Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cattle Killing by Lions

Cattle Killing by Lions
All News Paper
Print Edition

Three cows grazing in the river bed near Dudhada village of Dhari Taluka in Gir(E) have been killed by a pride of four lions. Cows belonged to local farmer Anil Barwadiya. (Divya Bhaskar : 17-06-2009)

A pride of lioness and her three cubs killed a ox at Veljibhai Solanki's farm at Zarpara od Dhari in Gir East. ( Divya Bhaskar : 19-06-2009)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lioness attack at Chhapariyali in Greater Gir

Lioness attack at Chhapariyali in Greater Gir
Divya Bhaskar
Briefly translated from Gujarati

Jesar is part of Greater Gir near Savarkundla in Gir East. A lioness has made Chhapariyali village forest land as her home and regularly kills domestic cattle. Yesterday it attacked a shepherd Rabari Hipabhai Bhurabhai (Age – 50), grazing his herd of sheeps & goats. He was injured on hands and back. He was taken to Jesar hospital and discharged after treatment.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Seven year lion dies in Babra vidi

Seven year lion dies in Babra vidi
Gujarat Samachar
Briefly translated from Gujarati

A carcass of seven year old lion was found in Babra vidi near Chuldi village in Gir West. Forest staff did on-site postmortem and sent the viscera to FSL to find out cause of death.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Lion attack at Monvel in Gir East

Lion attack at Monvel in Gir East
DIvya Bhaskar
Briefly translated from Gujarati

A pride lions with eight cubs have made Monvel area as its permanent home. Local villagers are normally happy to host this pride but recent incidences of attack have are warning them. Especially when this is time for sowing crop – seeds in their farm lands.

Yesterday, one of the lioness of this pride attacked Popat Ghusha Dholariya (50 yrs) in his farm at Monvel village of Dhari sub – district. Injured man was immediately rushed to Dhari hospital and is out of danger.

Parting at Modern Farm Houses in Forest area near Una

Parting at Modern Farm Houses in Forest area near Una
Divya Bhaskar
Briefly translated from Gujarati

In last few years many modern farm houses have been built on periphery of  Gir forest in Una sub- district by 'rich' non-locals. These have all modern amenities. Frequent food, Wine & women parties are arranged in such rich hunting small animals for party can also not be neglected. If this be true, it is shame for the administration.

Recently news appeared about firing in air by a Rajkot builder in incidence of land measurement dispate with neighbor. When his house was searched, police found bottles of beer, bullets, condoms etc. police complaint has also been lodged at Gir Gadhda police station. It other farm houses in the area owned by 'rich non – locals ' are searched, police/forest staff may find many more illegal things & activities.

Few people also say that such rich farmers do 'sinh – darshan' (Lion sighting) with the help of local forest staff. It is also fact that to escape police jurisdiction, people go to religious places and other possible places inside the forest boundry to gamble, more particularly in Shravan month.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Poachers’ bail plea gets HC push

Poachers' bail plea gets HC push
Times of India

The kingpin of the lion poaching gang in Gir Sanctuary, Sarkaslal Parghi, who was convicted by a Junagadh court, has moved the Gujarat High Court seeking early hearing of his bail plea. The high court has also directed the lower court to expedite proceedings on his bail petition, while his appeal against the punishment of three-year jail is pending.

Three lions were killed on March 3, 2007 and three more slaughtered on March 29 in Babaria range falling under the Gir forest. State government and the forest department nabbed members of Parghi community from Madhya Pradesh in Amreli district. Sarkaslal was arrested from Una town in April 2007.

The accused were booked and sent to Junagadh jail. Their trial lasted 18 months and at the end of it, judge RK Makwana held them guilty and sentenced them to three years' rigorous imprisonment on October 23, 2008.

They filed an appeal against their conviction before a Junagadh sessions court, and during pendency of their appeal before the Junagadh district court they sought release from the jail by moving a bail plea.

Train fails mid-jungle in Gir

Train fails mid-jungle in Gir
Divya Bhaskar
Briefly translated from Gujarati

A train Junagadh – Delwada Express started from Talala at 11 AM. After about 1 km, inside the Gir jungle, between Talala and Jambur (Gir), engine of the train seized due to oil leak. Oil drained out from its tank and spilled over causing engine to seize. Another rescue engine pulled away the train at 2 : 30 Pm. About 700 passengers were stuck for 3 – 4 hours inside the jungle.

Kishore Kotecha's Comment :- Three short distance trains are passing through jungle everyday. In the past lions and other animals have also died in train accidents. And now whole train itself stops midway disturbing wildlife. Should not these trains be stopped?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Lion attack at Jeera


Lion attack at Jeera

Divya Bhaskar

Briefly translated from Gujarati


Rana Bhima, shepard from Jeera, had put up his cattle camp at farm land between Jeera and Nana-Bhamodra. On Wednesday night a male lion from Shetrunjee river side, came that side in search of food. It attacked the sleeping man. Person was injured on thighs and calfs. He was moved to hospital and is safe.

Leopard killed by lion


Leopard killed by lion

Divya Bhaskar

Briefly translated from Gujarati


Forest department found carcass of a leopard near Naranbhai Pithiya's farm near Babra vidi of Maliya(Hatina) Taluka in Gir(W). its postmortem was done by a team of doctors from forest department. The cause of death was found as wild animal infighting. Lion leg marks nearby confirmed the killing by Lion.

