Friday, July 20, 2007

An industry inside the Asiatic Lion habitat!


Villagers concerned about GPPC project. Ahmedabad Newsline By: D P Bhattacharya

Ahmedabad, July 19: VILLAGERS of Rajula taluka of Amreli district have raised concerns over land acquisition and local employment at a public hearing held today. The hearing was jointly organised by Pipavav Power Company Ltd. and Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC), which are setting up a 1,050-megawatt natural gas power plant at Kovaya village.

Gujarat Pipavav Power Company (GPPC), floated by the GSPC and Pipavav Power Company Ltd., is also the breeding ground for migratory green turtles and peripheral habitat for the Asiatic lion.

The land acquisition order for the project was issued on October 1, 1993 for 125 hectares. Out of the 125 hectares, 114 hectares was under the ownership of 80 farmers, while the rest belonged to the state government.

While the price for the land, according to the acquisition, has already been paid to the farmers, 55 farmers moved Amreli civil court for adequate compensation.

Talking to Newsline, Sudhir Shah, General Manager (Project), GPPC, said that the company has already reached an agreement with the farmers, which has been submitted to the court.

Mahesh Parmar, an environmental activist from Rajula, said, “While the issue of land acquisition was a major concern, the employment to be generated by the plant also caused some uproar.” Parmar also said that as the literacy level of Rajula is quite low, at around 45 per cent, very few locals would be able to benefit from this project as most would not qualify for jobs.

Kishore Kotecha’s comment: We are talking of aquiring more land for Asiatic Lion habitat, then why are such project installed?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

RE: Asiatic Lion Update: Bail Application of Poachers rejected



This is interesting, but I’m afraid that I’m missing some of the context of this…. Can you remind me of where or when we might have met?


Were the alleged poachers involved in the killing of carnivores?


Seamus Maclennan

Kilimanjaro Lion Conservation Project


From: Kishore Kotecha []
Sent: 19 July 2007 10:54
Subject: Asiatic Lion Update: Bail Application of Poachers rejected


In Jesar Police Station criminal complaint was filed under Wildlife Protection Act Sec-39 on 16th April 2007.

First bail application of all 12 accused was rejected by JMFC court on 21-7-2007.

Second bail application for seven female accused was also rejected by Bhavnagar fast track Sessions Court.

Not a single accused is granted bail so far.




Kishore Kotecha

Wildlife Conservation Trust

Rajkot - Gujarat

Asiatic Lion Update: Bail Application of Poachers rejected

In Jesar Police Station criminal complaint was filed under Wildlife Protection Act Sec-39 on 16th April 2007.

First bail application of all 12 accused was rejected by JMFC court on 21-7-2007.

Second bail application for seven female accused was also rejected by Bhavnagar fast track Sessions Court.

Not a single accused is granted bail so far.




Kishore Kotecha

Wildlife Conservation Trust

Rajkot - Gujarat

One of the four women is Wife of Sarkaslal


One of the four women is Wife of Sarkaslal

Divya Bhasker Rajkot Edition Pg-5 (Briefly translated from Gujarati)

Yesterday four women were caught by forest department as suspects in connection with eight Asiatic lion poaching in March-April 2007. One of these four, is wife of kingpin Sarkaslal. B. P. Pati, DFO Gir(W), informed that "Big amount of money was found from them. They told that money was brought as fees for Advocate to fight Sarkaslal case."

Kingpin is in jail now. Names of these four women are Bagambai, Kalojibai, Kalojibai's daughter-in-law and Sumanbai.

Kishore's comments: Caught culprits have been saying to Police that they are poor and had come for labour work. Then where did this huge amount come from?

Which shameless advocate from Gujarat is to fight Sarkaslal case?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Four women held in Junagadh in Asiatic Lion Poaching


Four women held in Junagadh in Asiatic Lion Poaching

Gujarat Samachar Pg. 4 (Briefly tanslated from Gujarati)


Four more women from state of Madhya Pradesh have been caught by Forest Department at Kalwa Chowk in Junagadh. They were found suspicious loitering at Kalwa Chowk. They are suspected to have come to help Sarkaslal in getting bail. Sarkaslal is Kingpin in 8 Asiatic Lion poaching in March – April this year.


Kisbhore’s Comment: Efforts and awareness by forest department is worth noting.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Pride of 22 Asiatic Lion in revenue village


Pride of 22 Asiatic Lion in revenue village

Divya Bhasker Rajkot Edition (Brief translation from Gujarati)


A pride of 22 lions have camped (temporarily resided) at a Rambhai Balubhai Gorasiya’s farm land in Juna Ugla village in Una Taluka in Gir East. Villagers are scared due to such a heavy presence of pride since Saturday morning. Till late night these big cats were found at the same place. Villagers have demanded Forest deparment to do the needful.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Govt gears up to counter poaching of Asiatic Lion


Govt gears up to counter poaching

Times of India Ahmedabad Edition

Rajkot: Still besieged by threat by poachers to Asiatic lions in their only abode Gir, the state government wants to ensure that no official engaged in the conservation task takes it easy. The monthly monitoring committee (MMC) formed by the state soon after eight lions were poached early this year, has decided to take stringent action against those officials who are found careless in performing the assigned task.

A meeting of MMC in Junagadh on Wednesday also decided to engage national level experts to train police and forest department personnel in Sasan to tackle the poaching menace. The meeting was chaired by Jungadh Range IG Mohan Jha.

Considering possibility of poachers coming from other states, it was decided to carry out searches in farms located in the vicinity of forest area and keep tabs on hotels and lodges in the area. Moreover, details of labourers coming from other states will be recorded in a register by village sarpanch and mukadams.

A plan to issue identity cards to persons who frequent the forest areas is also under consideration. The committee also stressed on filling of 212 vacant posts in the forest department for more intense patrolling even as government has sanctioned 100 posts in various categories.

Information pertaining to nearly 300 eco clubs (youth clubs) formed by state government was presented before the committee.

MMCs were formed for Junagadh, Bhavnagar and Amreli districts by the state government following poaching of six lions in Babaria range and two lions in Palitana range early this year. In the meeting, it was announced that out of the 100 two-wheelers sanctioned by the government, 86 vehicles will be shortly received by the forest officials. The government has also sanctioned the proposed 10 four-wheelers, 15 cell phones and 75 global positioning systems (GPS) systems.

