comes the reply, ‘By doing Garba during Navratri.’
      Those diamonds that are your best friends? It is highly likely that it has been polished to perfection by an expert in Surat. Gujaratis are key players in the multi-billion dollar diamond export business globally. Almost 80% of the diamonds sold across the world have been polished in Surat. Infact, the city has a few dedicated colleges for teaching diamond technology.
      Be it the Maharaja Sayajirao University in Baroda or the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, some of the country’s best colleges are situated here. IIM-A, IIT, NIFT, CEPT, Nirma University are just some of the premier varsities that attract students from all parts of the country. No wonder, it is referred to as students’ paradise by many.
      TV Serials
      Almost all the serials produced for television have a Gujarati connect. It began years back when Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi was launched - the Virani khandaan changed how the urban Indian viewed TV's make-believe families. There are tons of serials that now take from the Gujarati culture and for some reason, the whole of India connects to them. Tarak Mehta anyone?
      tarak mehta
      Baniyas of our economy
      It is no secret that the most successful businessmen of India are from Gujarat. Ambanis, Adanis etc are just some of the country's best 'baniya dimaags' that have done well globally. Call it the shrewd Gujarati mind when it comes to Mathematics or the level headedness of the many businessmen and entrepreneurs that are born here (namely, the Patels), Gujarat's people have always kept 'munafa' in mind.