Lion and Leopard attack two man


Lion and Leopard attack two man

Divya Bhaskar

Briefly translated from Gujarati


Vijabhai Mayabhai Rabari was grazing his cattle at Nana – Samadhiyala village of Una sub-district. At about 10 AM a lioness tried to hunt on his cattle herd. Vijabhai tried stop lioness and in turn lioness attacked on him. He was injured on ear and arm. He was hospitalized and is out of danger.


In another incidence at Nitli village of Una sub-district, farm labour Harif Jabar Unad was ploughing cotton in farm of Jadav Govind Kachhadiya. Suddenly a leopard hiding in near by bushes attacked him. It caught him by his hand. When other labour Rahim came to his rescue and shouted, leopard left injured man and ran away.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Three cheers to Gir Lion fans! Population on rise.


Three cheers to Gir Lion fans! Population on rise.

Divya Bhaskar

Briefly translated from Gujarati


Experts and foresters feel that there will be high increase in lion population when counted in 2010 census. Their belief is supported by their sighting of around 125 cubs and sub-adults. Normally mortality rate is high in cubs. But this 125 lions have crossed that risky age.


As per figures given by M.S. Sharma conservator of Forest, 30 lions have died by falling in open well since 2001 and 144 lions have met natural death since 2005.he says almost 8-10% of lions die every year. Last year 55 lions died, which was very high. Population growth of lions is around 1.5 to 2.% every year. But this year situation was favorably changed. Forest staff is cheering because of this many healthy baby lions. Lion censes is organized in April-May 2010.   

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

More wells around Gir covered after government hikes subsidy


More wells around Gir covered after government hikes subsidy

Indian Express By Vikram Rautela



FOLLOWING the state government's decision to double the subsidy for covering open wells located on the periphery of the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, the number of wells that now stand covered has also increased in the last two months. The government used to give a grant of Rs 4,000 on each well and had increased it to Rs 8,000 in 2008


The Forest Department had initiated the move after it was found that these uncovered wells had proved fatal for the Asiatic Lion in at least 27 cases. A total of 57 lions had fallen victim to these wells between 2001 and 2009, according to state government figures.


Since the ambitious project to barricade open wells around the sanctuary took off in September 2007, in just two months during this financial year, parapet walls have been constructed around 1,302 open wells in the immediate periphery of the sanctuary. This comes to about 650 wells a month against an average rate of less than 325-odd wells per month.


M M Sharma, the Conservator of Forest (Junagadh Wildlife Circle), said: "Consequent to this, villagers have started showing more interest in the barricading project and are getting parapet walls erected around open wells in their field."


The work to barricade open wells around the sanctuary began following an initiative by the Rajkot-based Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) The state government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with WCT to cover thousands of such wells in the periphery of the sanctuary. Similar MOUs were later signed with corporate houses like Reliance, Ambuja, Tata and another NGO, Vanishing Herds Foundation


Sharma said: "These NGOs and corporate houses have already barricaded about 1,500 wells that they had committed in the MOUs." The barricading work had started in full swing around December 2007 before hitting a temporary roadblock a year later. As per the MOUs, the government was to provide a grant of Rs 4,000 for each well


Sharma added: "There were 12,000odd open wells in over 200 villages in the immediate periphery of the sanctuary But farmers were not ready to part with Rs 6,000 to erect parapet walls around these wells in their fields. We requested the government to increase subsidies for barricading these wells and a Government Resolution in this regard was passed in 2008."


According to records, 9,326 open wells around the sanctuary have already been barricaded. "We expect to cover up the remaining 3,000 wells by this December," Sharma said. The estimated cost of barricading an open well is between Rs 7,000 and Rs 12,000. "Of this, the government now pays Rs 8,000. We are getting very good response from farmers and work is on in full swing. After completing all 12,000 wells in the first periphery of around two kms around the sanctuary, we will extend the work to villages in the second periphery of another two kms," he added


RESULT IN FIGURES Financial No. of year 2007-2008 (from Sep) 2008-2009 2009-2010 (till May) 2,137 3,887 1,302 Wells wells covered in covered a month 305 323 651

Monday, June 15, 2009

No tigers in MP’s Panna means Gir keeps lions’ share, says Gujarat

No tigers in MP's Panna means Gir keeps lions' share, says Gujarat
Express India By Neha Sinha

Desperate to hold on to its monopoly as the last wild habitat of the Asiatic Lion, Gujarat has come up with new reasons to stall sharing its 'pride' with Madhya Pradesh.
The central Indian state, says Gujarat, has not done a very good job of conserving its tigers, citing the example of Panna Tiger Reserve, where the big cats have been completely wiped out — as was confirmed by MP Forest Minister Rajendra Shukla just this week.

In its response to a Supreme Court case that seeks to create a second habitat for Gujarat's Gir Sanctuary lions, the state has also argued that tigers and lions cannot coexist.

Gujarat's response was to a case filed by the Biodiversity Conservation Trust, which had pleaded that it is essential to translocate some of the Asiatic lions in case an epidemic or some other calamity invades the specie's single habitat in Gir.

This idea was earlier pushed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, and turned down repeatedly by Gujarat.

Now, to defend its stance, Gujarat has cited Madhya Pradesh's shaky record in conserving tigers as a reason for not parting with its lions.

The state has gone on record to cite the recent extinction of tigers from the Panna Tiger Reserve as a reason for "concern", justifying keeping its lions.

"The population of tigers was reducing in many parts of the country including Madhya Pradesh, while the Asiatic Lion population has increased from 177 in 1968 to more than 350 in 2005," the affidavit filed by the Gujarat Government says. "A newspaper report saying 'Experts Fear No Tigers Left in Panna', also indicates there is enough reason for concern," it goes on to state.

Gujarat has also noted in its affidavit that the "more opportunistic" tiger will not let lions flourish in the same habitat.