Friday, July 13, 2007

China's tiger wine threatens Gir lions:


China’s tiger wine threatens Gir lions:

Times of India Ahmedabad Edition By: Robin David

Ahmedabad: Gujarat may have nabbed the gang from Madhya Pradesh that killed lions in Gir and surrounding areas. But this is not the end of poaching of the big cat in Gujarat, the only home of the Asiatic lion in the world.

Experts believe Gujarat will have to brace itself for more poaching attempts given the increasing demand for lion bones in China. A recent issue of Cat News, a magazine of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Chinese government had given permission to a firm to make ‘bone-strengthening wine’.

Although it is known as ‘tiger bone wine’, its main ingredient is the African lion, parts of which can be traded in a controlled manner. The authors believe this will only fuel more demand for bones, both of the lion and the tiger. The firm is a subsidiary of the Zhou Weisen Tiger and Bear Mountain Village, the most prominent tiger breeding centre in China.

The wine is apparently prepared by dipping lion carcasses in vats of rice wine. Zhou Weisen claims to have 200 African lions on its farm, but very few have been noticed, states Cat News. This has made senior officials in the Gujarat forest department wonder if remains of the poached lions had found their way to China for such preparations. “This is the first time that Gir lions have been killed and all their bones and nails have disappeared,” says Gujarat chief conservator of forest, Pradeep Khanna. “While there is a known domestic market for lion nails, the bones are not consumed locally. We are almost certain that these have made it to China.”

According to sources, one bottle of the wine costs $ 120. The Chinese government has given permission to produce four lakh bottles. Cat News states that genetic analysis of the wine was carried out, but the DNA was too fragmented to identify the species. Sources in the Gujarat forest department add that given the profit margins and the fact that it would be easier to smuggle lion bones into China, there is every possibility of more poaching attempts in Gir.

 “We definitely have not seen the end of poaching in Gir,” says Y V Jhala, faculty at the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun and a member of the Gujarat government’s technical committee formed after the recent poaching incidents. “I am certain that lion bones are being passed off as those of tigers in China. One can only increase the cost of poaching by being more vigilant.”

ZOOS' PRINT July 2007 Article 5 on Asiatic Lion: Why tigers are not reoccupying Kuno despite excellent ameliorated and productive habitat?

ZOOS’ PRINT July 2007 Article 5 (Pp. 18-19): Why tigers are not reoccupying Kuno despite excellent ameliorated and productive habitat?

By: H. S. Panwar*


A question that quizzes the minds of senior and field officials of Wildlife Wing of Madhya Pradesh as well as those of the knowledgeable visitors to the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary (KWS), is as to why tigers are mere occasional transients and are not establishing even as a small population to start with, given the high habitat productivity, the excellent availability of thermal and breeding shelters and the abundant prey base. A postulate that is seen to do the rounds in these minds is if the large and aggressive population of the feral cattle in the KWS is a factor to shy away the tigers. This may appeal, but only superficially if one considers the attributes of tiger ecology in the current overall context of Kuno and other nearby tiger bearing areas. Let us probe a bit deeper.


Tiger is an apex predator given to high skills and craft in hunting, immense brute strength and agility, besides enough cunning to now and then break through the best defence and security schemes of the full range of its prey, which includes elephant, gaur, wild buffalo, wild pig and of course cattle (feral or domestic).  The lion in Gir, a parallel apex predator, is often able to take the maldhari buffalo from herds. An adult tiger alone can surely and successfully hunt these visibly aggressive feral cattle. Tigers also occasionally hunt in groups comprising mother and grown-up cubs or as a courting pair and are frequently able to thwart even the most versatile defence schemes of prey species. Of course the latter situation does not occur in KWS at present.


Further there does not seem to be a great justification in reading too much into the very visible aggressive nature of feral livestock in Kuno. This is obviously an acquired habit in the recent context of freshly evacuated village sites that were left with some domestic cattle, which multiplied and turned feral. Apparently this aggression in all probability manifests more in regard to humans, who held them captive and who such cattle may perceive as a potential threat to their recently acquired and valued freedom. They may not have a similar response to the powerful wild predators like tiger, leopard or wild dog.  An easy way of finding out about this is to sample the prey-hair in leopard-scats and deduce the hunting incidence on feral cattle.


Need to worry about growing density of feral cattle congregations

Even so, there ought to be a justified concern for the feral cattle in Kuno, though for a different reason. This concern should be for the simple need of breaking up their extremely large and growing congregations tied to the evacuated villages as foci (traditional gauthans). Officers of KWS are aware of this and seem also to know a plausible approach to discourage this habit, which is to fence off the individual gauthans. Our suggestion would be to cover not just the gauthans but also a 100-200 meter wide belt around them. No alternative water facilitation should be done outside the fenced area even if a currently used water hole has got included in the fenced area. This would additionally cause the feral cattle to habitually use the distant dispersed natural or facilitated watering points that the wild ungulates use. This may help promote dispersal into smaller herds and to that extent dampen the apparent aggression somewhat. In any case and importantly, such dispersal is bound to afford greater hunting success to predators. All cattle species including wild are herd forming and predators do account for collective defence strategies. If the individual herd-size (congregation level) can be optimised things should fall in a natural pattern reducing habitat pressures and favourably affecting behavioural attributes of feral cattle.


Initially a couple of gauthans can be so barred and innovatively learning from the results, later a more effective technique can be evolved and employed. This is as much needed for reducing congregation-size of feral cattle as it indeed for mitigating habitat damage from trampling in and around gauthans in evacuated village sites that exhibit excellent habitat recovery.


Issue of tiger population in Kuno

Now let us try to venture an explanation for tigers not establishing a population in Kuno despite all favourable factors. Firsthand experience from the formative years of Kanha, as further vindicated by similar observations from other major tiger PAs, suggests that it is necessary that a minimum core breeding number of adults exist to start and sustain a population. This is what sequentially happened in the successively added and ameliorated areas of Kanha in 1970s and 1980s.


