Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chintan Shibir in Gir?

29-12-2010
Chintan Shibir in Gir?
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?Daily=TOIA&showST=true&login=default&pub=TOI&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&AW=1293612484640

"Sher dil ho to kuch waqt gujaro shero ke beech," the statement in famous baritone of Amitabh Bachchan seems to have caught the Gujarat babus' fancy. Forests department officials said that preparations are almost complete and resurfacing of roads has been started even as the state government sought a report from the Junagadh collector asking him to explore the possibil ty of organising the next Chintan Shibir inside Gir forest.

Interestingly, the Junagad district collector, in his report, has said that while organising the camp was possible inside Gir, the last abode of Asiatic lions, accommodation may be a problem. As per the forests officials, the report stated that part of the camp can be organised at Sinh Sadan — government guesthouse — while the rest of the event may be held inside the forest area.

Around 200 government officials, including ministers would be attending the Chintan Shibir. The report states that Sinh Sadan will be able to accommodate only ministers and some senior bureaucrats. For the remaining babus, the government will need to rent rooms in private hotels and resorts situated close to the forest.

Contacted, Banchha Nidhi Pani, in-charge collector, Junagadh, admitted that the government had sought such a report.

Pani also added that he has sent his report to the government. "The final decision is still awaited," Pani said.

CATS FOR COMPANY

From Modi to Kumble: Gujrat lions for Mysore zoo

29-12-2010
From Modi to Kumble: Gujrat lions for Mysore zoo
Times of India
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/rajkot/From-Modi-to-Kumble-Gujrat-lions-for-Mysore-zoo/articleshow/7180564.cms

A pair of lions from Junagadh's Sakkarbaug Zoo will be given to Mysore Zoo in exchange for other animals, said forest department officials, adding that all technical and administrative formalities in this regard have been completed. The exchange, to take place soon, between the two zoos comes in the wake of a request made in this connection a few months ago to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi by legendary leg-spinner Anil Kumble.

According to V J Rana, director of forest departmentmanaged Sakkarbaug Zoo, a pair of Asiatic lions will be given to Mysore Zoo in exchange for birds and some mammals. "Mysore Zoo will give us Indian bison, common marmoset, giant squirrel, Lady Amhrest pheasant, Kalij pheasant and green pheasant. The exchange of the animal and bird species will take place in the last week of January 2011," Rana said.

"A new facility to accommodate the birds and the mammal is being made at the zoo. They will be on public display from February 2011," he added. Zoo officials said, till now about 170 lions have been given to other zoos in India and abroad as part of exchange programmes.

The Sakkarbaug Zoo has over 1,000 different species of animals including a cheetah, which was brought from Singapore in exchange for an Asiatic lion. There are four cheetahs in the zoo, of which two are males and two females.

Narendra Modi

Anil Kumble

'Wildlife friends' help Asiatic lions conservation in Gir

27-12-2010
'Wildlife friends' help Asiatic lions conservation in Gir
The Economic Times
http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/environment/flora--fauna/wildlife-friends-help-asiatic-lions-conservation-in-gir/articleshow/7173035.cms

The Gujarat forest department's initiative of involving local population by appointing 'vanprani mitra' (wildlife friends) in the last abode of Asiatic lions -- Gir Sanctuary -- has paid off as they have become an important factor in conservation of this endangered species.

There are many instances where 'wildlife friends' have given crucial information to forest authorities about illegal activities going on in and around the protected sanctuary areas.

"We felt that it was of utmost importance to involve local communities in wildlife conservation efforts to save the last population of Asiatic lions in Gir ," Chief conservator of forest of Gir region R L Meena said.

This need was strongly felt after the 2007 incident when eight lions in the Gir became victim of poaching by tribal gang belonging to Katni area of Madhya Pradesh, he added.

"It has paid results as a lot of information regarding what is going on in and around the sanctuary comes from them. Three major arrests could be made due to information provided by wildlife friends recently," Meena said adding this unique concept has opened a new chapter in wildlife conservation activity in the country.

More than 20 tribal people were arrested on December 13 from the outskirts of Gir forest for selling fake lion parts, based on the information given by a wildlife friend, Meena said.