"With future effective conservation measures, the stated policy goal of tiger conservation, more tiger movements are likely to take place (in Kuno, the forest area proposed for the lions). This is a very serious issue which requires immediate consideration and with a possibility of serious conflict between the two top predators of similar capabilities in the one spatio-temporal frame," the affidavit says.

Experts, however, say that tigers and lions have always coexisted in India.

"Historically, lions and tigers have lived together in India. This is unique because the other species of lion are in Africa, which has no tigers," said National Tiger Conservation Authority Member Secretary Rajesh Gopal.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests had earlier asked the Wildlife Institute of India to identify a suitable habitat for resettlement of lions and Kuno — a 3,000 sq km reserve forest — was chosen. This was reiterated by the Population of Habitat Viability Analysis, an international group. With the project on the backburner for many years, the Central Zoo Authority has even chalked out a plan to introduce zoo-bred lions in Kuno. However, such a plan would take a long time to implement, as it would involve releasing a third generation of captive lions — gradually weaned away from human dependence — into the wild.

"Lions need to be moved from Gujarat. The argument of lions and tigers fighting in this case doesn't hold. As both are large predators, they will not co-occur in the same forest, but in the same region. Kuno does not have a large population of tigers, but only a small number of transient tigers from Ranthambhore. Extensions of the Gir sanctuary, which have been made in Mitiyala and Girnar do not protect from the threat of epidemic extension. The point is to create another population far away from Gir. Though Kuno can be improved as a habitat, it is still the best choice for relocation of lions in India," says Qamar Qureshi, from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII).

A scientific paper, which appeared in conservation journal Oryx in 2007, points out that an earlier attempt to translocate lions in India failed because it wasn't "monitored" enough. "An attempt to establish such a population in Chandraprabha Sanctuary, Uttar Pradesh, in 1957 failed because of a lack of monitoring and the small size of the Sanctuary (96 sq km) and because lions moved outside the sanctuary, leading to conflicts with people and poisoning and poaching of the lions," said the paper.

The best move

Gujarat: The state insists that it has taken "adequate conservation steps" to protect its lions, including notifying the Mitiyala Sanctuary in 2004 and Girnar Sanctuary in 2008 as part of the Gir landscape.

Wildlife Institute of India: Extensions of the Gir sanctuary in Mitiyala and Girnar do not protect lions from the threat of an epidemic spreading to these areas. The point is to create another population far away from Gir.

A lesson from the past: An outbreak of canine distemper killed an estimated 30 per cent of the lion population in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park in 1994, notes the January 2007 edition of conservation journal Oryx. "If an epidemic of this scale were to affect the lions in Gir, it would be difficult to save them from extinction, given the much smaller area of the lion habitat and the considerably smaller population."

Indian pitta, pied crested cuckoo arrive at Hingolgadh sanctuary

Indian pitta, pied crested cuckoo arrive at Hingolgadh sanctuary
Times of India

The environment of Hingolgadh Nature Education Sanctuary in Rajkot district has undergone a change with the arrival of the Indian pitta,  
locally known as 'navarang'. The beautiful voice of the bird has changed the sanctuary.

According to VD Bala, a forester at the sanctuary, the Indian pitta and pied crested cuckoo (locally known as chatak) arrived a few days ago. "Indian pitta arrives here before monsoon. It is a local migratory bird and comes from Himachal Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. It is beautiful to listen to and watch this bird with nine colours (navarang). About 15 pairs of navarangs have been noticed in the sanctuary.''

"The Indian pitta is seen in Gir, Barda and surrounding areas as well. They stay here for about four months and then return home," said Bhavesh Trivedi of Navarang Nature Club. The pied crested cuckoo arrives from South Africa.

The Hingolgadh Sanctuary is 180 km away from Ahmedabad and extends over a forest area of 654.07 hectares. The sanctuary has been holding nature education camps for school and college students every year and is rich with 229 bird species.

According to Bala, monsoon is the best time to visit Hingolgadh Sanctuary.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Barda sanctuary faces threat from mining


Barda sanctuary faces threat from mining

Times of India



At a time when the state government is mulling shifting lions from Gir to Barda wildlife sanctuary in Porbandar and Jamnagar, information sought under the Right to Information Act (RTI) revealed rampant mining activities in the surrounding areas.


The sanctuary is spread over 192.31 sq km falling in Jamnagar and Porbandar districts. According to Wildlife Protection Act (1972), mining is not permissible in 5 km periphery of the sanctuary.


An RTI application filed by Bhanu Odedara, a resident of Porbandar, has revealed how a number of mining licences have been given within the 5-km area of Barda wildlife sanctuary since 2002 till date.


As per the information provided by state geological department, 21 permissions for mining around the forest area have been granted since 2002 many of which were given without a no-objection certificate (NoC) from the state forest department. There are around 38 more applications pending.


Forest department officials in Barda said they have not issued any NoC to carry out mining operations near the sanctuary.


Odedara said he also sought information about name of the lease holders, locations and survey numbers as well as area of the mines. He also sought to know how many mines leases were given or renewed by mines department without the NoC of the forest department and the period of the leases.


Officials in the state environment and forest department said Barda is the only ecological spot in the state, where more than 650 flowering plants have been recorded. The sanctuary was also home to Asiatic lion in the past apart. Today, it houses sambar, chital and chinkara.