Until several decades earlier Kuno had its own core population, which got decimated in the late 1980s and 1990s. Very thin density population survived scattered in the tract in PAs like Kuno, Shivpuri and other forests in the tract. Constraining pressures of poor habitat productivity and eliminative ones of illegal hunting eventually led to the disappearance of even the stragglers.

There are no more any worthwhile breeding tiger populations in the tract (including Ranthambhore) that could annually contribute a sub-adult or two (or even past-prime adults) to find their way into Kuno. It is a fact that numbers have declined in the last 5-7 years even in Ranthambhore, which in the region is now the only PA potentially capable of such contributions through dispersal of ‘breeding-surplus’.  Whatever stragglers or long distance immigrants that may find their way into Kuno at present are not able to stay as they must be urged to quest for mates in a much larger tract around. In the process their getting lost to poaching cannot be ruled out. It nonetheless makes sense to anticipate that at least some individual or two make Kuno their home after a wasteful quest around. Only a close monitoring study can show. It is not unlikely that the drying up of ‘breeding surplus’ from Ranthambhore and the increasingly disrupted and hazardous (severe poaching threat) ‘corridor’ to KWS through Keladevi WLS may have snuffed out the only likely channel of trickle from this single potential natural source.


This discussion suggests the need of an urgent study to monitor the ‘iimigration, emigration, duration and area of stay of individual transient tigers’ in Kuno. This can best be done by well supervised wildlife guards of Kuno paying special attention to the better potential tiger habitats in the WLS. The only way for such monitoring is to lay PIPs (pug impression pads rendered in conducive soil medium on paths and tracks to elicit quality pugmarks of moving tiger and other predators) in potential habitats and based on concerted pugmark monitoring setting up a couple or a few ‘camera traps’.  Perhaps EMRS can help in better planning, organisation and conduct of such a study. A closer analysis implicit in the whole of above discussion but reveals the need of restocking tiger by bringing in a couple of pairs of sub-adult tiger and release them into a predetermined ‘higher potential tiger habitat’ in an enclosure, much the same way as what is planned to be done for lion in its higher potential habitat-pockets.



As an aside, the recent several poaching incidents of lion in the Gir Conservation Area has caused the Gujarat Forest Department (GFD) to sit up and investigate the causes. A committee has recently been set up to look into the causes and remedial steps. This development may well provide a reason enough to GFD to release at least a few lions for reintroduction in Kuno. With a good existing leopard population, occasional sightings of caracal, tiger sure to make re-entry and lion likely to make advent, Kuno is destined to be the only PA in the world to have the distinction of harbouring four major cat species, which it must surely have done a little over a century ago. This but reemphasizes the global conservation significance of Kuno.

ZOOS' PRINT July 2007 Article 4 on Asiatic Lion: Why the Lion Reintroduction Project ?

ZOOS’ PRINT July 2007 Article 4 (Pp. 13-17): Why the Lion Reintroduction Project?

By: Manoj Mishra*


Isolated populations of endangered species are at much greater risk compared to populations that are well-distributed. The risk is even more acute if the species in question survives as a single, small population confined to a single locality. Currently Asiatic lions (Panthera leo persica) are up against precisely such odds. Once widely occurring in India in the northern semi-arid scrub-grassland habitats from west to east and other arid scrub areas in the peninsula, the Asiatic lion rapidly started losing ground to diversion and degradation of its natural habitat by extension of human settlements, as well as overuse and abuse. The constraining impact of shrinkage, fragmentation and degradation of lion habitats was compounded by the pressures of uncontrolled hunting, predominantly by British “sports” hunters as well as Indian maharajas, which left lions at the brink of extinction at the turn of the 19th century. The very early decades of the 20th century marked the lowest ebb in the Asiatic lion population, which then was limited to Gir forests of the erstwhile Junagarh princely state in Gujarat. This was its last resort, when fewer than 30 individuals were believed to have survived.


Since then, this last remnant population has been jealously guarded and in the preceding three decades has been backed by good conservation action. This effort pulled the Asiatic lion from the jaws of extinction. This only free-ranging population of the subspecies currently stands at around 350 individuals, all confined to the Gir Conservation Area (GCA) in Gujarat. The GCA comprises Gir National Park (259 km2), Gir Lion Sanctuary (1,153 km2), and some adjacent scrub-grassland and open forest areas a little over 100 km2 in extent. The commitment and the effort hereto of the State Government of Gujarat and its Forest Department in protecting the Asiatic lion deserve much praise. That commitment is not likely to weaken, despite frequent conflict arising from lion-kills of livestock. Reinforcing this commitment is the recently well-recognized crucial aquifer value of the GCA to this semi-arid and drought-prone region. However, the surrounds of GCA are well populated and have witnessed consistent upgrading of agricultural practices, which do not present a very compatible interface for such a critically important conservation area.


The critical urgency of starting a second Asiatic lion population

The survival of Asiatic lions in the wild, therefore, cannot be taken for granted. The small population size, coupled with their ‘single population’ status (GCA is but 1,500 km2 only with 1,432 km2 of protected area status) exposes them to a variety of threats such as epidemics, natural calamities and forest fires. In fact the African lion population1 of Serengeti National Park in Tanzania was left severely depleted as a result of an outbreak of canine distemper virus in the early 1990’s. It is believed that 75% of the lions had been infected and at least 30% of the population was wiped out by the infection. If an epidemic of such proportions were to affect the lions of Gir, it would be very difficult to save them from extinction, given the much smaller size of Gir and also the relatively smaller lion population. Genetically speaking, earlier the rapid decline in Asiatic lions occurred in the late 19th and early 20th century in a short time-span and even the small remaining population must have carried substantial proportions of the original genetic attributes. This allowed it to recover, given good conservation support.  If such a crash occurs now, the genetic viability of the population will take a serious hit, imperiling its long-term survival. This calls for urgent measures to initiate action for establishing and nursing a second, and later perhaps, a third or fourth such population of Asiatic lion.


In response to consistent conservation inputs, the lion population in the GCA registered steady growth until late 1980's-early 1990's. But this has tapered off lately, primarily constrained by the non-availability of additional habitat and the limited scope of enhancement in the productivity of the existing habitat. Biologically speaking, the GCA now carries a near saturation level of the Asiatic lion. Yet the Gir population is dynamic and potentially capable of yielding breeding surpluses; there would be sufficient potential stock for supplying additional suitable habitats if available in the locality or elsewhere. Indeed such removals for reintroduction elsewhere will not only lead to long-term security of the Asiatic lion through two (or more) separate populations, but the voids created in the presently saturated Gir population would give it a breeding impetus and thus enhance its vitality.


Initial preparatory effort towards a second population

It was therefore proposed to establish an alternate free-ranging population of lions so as to insure against the threat to the Gir population. This would involve translocating a few lions from Gir to the alternate site. Such a site first had to be identified. Research projects by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in Gir produced data for better management of the species in Gir and also generated indicators for selecting the alternate site. Following the Population and Habitat Viability Analysis (PHVA) Workshop for Asiatic Lion (facilitated by the IUCN SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, CBSG, India (now CBSG, South Asia) and Zoo Outreach Organisation) held in Baroda in 1993, the forest departments of Gujarat, U.P., M.P., Rajasthan and Haryana were asked to draw up a list of protected areas in their respective states that could potentially serve as a second home for lions.


A team of scientists from WII short-listed three areas: Darrah - JawaharSagar and Sitamata Sanctuaries in Rajasthan and the Kuno Sanctuary in MP.  A rapid assessment of these sites was carried out during 1993-94, principally on the following counts - extent of forest area, quality of habitat, prey base availability and presence of human population. While Darrah was found unsuitable on account of its small size and the degraded state of habitat, Sitamata was ruled out on account of lack of prey and extensive human interference. Kuno emerged as potentially the most viable option for this prospective novel translocation attempt. Human pressure in Kuno was considered manageable and the habitat fairly healthy and suitable.  Further, surrounding the sanctuary, there is roughly 3000 km2 of contiguous forest that can potentially sustain a growing lion population. Historically, this tract is believed to have had an overlapping distribution of lion and tiger.  Much of tiger range occurred to its southeast in the relatively more moist deciduous forests and that of the lion to the relatively drier scrub-savanna areas to its east, northwest and southwest. From the point of view of forest formations and hence with respect to ‘shelter’, Kuno and Gir are not too different, though the vegetation composition in Kuno is potentially more productive for herbivore prey. This attribute and its situation within a more extensive forested tract, give Kuno an enhanced potential quality as an alternate home for the lion.


Thus, admittedly, while Kuno appeared to be the most suitable place that could hold an alternate lion population, the following prerequisites, as identified in the WII report, first had to be met before the actual translocation of the carnivores was allowed to take place:


1. A long-term commitment of resources and personnel on part of the concerned authorities, namely, the Gujarat Forest Department, the M.P. Forest Department, the Government of India and the Wildlife Institute of India.

2. Relocation of the human population living inside Kuno sanctuary so as to minimize the probability of conflict between humans and lions.

3. Socioeconomic assessment of the people living on the periphery of the sanctuary in order to understand their current level of dependence on the bio-resources of the sanctuary.

4. An ‘ecodevelopment’ plan for the people living in the villages in the surrounds of the sanctuary would be developed based on the socio-economic assessment and the extent, distribution and potential of forests and ‘village commons’ outside the sanctuary. This eco-development plan aimed at promoting a sustainable and compatible interface

between them and the sanctuary shall cover all people living and using the proposed conservation unit of about 3000 sq km. Establishment of a direct linkage between their (local people) improved standard of living and the lion project would be crucial for the long-term success of the project.

5. An awareness campaign on the proposed lion translocation to prepare the people in the vicinity of the sanctuary to live with a mega-carnivore like the lion, an animal that they have not encountered before in living memory.

6. Delimitation and declaration of the core area to be established as a National Park.

7. A select team of forest department personnel would have to be identified and trained for this specialized task.

8. The habitat would have to be protected, in some cases perhaps even helped by judicious interventions, in order to promote growth of herbivores for prey.  If need be, in order to accelerate the process of building up prey populations, some wild herbivores may have to be transferred to the sanctuary from other protected areas/forests in Madhya Pradesh.

9. Initiation of a monitoring and research programme from the very start of the project.

10. Once the habitat at Kuno has been adequately developed and secured, 5-8 adult lions (2-3 males and 3-5 females) and their dependent young would be translocated from Gir during the cool season. Adequate arrangements would have to be made for pre-release captivity in order that the lions acclimatize to their new surroundings prior to release.

11. The above lion population can be supplemented with animals captured from the fringes of Gir, from time to time. This would add to the growth of the initially introduced population and it may be possible to achieve a free ranging population of 30-50 lions within first 10 years of the initial release of lions in Kuno.


Each of these involved a number of sub-tasks and the MP forest department, on the basis of the WII report, prepared a document that outlined all the sub-tasks and proposed a time schedule for completing these. It also provided budget estimates for implementing these proposed activities.


The Plan

The plan prepared by the Madhya Pradesh (MP) Forest Department, in late 1994, required the Central Government to commit resources to the tune of INR 64 crores (12 million Euro) over the twenty year period from 1995 to 2015. The Ministry of Environment and Forests has since been funding the project on the basis of annual plans as received from the government of MP.


Progress till date:

With assistance to the tune of INR 15 crores from the Government of India, a twenty-year project was initiated by the government of MP in 1995, to establish a disturbance-free habitat in Kuno Sanctuary. Between 1996 and 2001, twenty-four villages, with about 1547 families, have been relocated from the Sanctuary by the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department. The Madhya Pradesh Government has also demarcated a 1280 Km2 Kuno Wildlife Division encompassing the Sironi, Agra and Morawan forest ranges around the Sanctuary. (WII, 2005)


The Gaps:

Major gaps remained even by 2005 which were assessed by a PEACE Institute team and a project was drawn up to attempt to address them, at least in part, through an ecological monitoring project which shall be described subsequently.  The major gaps observed by the team are listed below:


1.  Lack of widespread ownership The larger project, approved by the Central Government in 1994-5, for its successful planning and implementation requires the commitment of the two State governments of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh and of the Central government. This commitment has to hold on a long term basis and must cover the project’s objectives, fiscal resources and operational mechanisms right from planning to culmination of implementation leading to the setting up of a viable second population of Asiatic lion. The project besides has several actors and stakeholders on the professional and local livelihood fronts. It must have active participation of the protected area managers at different levels, wildlife management experts including those specializing in safe capture, transport and release of animals, veterinary doctors, animal trackers, habitat managers etc. The local people at the site for the second home of lions are bound to have the strongest stake as this has already involved relocation of villages to places outside the Kuno sanctuary.  This has raised the issues like the adequacy of size and quality of new land holdings, and other timely support for the sustenance of on-farm and off-farm livelihoods as well as housing at new sites. There are other significant stake-holders, including local communities (other than those relocated), politicians and various govern-ment agencies in the field of education and rural development and NGOs.