In 1979, the reserve forest of Barda was earmarked as a sanctuary. "There is a great danger to ecology of the sanctuary and environmental degradation of the area if these mining activities are not stopped. It will affect animals, too. If the government considers Barda as the second home of Asiatic lions, it should stop mining operations immediately," said Odedara.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Gir sanctuary to be closed from June 16 to Oct 15


Gir sanctuary to be closed from June 16 to Oct 15

Times of India



Schools have reopened and people are trudging back to routine lives. But, it's now the turn of Asiatic lions of Gir to go on vacation as Gir sanctuary will be closed from June 16 to October 15 for visitors.


"According to Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, all sanctuaries and national parks are closed for visitors for a certain period," explained Conservator of Forests M M Sharma. "Apart from the fact that jungle tracks are not conducive for vehicle travel in monsoon, the main reason for closure is that this period is mating season for lions," Sharma added.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

HC reserves order on sale of 300 Gir plots


HC reserves order on sale of 300 Gir plots




Justice MR Shah of the Gujarat high court on Friday reserved order on 300 land plots near the Gir reserve forest area.


Justice Shah had directed the local authorities to conduct a survey on Monday to find out the status of the plots owned by Anil Chudasama, who had filed a petition against the forest department.


The direction came after Chudasama countered the claim of forest department.


"According to a notification of the state government issued in 1997, the land does not fall under the jurisdiction of forest department but under the revenue department," argued VM Trivedi, counsel for Chudasama. "The forest department therefore can't restrain him from cultivation activity," he added.


The high court had suggested the state government that the Junagadh collector and the chief conservator of forest shall jointly examine 588 cases of allotment of plots for resettlement of Maldharis and ascertain as to whether the said plots fell within the sanctuary forest area or revenue area.


Chudasama had bought a plot of land near Mendarada taluka from a Maldhari who was given the plot under the rehabilitation scheme by the state government in 1982. Chudasama recently approached the high court when the forest department objected to cultivation activity on the land. Meanwhile, it came to light that as many as 300 plots, which were given to Maldharis under the resettlement scheme, were bought by third parties.


The high court raised serious objection to selling of such plots and asked the Junagadh collector and the forest department to furnish details about such transfer of ownership of land.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Carcass of Leopard found; Ill lioness dies


Carcass of Leopard found; Ill lioness dies

Divya Bhaskar

Briefly translated from Gujarati


A carcass of leopard was found in Jasadhar range of Gir East. Primary investigation of forest staff has revealed natural death the animal before about 5 days.


An ill lioness from Hadada range was brought to Jasadhar Animal care centre for treatment before 3 days. It could not be cured and died.

Maintain status quo on land around Gir: HC


Maintain status quo on land around Gir: HC

Times of India



The Gujarat High Court asked the forest department and the petitioner to maintain status quo on the land whose ownership had unravelled a racket of illegal sale of land meant to relocate Maldharis from the Asiatic lions' abode in Gir forest, till the case was sorted out.


A petition filed by Anil Chudasama, who had bought this land from a Maldhari, in the HC after he was prevented from constructing on the land, had unravelled illegal land deals in and around the Gir Sanctuary, where such land had been sold off to industrialists, hoteliers and politicians.


The HC on Friday directed the revenue secretary to adjudge whether the three hectare plot falls under revenue land or forest land.


Justice MR Shah, however, reserved his order over the larger issue of 588 plots ameasuring nearly 42 sq km in all. Earlier this week, the court had raised objection to the Maldharis selling the land that was allotted to them under a resettlement scheme. The court has also asked amicus curiae Amit Panchal, the forest department and the revenue department in Junagadh district to conduct a panchnama of Chudasma's plot on Monday.

The court ordered the forest department not to disturb Chudasama after his wife Rekha informed the court that the forest department along with police and local political leaders have been constantly harassing them.


Meanwhile, the state government suggested that Junagadh collector, the chief conservator of forest could jointly examine all 588 cases of land allotment and find out how many plots fall within the forest area. They could also factually ascertain whether the plots transferred by the original allotees really violate any statuary provisions. It also suggested to restrain any person to do any activity in the land under the forest and sanctuary area. Chudasama was the fourth buyer of this the plot in Mendarda taluka, allotted to a Maldhari family in 1982 as per the rehabilitation scheme to shift the tribals from the sanctuary.

Lion attacks farmer at Anjar village


Lion attacks farmer at Anjar village

Divya Bhaskar

Briefly translated from Gujarati


One more man – animal conflict!!


Anjar of Una Taluka is located very near to Gir forest of Easters Division.


Ramsingh Dhirubhai Jankant and his uncle Arjan Bhana (Age 50yrs) were cutting grass for their domestic animals fodder. In the evening at about 5 PM a lion suddenly attacked Arjan Bhana from back. He fell down with lion claw chest. He started shouting for help and Ramsing came to his rescue. Injured Arjan was taken to hospital for treatment and is safe.


In the morning the same lion killed two animals in nearby farm of Boghabhai Balubhai.


Kishore Kotecha's Comment :- Lions straying outside the jungle in search of food and territory is very common. Also increase in Sinh – Darshan is cause of such attacks. Local people harase lions at kill or when they are resting. This irritates the animals making them feel human-beings as their enemy. So when time comes they attack human being as a cause of previous harassment of few notorious people. Sometimes old no made animals, having lost capacity to hunt wild animals, attack children and man.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

5 sarpanchs get notices for their involvement in criminal activities


5 sarpanchs get notices for their involvement in criminal activities

Indian Express



Junagadh district development officer has slapped notices to five Sarpanchs and two Deputy Sarapanchs of five villages, falling under Talala taluka, for their alleged involvement in various unlawful activities, including land grabbing and other criminal cases registered against them.


Sources said the notices have been served to the Sarpanchs of Borvav, Sasan, Pipalawa, Ratidhar and Vadala villages and deputy Sarpanchs of Borvav and Ratidhar villages.


The notices have been served under the provision of Panchayat Act, Rule 57 (1). Clarifications have been sought 'on why they should not be removed from their respective post'.


Sources added that Borvav Sarpanch Labhu Shingala and Deputy Sarpanch Devshi Shingala, who are husband and wife, have been accused of forging documents of land owned by the government. The couple allegedly allotted the land to a private company for erecting cellphone tower.

Forest dept failed to sniff plot against Lion conservation for 27 yrs


Forest dept failed to sniff plot against Lion conservation for 27 yrs

Times of India



The Gujarat forest department apparently does not seem to have any problem with constructions taking place inside the Gir jungle to make way for fresh human habitation right in the Asiatic lion's den.


After a plot of land in the middle of the sanctuary changed three hands, the forest department has decided to object to the sale on grounds that the Maldhari who was originally given this plot to get him out of the forest 27 years ago, continues to live inside the protected forest area!


This is revealed in an affidavit filed by deputy conservator of forest, Amit Kumar before the Gujarat High Court in objection to the demand by petitioner Anil Chudasama who seeks to build on the land allotted to a Maldhari family for the purpose of resettlement.


The Maldhari, Raja Rabari was allotted three hectares of land in Najpur Chhatariya village in Mendarda taluka in 1982 to resettle him from a ness (local term for Maldhari village) in the middle of the Gir Sanctuary. In 1998, Rabari got the land tenure converted and sold it to Govind Chudasama, who in turn sold it to Balu Chudasama. In 2007, Anil bought it and started building on the plot.


The forest officials stopped him from clearing the land and booked him for an offence under the Forest Act and Wild Life Protection Act. He approached the court against the forest department claiming his right to use the land.


Replying to this, the forest department claimed that the land fell in the Devaliya Range and "It is very much a part of the lion habitat of the Gir Sanctuary and surrounded by dense forests." The officer also revealed that Rabari had never shifted to this plot and continued to live in his ness, which was a breach of the resettlement contract. Hence any transaction on this plot was illegal and all three sale deed are now null and void.


However, the forest department didn't react during all these years, though this land is inhabited by lions. On the contrary, the affidavit said that if the Maldhari had shifted to this land and "stayed away from the sanctuary, the forest department had no reason to oppose any transaction of this plot".


During a proceeding on Thursday, Justice MR Shah pulled up the forest official for putting forth such an argument before the court. This affidavit is inconsistent with the purpose and objective of resettlement scheme, the judge observed.


Meanwhile, the Junagadh district collectorate has told the court that 280 plots out of total 588 allotted to maldharis have been sold out, whereas the forest department has put the figure at 300.


The court has kept further hearing on this issue on Friday.

Girnar ropeway could harm vulture conservation


Girnar ropeway could harm vulture conservation

Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik


The Girnar ropeway project has come under opposition from several wildlife experts as they fear that it could have an adverse effect on the vulture conservation programme.

Officials in the forest department said that the cliffs of Mount Girnar provide nesting and roosting sites to three species of endangered vulture species. Apart from vultures, the area has been declared a sanctuary which has a sizeable population of lions.

Recently, a meeting was held in Junagadh and a representation was sent to all officials concerned including conservator of forest. Dr Nishit Dharaiya, a professor of life sciences and the person behind the representation said, "Vultures are listed as schedule-I wildlife and due to drastic decline of its population in the last decade, there is an urgent need to protect them." He said that vultures demand protection equivalent to lions, tigers and rhinoceros. Long-billed vultures, whiteromped vultures and the very rare king vultures are reportedly found near Girnar.

The, construction of a ropeway, movement of trolleys throughout the day and waste and noise generated in the construction and operation phases will surely affect this critically endangered species. Quoting the report of Dr Bharat Jethva, a former scientist from GEER foundation, Gandhinagar, Dharaiya said there are 121 vultures and 30 nests in this area and construction of this ropeway would hinder conservation efforts.

Dharaiya said that the Environment Impact Assessment study has been carried out in summers in the region. Girnar, a dry deciduous forest, is generally found barren and dry in summer season, so dense patches of the forest also look dry during this time. It is also known that there are several endangered and rare seasonal plants, migratory birds that appear in monsoon, post-monsoon and winter seasons, therefore the EIA study should be conducted in other seasons and impacts of rope way project on such seasonally appearing species needs to be studied in detail.

Kishore Kotecha of Wildlife conservation trust says that not just vultures but a recent census of the Asiatic lions in Sanctuary showed nearly 35 lions here. So it is noteworthy that the lions have now adapted Girnar forest as one of their homes. Due to the increment in the lion population, its now a known fact that the population of lions will increase over the period of time. The EIA report further said that there is no dense forest, but lion do not prefer dense forests.

Jethva says, "The company which is given the project has the record of ill-maintenance as it is the same company which was responsible for the Pavagadh rope way mishap which left seven people dead". Project gets green signal from locals Junagadh: While wildlife conservators have expressed concerns over installation of the ambitious Girnar ropeway project, locals here have lent their support to the project.

In a hearing convened by Gujarat Pollution Control Board officials in the city on Wednesday, local representatives gave their nod to the project. According to a source, sadhus, local leaders, chartered accountants, lawyers, businessmen and other citizens attended the hearing in large numbers.

"People said, the Girnar ropeway will not only be an additional form of transport, but most importantly improve the economy of Junagadh. The ropeway is expected to draw an additional 20 lakh tourists and Junagadh's revenue will rise by Rs 100 crore. Besides, it will also generate jobs," the group told the officials, according to reports.