2.  Low project profile Considering the uniqueness of the project, it does not appear to have caught the imagination of the wildlife conservation fraternity, and indeed the society in general. This is reflected in the somewhat lukewarm attitude of the concerned government agencies towards it. This is symptomatic of the “conservation apathy” that the lion suffers from when compared to its more glamorous feline cousin, the tiger.


3.  Absence of ecological research programme  Lack of ownership has lent to the project a rather lopsided character, with only the village relocation component having received any sort of attention.

While this component has nearly reached its culmination, the critical research programmes in the sanctuary have yet to start. Such programmes shall have to address, among other things estimating the size, and dispersal patterns of the prey populations in the sanctuary. This information is critical in order to decide whether the sanctuary is ready to receive and host a lion population.


4. Enhancement of staff capacity: As identified in the WII report, capacity of the staff of Kuno sanctuary will need to be considerably enhanced for them to be able to handle a multi-faceted project as the one being implemented. In particular, they will need significant skill enhancement in animal tracking, behavioural studies, census techniques, habitat-restoration/improvement, habitat monitoring and so on. This continues to be an area that remains unattended.


Ecological Monitoring Project - Objectives

Now that the first stage of the project involving the relocation of the villages from within the sanctuary has been implemented, it is necessary that a regular and long term ecological monitoring of the sanctuary is carried out with the following objectives:

a) Create an ecological baseline on parameters such as vegetation, other habitats, spatio-temporal water availability, air quality, climatic characteristics etc in the sanctuary against which future changes could be assessed.

b) Observe, document and disseminate information on the ecological changes taking place in areas that once housed the villagers and their agricultural fields. Help devise a management package to maintain and augment habitat productivity without overt interventions.

c) Conduct a systematic monitoring of the population changes and ranging patterns of herbivores like nilgai, chinkara, chital, wild boar etc in the sanctuary and mark out segments of crucial seasonal habitats for close management attention including judicious water facilitation.

d) Conduct monitoring of tiger presence / movements in the sanctuary and study relative interface between tiger and lion when the latter are introduced and become naturalized.


In addition to above, the centre should also strive for the following:

e) Start a capacity enhancement (of the local staff) effort so that once the target species is brought in all key players are in readiness and competent to deal with any emergent exigency.

f) Facilitate educational and outreach programmes including publications in collaboration with experts in the vicinity of the sanctuary and elsewhere to build local as well as countrywide appreciation and ownership of the entire programme.


Tasks, Activities and Methodologies




a) Databasing climatic parameters in the sanctuary

(Purpose: To establish critical climatic baselines (Rainfall, temperature, humidity, air quality, water tables etc) in the area to monitor and compare future changes if any)

Methodology: Access relevant (monthly) information from published and reliable unpublished sources for incorporation in a database format. In due course a weather station is proposed to be set up as part of the Research station.


b) Habitat mapping of the sanctuary into woodlands, grasslands, wetlands and other lands

(Purpose: To establish baselines as also determine parallels with the Gir Lion Sanctuary and locate most suitable habitats for the Lions once they are in the sanctuary)

Methodology: Existing habitat maps of the sanctuary shall be accessed from various sources including the Wildlife Institute of India (Dehradun) and validated in the field. In due course GIS based habitat map/s is proposed to be developed.


c) Listing of key floral elements in the park (Purpose: To establish floral baselines and to determine similarities or otherwise with the floral composition found at the Gir National Park)

Methodology: A floristic inventory including a herbarium of the sanctuary shall be prepared. Care shall be taken to document presence of invasive if any.


d) Faunal characteristics of the sanctuary including assessment of tiger presence and areas frequented by it (Refer Objective ‘c’ and ‘d’)

(Purpose: To establish the abundance and suitability of prey base in the sanctuary for the lions and to determine tiger ‘dominated’ areas within the sanctuary so as to suggest tiger - lion buffer areas to avoid any inter specific conflicts during the initial establishment phase for the lions in the sanctuary)

Methodology: Regular monitoring of herbivore populations in the sanctuary using fixed transects animal presence / sighting documentation protocols. Identification, monitoring, utilization patterns of the suitable habitat in the sanctuary by tiger and estimation of tiger numbers using a predefined set of presence/absence indicators and preparation of a tiger preferred habitat mapping.\




a) Determine the state of lands and their current usage by the wild ungulates

(Purpose: to determine the state of ‘assimilation’ of the former human habitations into the wider sanctuary landscape)


b) Monitor the vegetation succession as it takes place in the former human habitations and its usage by the wild ungulates

(Purpose: To document the natural succession and suggest steps if any to expedite the process so that the areas become better integrated and available both to wild ungulates and to the lions in due course of time)

Methodology: Document the process of reversion of past human occupied lands into wilderness areas (woodlands and grasslands) through listing of colonizing species and collection of photographic evidences of change over time and progressive utilization of such areas by wild ungulates like chinkara, nilgai, wild boar etc.




a) Support the local management in taking all necessary steps to enhance the capability of the local staff

(Purpose: To ensure that the local staff is in a state of readiness to receive the lions and to ensure latter’s wellbeing in the long term till they acclimatize fully and start wild ranging)

Methodology: Conduct a participatory capacity building needs assessment exercise for the local staff. Suggest suitable measures and facilitate actions.




a) Establish felt needs and develop suitable programmes and material

(Purpose: To promote wider appreciation and ownership of the whole effort)

Methodology: Seek and build synergies with the expert organisations for the needful. This activity shall take place only in due course and not be taken up in the initial formative stages of the Research station.




a) The research findings shall be reported / published to relevant authorities as well as in peer reviewed journals and popular publications

(Purpose: To ensure that the research findings are made known to all concerned as well as to the general public)

Methodology: All efforts shall be made to provide timely progress reports to all concerned and prepare and publish research findings from the work done at the Research station.