With the wildlife board giving the go-ahead on May 31 and the positive public response, it appears that the project will not face any more hurdle. Former director of Gujarat Tourism Pradip Kheemani and chief whip Nirbhay Purohit said, the wildlife board has okayed the project. After Wednesday's clearing the file will be put before the Union ministry of environment and forests

‘Forensics can easily be used in wildlife’


'Forensics can easily be used in wildlife'

Down To Earth 15 June Issue



In February, 16 poachers were jailed for killing lions in Gir National Park in Gujarat, home to the only wild population of Asiatic Lions. Inspector general of police Keshav Kumar, who was with the criminal investigation department in Ahmedabad, cracked the case using dna fingerprinting and narcoanalysis. It was the first case of wildlife crime where cutting-edge forensics was deployed. Kumar, now posted at the Sabarmati jail, told Sumana Narayanan how he got on the trail of poachers

How did you get involved in poaching investigation?

Earlier, the case was with the forest department. Four lions had been killed. Then two more lions were killed. This was when the state government called us (cid). The government was concerned since poaching of lions was not common and generated bad publicity.

What did you find in Gir?

I camped there for a month and a half with forensics experts. We found carcasses of lions. The bones, claws and flesh had been removed. The skin was left along with internal organs. Apart from bloodstains on the ground, we found a matchbox which had Chameli printed on it and a bandage. There were food packets. We found three places were lions had been poached; two within the park and one in a farmer's field. The third incident took the death tally to 10. In all three cases the lions had been corralled and driven to a barricaded area.

How did you locate the suspects?

I don't know anything about wildlife, so I was at a loss on how to proceed. I had the information from the scene of crime but no people to connect it to, so I googled words like lion, poaching and bones. And through the search engine I learnt about the non-profit, Wildlife Protection Society of India, and its director Belinda Wright. I contacted her and she advised me on the kind of people who might have committed the crime.

Who were you looking for?

Belinda said it could be a tribe from Madhya Pradesh called Baheliyas or Pardhis since the Chameli brand of matches are sold only in that state. She also gave me a description of these people. They are good looking with hazel eyes, shabbily dressed and smelly. They travel by tempos, which they convert into houses. They camp along the roadside and have strange sounding names like Motarsingh. They also sell medicines and toys. And they often keep their poaching instruments and animal parts buried under the central pole of the tent.

How did you find them?

I sent a fax to police stations across the state, giving the information. I instructed them not to arrest them for poaching but under other offences, like selling medicines without a licence. We also told the police to question them on their movements for the past couple of months. The Junagadh police did a combing operation and arrested 45 women and children, and two men. They had traps, freshly cut lion claws and mobile phones. They were Baheliyas from Itarsi and Panna in Madhya Pradesh.

Did you analyse evidence?

While the police were looking for the Baheliyas, we had started analysis of the bloodstains. This had to be done in the Gandhinagar forensic lab. The lab confirmed the bloodstains were of Asiatic Lions. Once we had connected the matchbox to Madhya Pradesh and arrested the Baheliyas, forensics experts asked me to send their clothes and the scrapings of the underside of their fingernails. We found that the blood on the clothes and in the scraping was of a lion.

Was that enough to convict them?

A defence attorney would say this does not prove it was the same lion that was poached, so I went for dna fingerprinting of blood from the scene of crime, victim and clothes/fingernails. You remember the bandage we had found at the scene? That was a used bandage with some pus on it. We did a dna fingerprinting of the pus. When we arrested the suspects we checked if anyone had a wound. One of the men had a fresh wound. The lab matched his dna to that from the bandage. And once the triangle was connected—victim, criminal and scene—supporting tests were done. These included lie detectors, narcoanalysis and brain mapping.

And they were convicted.

Yes, 16 people were jailed for three years. Convictions came less than two years after the crime. This is very quick for wildlife cases. Till now wildlife forensics has been limited to identifying an animal by parts. Forensics can easily be used in wildlife investigation, but the forest department does not have the training to do a proper investigation. Coordination among forest officials, police and customs is also needed. We need a national database on poachers and traders, and exchange of information between states and countries.

Land in lions’ abode sold illegally


Land in lions' abode sold illegally

Times of India



A huge racket of selling protected forest land in and around Gir to hoteliers, industrialists and politicians, was unearthed when someone who was obstructed from constructing on such land moved the Gujarat High Court.


Justice MR Shah on Tuesday called for records of all 588 such land deals, by which the land allotted to Maldharis or ness inhabitants (ness is the local term for settlements in Gir) during their relocation from the only home of Asiatic lions, was sold to hoteliers and others. These compensatory plots were located in the Gir sanctuary covering 1,470 sq km, protected and reserve forest area and revenue area, which is under the collectorate.


Initially there were 129 Maldhari 'nesses' with 845 families comprising 4,802 people and 16,842 livestock population. According to the 1972 relocation scheme, each Maldhari family was given 3.2 hectares of agricultural land and a 610-sq m plot for constructing homes, free of cost. The process of relocation continued up to 1986 and nearly 600 families were resettled. Currently, there are no Maldhari nesses in the national park, but there are 54 nesses in the sanctuary area.


The land allotted to these Maldhari families was as per the new tenure, which barred its sale for any other purpose. But the revenue department, over a period of time, allowed it to be converted to the old tenure enabling its sale to the rich and influential which also saw the beginning of commercial activities, that could be disturbing to protected wildlife here.


The racket was unearthed after Anil Chudasama who bought a plot adjacent to the national park in Mendarda area from a Maldhari, moved the high court when he was prevented from constructing on it. Like him, more than 580 people had bought land in the reserved forest also, reportedly after obtaining clearances from all authorities.


He argued that the authorities were permitting influential people to construct, so why not him?


Alarmed with the revelations of illegal land transactions, Justice Shah summoned revenue and forest officials to court on Tuesday and asked them to explain how they allowed construction in this restricted area despite clear provisions under the Indian Forest Act and the Wildlife Protection Act.


The Mendarda mamlatdar told the court that he had issued notices in 12 such cases. But the court wanted more details and fixed the next hearing for Thursday.


Justice Shah appointed advocate Amit Panchal as an amicus curiae to assist the court observing, "The prime concern of the court would be to protect Gir Sanctuary and reserve forest, and to see that land in forest area doesn't go to those who don't deserve and who can misuse the Gir Sanctuary and also to safeguard environment and other aspects."

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Wildlife splendours of the world’s only Asiatic lion habitat.


Wildlife splendours of the world's only Asiatic lion habitat.FRONTLINE Magazine By A.J.T. JOHNSINGH



A lion resting in the Gir forest.

THE lion, a young male, lay crouched some 15 metres from the road. Realising that it had been spotted, it lowered its head and flattened its ears in an attempt to hide. I took out my camera and signalled to those behind me to stop and be silent. And, as it slowly raised its ears, I took a photograph. Then I advanced to the edge of the road to take another. The lion flattened its ears again, this time maybe as a sign of aggression, and then abruptly got up and ran away without even a growl.

My companions included four forest staff, Dr. Bivash Pandav from the WWF-International and Dr. Pranav Trivedi from the Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore. I had helped several students from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehra Dun, in their research in the Gir Protected Area (1,470 sq km, which comprises the sanctuary and the national park) in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Pranav had been researching on peafowl here for his Master’s dissertation. Now, in the early part of February 2009, we were together on the 115-km trek from Pipadwa village in eastern Gir to Sasan in western Gir. Our aim was to quantify the lion and ungulate abundance and evaluate the status of the habitat in the park. The Gujarat Forest Department, besides giving us permission, made use of this opportunity by sending teams of staff to learn as much natural history from us as possible.

We would leave early in the morning when the temperature was a little above 20°C, walk until midday when the temperature touched 36°C, rest in the cool shade of a nallah until around 3 o’clock in the afternoon and then walk the remaining distance to our destination. Every day we covered close to 20 km. Unfortunately, I could not complete the entire trek owing to personal reasons and my walk came to an end at central Gir, close to Chodavadi where I had radio-collared lions in the late 1980s. While Pranav and Bivash continued and finished the walk three days later, I returned to Sasan and Ahmedabad in a vehicle via Chodavadi, Kankai and Amla hillock, driving through this part of Gir after a span of nearly 20 years.


Besides the Gir Protected Area, which includes the Mitiyala wildlife sanctuary, other key lion habitats in Greater Gir are Girnar, the Coastal Forests and the Hipavadli zone.

The walk and the drive gave me sufficient opportunities to renew my contact with Gir and revel in the wildlife splendours of the world’s only Asiatic lion habitat. We went to bed and woke up in the mornings to the roar of lions in the Mitiyala forests – a satellite population that links the Gir lions with those of Hipavadli. We enjoyed the early morning fragrance of the snow-white flowers of Karamda (Carissa carandus) and Nevri (Ixora arborea) in the cool shades of nallahs, and watched the chinkara gazelle and the chowsingha antelope disappear over the hills in fluid leaps.

The chital, the chinkara (above, right) and the sambar. Nearly half of the Gir lion's diet is reported to be livestock and the rest comprises prey such as these.

We flushed sand grouses crouching camouflaged amidst the grasses and rocks along the burnt verges (burning is done by the Forest Department as a fire-management measure), and watched the full moon rise and bathe the golden hills in a silvery light. Once, as the near-full moon rose over the Bhimchas forests, we heard a leopard and a lion roaring repeatedly, as though challenging each other. We observed a mugger float like a log in the Rawal reservoir and admired in silence, in the headlight of our vehicle, the lithe grace of a leopard as it slunk into cover.

Historical distribution

(Top)The nilgai. There is a need to augment the prey base in Gir.(Above) A pair of painted sand grouse.

The historical distribution of the Asiatic lion, which morphologically differs from its African counterpart in having a belly fold, stretched from Syria, across West Asia to eastern India. In his book The Gir Lion, Indian Forest Service officer H.S. Singh concludes that the present range of Gir lions is limited to the three Gujarat districts of Junagadh, Amreli and Bhavnagar, covering a total area of 8,500 sq km. If the areas recently visited by some lions, especially nomads, are also included, this range or Greater Gir is as large as 10,500 sq km. Conflict with people, in the form of depredation of cattle, is high outside the Gir Protected Area. People retaliate occasionally by poisoning the lions or electrocuting them using power stolen from government supply lines.

Besides the Gir Protected Area (which includes the Mitiyala wildlife sanctuary,18 sq km), other key lion habitats in Greater Gir are Girnar (180 sq km), the Coastal Forests (110 sq km) and the Hipavadli zone (250 sq km). The Gujarat government plans to develop the Barda area (ca 500 sq km), not connected to Greater Gir, as the second home for the lion. It intends not to restore the habitat connectivity between Barda and Greater Gir in the hope that any disease affecting Gir lions will not be transmitted to Barda lions and vice versa. Sustained and systematic efforts, on the contrary, will be made to strengthen the existing connectivities between the Gir Protected Area and the habitats of the satellite populations.