IV. Monitoring and Evaluation

a) A mechanism (in form of a formal MOU with the state government of MP) shall be established early in the life of the project so that the research done at the Research station is relevant and geared to meet the ‘felt needs’ of the local management in order to strengthen their hands for an improved management of the sanctuary. b) An advisory body is proposed to be established as part of the MOU who shall monitor the progress and tender advice to the Research station from time to time.

a) Progress reports, peer reviewed and popular publications

b) Appropriate inputs into the knowledge enriched management of the sanctuary

c) Enhanced capacity of the sanctuary staff

d) Wide ownership of the programme to set up a second home for the endangered Asiatic Lion through focused outreach and educational programs

e) Developing a model for the setting up of such field research stations in other wildlife areas in the country.


VII. Action Plan and Time frame


Establishment Phase (Year One)

• PEACE Institute enters into an MOU with the state government of MP for the establishment of the

Field Research Station inside the Sanctuary (0-3rd months)

• PEACE Institute hires a full time be Resident researcher and a technical assistant. (4th month)

• Field Research Station is established with start up support infrastructure (4th - 6th month).

• Ecological baseline parameters are identified and documentation / collation of information started / carried on (5th – 12th months)

• Supervisory travel and consultation / advice by PEACE supervisors (4th – 12th month)

• Quarterly progress reports (9th and 12th month)


Consolidation Phase (Year Two)

• PEACE Institute reviews the first year progress (in consultation with all key stakeholders) against targets and determines gaps if any and ways and means to fill them (1st – 2nd month)

• Additional staff (if found necessary) is hired

• Habitat mapping of the sanctuary and surrounds (using GIS technology) is carried out (1st – 12th month)

• Ecological monitoring of identified habitats (grasslands, wetlands, woodlands etc) are carried out on predefined parameters (3rd – 12th month)

• Prey animal populations are monitored and trends established (half yearly basis)

• Staff capacity enhancement measures (including exchange visits of staff at Kuno and at Gir) are planned and facilitated

• Supervisory travel and consultation / advice by PEACE supervisors (As per requirement during the year)

• Quarterly progress reports (3rd, 6th, 9th and 12th month)

ZOOS' PRINT July 2007 Article 3: Population and Habitat Viability Assessment PHVA for Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica)

ZOOS’ PRINT July 2007 Article 3 (Pp. 9-12):  Population and Habitat Viability Assessment PHVA for Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica)


Executive Summary & Summary Recommendations


Executive Summary

The Asiatic lion is a large, predatory carnivore which used to range over much of the Indian subcontinent and surrounding area. It is an animal whose size, strength and nobility have earned it an identification with emperors and kings. It is an important cultural and historical symbol for India, having been selected as the emblem of the Government of India. The present status of the species is that it survives as a solitary relatively small population of around 300 animals (then, in 1993) in a single relatively small area of 1400 sq km which is intensively managed. The behavioral and biological characteristics of the animal are such that it requires a large area to permit normal social interaction with its conspecifics as well as containment in a protected area away from human habitation.


The Asiatic Lion has been of concern for many years as the population is said to have diminished to a scant twenty to one hundred or so animals. Previously, reintroduction and translocation efforts had been undertaken to try and establish another population but these efforts were not successful due to lack of proper planning and methodology.  Recent research has underscored the speculation that even the wild population may be suffering from inbreeding depression.


The Wildlife Institute of India and the Government of India have supported research to student the ecology of the Gir population and take up the matter of finding an alternative habitat for the Asiatic Lion. One of the major tasks of this Workshop being to pursue this initiative, the suitability of several sites for lion translocation were assessed on the basis of prey population and other habitat factors.


They were ranked as follows in order of suitability: Kuno, Sitamata, Darrah-Jawahar Sagar, Kumbalgarh, Barda.


The Asiatic Lion Population and Habitat Viability Assessment workshop was conducted with different working groups in parallel sessions with plenary sessions for presentation, review, and integration of the individual reports. Written draft reports prepared by all the working groups form the body of this report.


Individual working groups for the body of the PHVA Report. These were:  1. Habitat (Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan subgroups), 2. Prey-base Requirement, 3. Population modelling, 4.  Translocation, 5. Monitoring and research, 6. Lion-human interactions, 7. Captive population, 8. Diseases and Veterinary Research, 9.  Reproductive and Genetic Research, 10. Ecodevelopment, 11. Public education.


The three Habitat sub-groups assessed the suitability of the following sites : Barda (Gujarat), Sitamata, Darrah-Jawahar Sagar, Kumbalgarh (Rajasthan), and Kuno (Madhya Pradesh); for lion translocation using 11 parametres. The sites were assessed on the basis of prey population (both inculding and exclusing livestock) by the Prey Base Requirements Group.


The proposed translocation sites were ranked as follows for suitability as a habitat for lions, based upon a synthesis of the results of the above working groups. 1. Kuno, 2. Sitamata, 3. Darrah-Jawahar Sagar, 4. Kumbalgarhk, 5. Barda.


The Population Modelling Group confirmed through computer simulations that growth rates and probability of extinction of the Gir lion population are citicially linked to age of female first reproduction and first year mortality rates which are strongly influenced by habitat and prey availability. In addition, the viability of the population depends on the carrying capacity of the Gir Forest stabilising at a range between 200-250 animals. It was further established that significant reductions and changes in the size and structure of the population due to a catastrophic disease event would be devastating. The modelling exercise provided statistical indicators that establishment of a second population will reduce the risk of extinction significantly.  It could be demonstrated also by the modelling exercise that the existing population will not be harmed by the removal of sufficient animals to translocate to the alternative site.


The Translocation Group has delineated a methodology to be followed for release of the lions, according to Guidelines of the IUCN SSC Reintroduction Specialist Group. This includes genetic and demographic selection of stock, veterinary screening, research, monitoring, training, and education-ecodevelopmental activity for pre-translocatin phase, planning, preparation and release phase and post-release phase.


The Monitoring and Research Group has stressed the need for constant monitoring of the lion population in Gir and also at the site(s) where the numerous lion groups using radio telemetry are recommended. The workshop participants as a group felt the need for a continuous research programme with a permanent research base in Gir.  Research on prey species, other carnivores like leopard and striped hyena, and animal habitat relationships have also been recommended.


The Lion-Human Interactions Group considered all the possible types of interaction between lions and human beings, including the Maldharis and villagers who live inside the protected area as well as villagers in the border area outside the P.A.) and analyzed the circumstances and consequences of such interactions. The need for population management of lions outside the Gir forest has been stressed, as well as relocation of the Maldharis from the Gir protected area. Recent studies of case-by-case physical interaction underscore the need for an innovative education and awareness programme for the people living adjacent to the forest boundary.


The Captive Population Group has very clearly outlined the objectives of the captive breeding programme and also has fixed a regional limit on the number of lions that can be held in captivity. Maintaining the purity of the stock of Asiatic lions and retaining the maximum amount of genetic diversity are amongst the major goals identified. This would involve facilitating the integration of wild caught problem lions outside the Gir Forest in captive breeding programmes. All lions would have transponders implanted in them to enable definite identification. A detailed protocol for breeding and husbandry of the lions has also been provided.


The Diseases and Veterinary Research Group has compiled a comprehensive list of all diseases reported from captive and free ranging lions and identified areas which need research attention. Some of the surveys for diseases and parasites assume great importance and immediate relevance as these are currently the major threats facing the lions in Gir Forest.


The Reproductive and Genetics Research Group has summarised the information available on the reproductive biology of Asiatic lions and identified subjects that need research attention. Detailed outlines and justification have been provided for the proposed research. Emphasis has been placed on the need for setting up a Genome Resource Bank (GRB) within India for insuring the preservation of genetic diversity.  Developing artificial insemination techniques as part of the suggested research programmes was also suggested. The group highlighted the urgent need to systematically sample the free-ranging lion population to assess the genetic diversity in the population. A few genetic management stragtegies are suggested, especially for the captive population.


The Ecodevelopment Group looked at a wide variety of possible initiatives which could give a better life for the people living in and around Gir Forest and at the same time reduce their dependence on the natural resources of this tract. These included grass fodder development, soil-moisture conservation measures, energy-related activities, employment generation activities, regular programme of immunization of livestock, provision of seperate water troughs for livestock, relocation of Maldharis, and eco-tourism.


The Public Education Group stressed the need to educate the population at large on general conservation values and of endangered species in particular.  Various strategies have been outlined to achieve this, such as educating village leaders, recognition, motivation and training of individuals and organisations presently doing effective awareness work, and identification of most effective media for imparting nature education to different target groups in order to provide them with attractive and accurate baseline information.


The overwhelming consensus of the Workshop was that an alternative habitat for the Asiatic lion must be established with all possible speed, but without comproise of the accepted strategies and principles governing systematic and scientific reintroduction.

This should be done simultaneously with strengthening effective protection and management of the Gir Forest and asuring the viability of the captive population and accurate baseline information.


Executive Summary and Summary Recommendations are extracted from the Asiatic Lion PHVA Report.  Reference: N.V.K. Ashraf, R. Chellam, S. Molur, D. Sharma and S. Walker (Ed.) (1995). Population & Habitat Viability Assessment P.H.V.A. and Global Animal Survival Plan Workshops, 18-21 October 1993, Baroda, India.  Report by CBSG, India/ZOO, Pp. 113.


Note : The PHVA was hosted by the Baroda Municiple Commission/Baroda Zoo and organised and facilitated by the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group IUCN SSC and its then national network, CBSG, India and Zoo Outreach Organisation. A very respectable number of participants with expertise in Asiatic lion behaviour and biology, large carnivore conservation, ecology, environment, veterinary medicine, population biology, etc. were present from Gujarat, from else-where in India and from USA. The Report was circulated very widely to participants, policy makers, politicians, technical people and conservation experts and enthusiasts. The full Report, which has much relevance today even will be made available to you as pdf upon email request to The full report also carries the list of participants and other material of interest. The Summary Recommendations follow, after which a review of what has been done so far regarding preparation of the recommended site for alternative habitrat. It is provided as information only, in the public interest without comment or intent to influence the controversy currently raging regarding Gujarat vis a vis Madhya Pradesh one way any more than the other.


Summary Recommendations


Habitat Management. Gir habitat: Gir habitat management includes following forestry measures. It was recommended that afforestation programmes in grasslands and savanna areas in Gir should be avoided in future. It was also recommended that the sub-climax stage of vegetation (highly suitable for lion habitat) should be retained by opening the canopy and thinning of teak stands. Lopping and pollarding of coppicing species may be done so as to lower the browse level for ungulates (after the resettlement of remaining Maldharis)


Gir habitat may be increased where there is scope for doing so. Corridors to Babra Vidi, Mitiyala, Ambardi Reserve Forest, Malanka Vidi, Kannada hill, Ghatvad, and Girnar may be developed and these areas should be assigned special status. The adjoining Chachai-Pania sanctuary (38.9 may be considered as part of Gir and more attention given to it for prey base and water resources development.


Gir habitat may be further protected from disturbance by measures to control traffic in the sancturary. It is recommended that roads in Gir should never be tarred to contain heavy flow of traffic. Metre gauge tracks for railways should be maintained instead of going for broad gauge and trains should not be allowed to pass through the protected area after sunset.


Water management: Intensive water hole management should be done for even distribution of water (one water hole per 5 and for increasing prey base. Whatever precipitation that falls in the area should be harnessed against days of drought and ground water resource should be more extensively developed. For example, when repairing roads, soil should be dug out by making rectangular pits in level lands along the road which will retain washed out soil and allow part of rain water to percolate into the ground. Water quality should be monitored during drought conditions.