A lioness with its cubs. There was an increase in lion poaching as traders sold the animal's bones as tiger bones, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine.

One worrying problem about Gir lions, whether it is inside the protected area or outside it, is their predilection for livestock, which are easily hunted and commonly available. Nearly 50 per cent of the Gir lion diet is reported to be livestock and the rest comprises prey such as the chital, the sambar, the nilgai and the wild pig. This dependency on livestock often leads to attacks on humans, more frequently outside the protected area. Our enquiries revealed that the lions inside the Gir forest are much more tolerant of people. The people inside Gir are also capable of avoiding sudden encounters with lions – an ability not much evident in the people who live outside.

The morning we left Bhimchas on our way to Hadala we heard lions roaring at a distance. I thought two males could be fighting. The staff said they were possibly attacking maldhari (pastoralist) buffaloes near one of their nesses (camps). There was total silence after the first roar. When we returned to the road after an hour of futile search over hills and valleys, we met three maldharis. They said eight lions, including a few cubs, had attacked buffaloes and although the lions had been driven away, a calf had been injured.

Like all other protected area in the country, Gir also faces the problem of having numerous settlements on the periphery as well as inside. There are about 97 revenue villages on the periphery with a population of about 150,000 and 14 forest settlement villages with about 4,500 people and 4,000 livestock. Fortunately, except for two forest villages the rest are on the fringes of the protected area and therefore their impact on the protected area may not be serious.

Open wells such as this within the forest and in the neighbouring agricultural fields frequently take their toll on the lions.

On the first day of our trek, as we approached Gidharadi revenue village, we met villagers going into the forests for over a kilometre to collect firewood and fodder. If such a situation persists around all the revenue and forest villages and around the 50 or so maldhari nesses (which still persist in the sanctuary area outside the 250-sq km national park) then the impact on the habitat will be enormous. One way of reducing this impact would be to permit the people to use a one-kilometre belt of forest around each settlement to meet their fodder and firewood needs through plantation and fodder cultivation programmes assisted by the Forest Department and other conservation agencies.

Around 1985, forest officials in north and central India were baffled by incidents of poaching in which bones of the slain tigers were taken away. In some instances the skins were left behind. This was the time when tiger poaching for bones, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), was spreading into Indian tiger habitats. This depleted the tiger numbers in many of our reserves and even led to the extinction of the tiger in places such as the Sariska Tiger Reserve in 2004. No one thought that this demand for tiger bones would lead to the traders promoting lion poaching.

A Gir Maldhari (pastoralist) with his buffaloes. Villagers going into the forests for well over a kilometre to collect firewood and fodder will have an enormous impact on the habitat.

In April 2004, a lion was found in the Dedakadi forest range, near the Gir headquarters at Sasan, with its right paw nearly ripped off – a sure sign of the use of a leg-hold jaw trap, which is commonly used to kill tigers. Soon officials detected organised poaching of lions, and there were reports of bones being removed from carcasses, and it came to light that tribal poachers from Madhya Pradesh, disguised as agricultural labourers, were killing the lions. The needle of suspicion pointed persistently to the TCM business as it is difficult to differentiate bones of lions from those of tigers.

Conservationists, already upset with the episodes of tiger-poaching incidents, created a furore about the lion poaching, which made Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi visit Gir twice in April and May 2007. The Chief Minister held discussions with the village elders and senior forest officials to identify the problems that hindered effective protection. When problems such as the lack of young staff (there had been no recruitment for several decades) and the paucity of equipment such as wireless and firearms were pointed out, the Chief Minister issued orders to rectify the situation. Young villagers were recruited as watchers and forest guards and sufficient firearms and wireless sets were secured. The effectiveness of the intervention was evident when we walked through the forest – we were accompanied by many young staff and we did not come across illegal activities such as tree felling in the forests, which were reported to be rampant as late as a year ago.

However, numerous problems such as increasing pilgrimage and vehicular traffic within Gir, the threat of new developments breaking corridor connectivity, declining tolerance for wildlife in the younger generation and the rapid increase in human population in the Greater Gir area endanger the lion and its habitat. Meanwhile, some suggestions that can be more immediately addressed come to my mind.

Teak trees, which provide neither food nor quality shade in summer and whose dry leaf litter is a fire hazard, have crowded certain parts of central and western Gir. There is an urgent need to thin and remove them in certain locations so as to create open areas that will benefit the most abundant chital deer, thus increasing the prey biomass available to the lions. Open wells within the forest as well as in the neighbouring agricultural fields frequently take their toll on the lions, and such wells should be securely covered.


The Gir Protected Area has a high density of leopards.

Civil works such as unwanted construction of check dams across nallahs, which is often an eyesore in some places, should be avoided. If blackbucks can occur in the undulating hilly tracks of the Sigur range in the Nilgiris in South India, eastern Gir can also support a sizable population of blackbuck, which could augment the prey base, if a proper introduction programme is carried out. An unsuccessful attempt was made in the 1970s.

My memory goes back to a morning near Bhimchas nearly 20 years ago, when I led a research team from the WII on foot through a patch of dry, tall grass. My attention was suddenly drawn to something black that twitched in the grass. The movement and the sound made me stop and watch intently. An adult lion lay crouched facing in my direction hardly 10 metres from me. I held my breath and retreated slowly. Seeing me retreat, my colleagues fell back. The lion had only been warning me because as soon as I withdrew, the twitching, which is a sign of alertness and can be a prelude to an attack, stopped. I came out of the patch of grass without ever seeing the lion in full.

Dr. A.J.T. Johnsingh is a wildlife biologist with Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore, and WWF-India.

Previous Posts