Alternative habitat: Habitat Synthesis: An assessment of proposed translocation sites for the Asiatic lion indicated the suitability of the proposed sites for lion translocation were ranked in the following order 1. Kuno, 2. Sitamata, 3. Darrah- JawaharSahar, 4. Kumbalgarh, 5. Barda


Prey-base Requirement

The Prey- base Working group suggested different estimates according to biomass versus prey numbers, and including or excluding lion preferences for each species of wild ungulate.

Scenario I: 70% wild prey and 30% livestock

Scenario II: 100% wild prey

Scenario III: Prey consumption solely as a function of prey availability.


The lions are assumed to show no preference for wild prey over livestock, and to have equal access to both categories of prey. This analysis suggests that several sites might support viable lion population and it might be desirable to cosider more than one site for translocation. Translocated populations would not necessarily be allowed to grow open ended but regulated by active population management.


Population Modelling

The growth rates and probability of extinction of the Gir Forest lion population are most sensitive to the age of female first reproduction and first year mortality rates. Both of these parameters are strongly influenced by nutrition and population density as it affects conflicts which results in the deaths of cubs.


If the carrying capacity of the Gir Forest is 200 or less the probability of extinction of the population will increase significantly. The range of 200-250 appears to be important for the viability of this population. Thus habitat availability and nutrition are close to critical values for this population. This interpretation is reinforced by the observation that prides of lions are moving outside of the Park. The population is vulnerable to a catastrophic disease event such as has recently occured in Africa. This would put the population to an increased risk of extinction as a result of normal environmental variation. Also another reduction in population size would lead to more rapid inbreeding. Lions appear vulnerable to inbreeding depression as reflected in measures of sperm characteristic and perhaps cub mortality. It will be valuable to collect blood samples from all animals removed from the Gir Forest for serological studies as a basis to monitor possible introduced diseases.


The risk of extinction of the Asiatic lion will be significantly reduced with the establishment of a second viable wild population. The presence of a captive population provides additional insurance until the second wild population is established. This population can easily sustain removal of sufficient adult animals for translocation to another site to start another population. Removal of younger animals or cubs would have even less effect on the viability of the population. Translo-cation projects can be designed in terms of the behavioral and genetic requirements. It is likely that removed animals would be rapidly replaced in the population from natural recruitment. Given the baseline conditions that have been explored in these simulation models, further modelling can be done to test ideas about the best strategy for a successful translocation with minimum or no effects on the Gir Forest population.



The Translocation Working Group followed guidelines of IUCN/SSC Reintroduction Specialist Group and suggested 1) a pre-translocation phase with feasibility studies and background research, identification of suitable release stock including appropriate genetic assessment and due consider-ation to the human element; 2) a planning, pre-paration and release phase should first insure governmental and funding approval and establish-ment of well-defined institutional support after which an actual release strategy with strategic measures regarding transport, quarantine, etc. may be made; 3) a Post release phase for monitoring, demorgraphic, ecological, genetic and behavioral study of the released stock, and periodical review of the project.


Monitoring and Research

Monitoring the size and structure of the free-ranging lion population(s) is essential to under-stand their population dynamics. Monitoring should include the techniques of Individual recognition, Radio telemetry; Cross-sectional censuses. Re-search should consist of basic demographic para-meters, Social organization and dispersal patterns, monitoring of lion diet through collection of scat, of prey populations, of leopards and striped hyenas, and of vegetation.


Lion-Human Interactions

The Lion-human Interactions Working group recom-mended lion population management outside the park by appointing village wildlife watchers, reloca-tion of Maldharis from Gir P. A.; implementation of the recommendations from studies carried out over the years (e.g. Central Committee on Tourism in Protected Areas, 1984 and Experts Committee. appointed by Government of Gujarat, 1990-1993).


Captive management

A genetically pure, healthy captive population of between 400 to 600 animals should be developed taking care to provide for the genetic diversity and demographic stability for the long term.


Reproductive and Genetics Research

For ex situ (zoo) breeding programmes, assisted reproduction (techniques like artificial insemination) should be developed for overcoming problems associated with sexual incompatibility, cases of organic infertility and aged or under-represented founders unable to contribute to species preser-vation. This will also be useful for implementing the controlled breeding strategy with fewer compli-cations scuh as transport of large animals. Genetic resource banks (GRBs), repositories containing germplasm, blood product, tissues and DNA from selected, free living individuals to provide insurance against future human-induced or natural catastrophes, allowing the interactive movement of biological materials between living populations should be started in a systematic fashion in the range country, that is, India.


Veterinary Research

It is recommended to initiate veterinary research on captive as well as wild populations of the endangered Asiatic lion. A full time researcher with veterinary background should be employed on this long term project. A complete disease diagnostic laboratory at Sakkarbaug Zoo which is located about 60 km away from Gir should be established as well as a small laboratory facility at Sasan itself, primarily for preserving collected specimen. Re-search topics for wild and captive animals were identified by the working group. Free ranging population at Gir: 1. Investigation on the prevalence of macroparasites; 2. Investigation on the prevalence of antibodies against specific microbial infections; 3. Research on posterior weakness.

Captive population: 1. Establishing the normal physiological values of the Asiatic lion; 2. Research on the probable causes for juvenile mortality; 3. Investigation of epidemiology and therapy of myiasis (maggot infestation).


Eco development

The following items for providing for the local communities have been proposed; Grass fodder development, soil-moisture conservation measures, energy-related activities, employment generation activities, regular programme of immunization of live-stock in and around Gir, provision of separate water troughs for domestic live-stock, relocation of Maldharis, community development facilities, eco-tourism, local NGO’s, research monitoring and evaluation.


Public Education

Recommendations for nature education programme included creating awareness in the local community of the value of the biodiversity on Gir forests, its benefits and the dangers of losing it. It was also recommended to educate the village leaders to organise a “Forest Protection Team” which can be utilised for solving some of the conservation problems of Gir. Recognition of the persons and groups currently working effectively will motivate them further and among them some identified persons may be provided training opportunities in education and interpretation. The importance of using appropriate methodologies according to the season in conducting nature activities was stressed. Identification of the most appropriate press media for educating different target groups and providing them with well-thought out material should be done. Creating ecological awareness and improving attitudes towards environment and conservation can be done with active participation from the community, including community leaders, school students, local industrial houses, religious and political leaders and other association and staff desirable for achieving educational goals.

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