State forest dept trains vets for better wildlife conservation

29-12-2010
State forest dept trains vets for better wildlife conservation
Times of India By Vijaysinh Parmar
Print Edition

Many a time when veterinary doctors are posted near the wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, they encounter a situation when they have treat a wild animal and with training, they can deal with such situations effectively, said chief conservator of forests Junagadh circle (wildlife) R L Meena

For effective wildlife management, conservation and rescue operation on the periphery area of wildlife sanctuaries and national park in Gujarat, the state forest department in association with department of animal husbandry initiated a training program for veterinary doctors and range forest officers.

According to chief conservator of forest, Junagadh circle( wildlife) R L Meena " the idea behind organizing such programmers is to make wildlife management and conservation more effective". He adds: "At present, veterinary doctor and range forest from saurashtra and kutch regions are being trained at Sakkarbaug Zoo. The veterinary doctors are primarily responsible for domestic animal, but many time when they are posted near the wildlife sanctuaries and national park, they encounter a situation when they have to treat a wild animals and during emergency they can deal with the situation effectively,"Meena told TOI.

According to Sakkarbaug Zoo director V J Rana, this is the third such training and workshop. "In the first phase, five training programme are being conducted for veterinary and range forest officers. Experts from forest department will train them to deal with wild animals and the possible treatment should be given. Forest officials says that such programmes will help better coordination between range forest officers and veterinary doctors in their respective areas.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Bags with meat found in Gir

22-12-2010
Bags with meat found in Gir
Times of India
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/rajkot/Bags-with-meat-found-in-Gir/articleshow/7146717.cms

The forest department's beat guards on Tuesday night spotted three people at Machundari dam in Gir forest near Babaria range in Junagadh district carrying bags. On being challenged by the forest department guards, they ran away leaving the bags behind. The bags contained animal meat.

This is the second incident in less than 10 days when forest guards came across suspected poachers. On December 14, a gang of 25 poachers - tribals from Karnataka - was busted in Kodinar, Gir (west).

Confirming the incident, Ramesh Katara, divisional conservator of forests, said, "The forest guards spotted three men dressed in local attire. They were carrying bags with them. On being challenged, they dropped the bags and ran away. The bag contained meat of some small animal - it could be wild boar or a small deer. FSL team has been called to verify the animal. The entire area has been cordoned off. Dog squad has been pressed into service to trace the offenders," Katar said.

It is the same area where six lions had been killed by poachers in March 2007.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Deer poaching Gir

23-12-2010
Deer poaching Gir
Gujarat Samachar
Briefly translated from Gujarati

Forest staff was patrolling in Babariya range at Popatdi Ness area near Machundri Dam. They spotted two young man in the deep forest carrying cloth-sack (potlu). Forest guard tried to stop them but they ran away throwing away cloth- bag. On checking staff found fresh meat in the bag. It is assumed that culprits had poached hunted a spotted deer (chital) with a gun. Meat samples are sent to FSL for further investigation, said Kalara DCF.

Two poachers had fled to nearby Rasulpara village where forest staff has started search operation with the help of local police and Dog squad.

This Place of incidence is the same where six (of eight) lions were poached in Mar-2007.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Illegal mining in Gir: HC asks principal secy to appear on Jan 21

22-12-2010
Illegal mining in Gir: HC asks principal secy to appear on Jan 21
Indian Express
http://www.indianexpress.com/news/Illegal-mining-in-Gir--HC-asks-principal-secy-to-appear-on-Jan-21/727951/

The Gujarat High Court (HC) on Tuesday ordered the Principal Secretary (Mines & Minerals) to appear before it on January 21 in connection with a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by slain activist Amit Jethava.

Jethava had sought directions to check the illegal mining activity in the periphery of Gir Wildlife Sanctuary. Jethva was killed in an audacious armed attack in front of the HC building in July after filing the PIL.

The Division Bench, headed by Chief Justice S J Mukhopadhaya, ordered the Principal Secretary to appear in person before the court to answer certain queries, which the state government failed to put before the court on affidavit. The queries were related to fixing accountability of the concerned government official under whose jurisdictional areas the illegal mining is going on.

E Shailaja, the lawyer representing the petitioner, said the court — in its earlier order — had asked the state government to come up with an affidavit on the issue of making people accountable for illegal mining.

In its affidavit, the State Government had stated that they have formed a task force to check the menace.

Though, the bench was not satisfied with the affidavit and asked the state counsel as to what if the task force does not perform the duty well. The court also asked if the concerned government officials like mamlatdars and police sub-inspectors are being held responsible for the illegal mining in their areas.

Guj HC Summons Principal Secy on Illegal Mining PIL

21-12-2010
Guj HC Summons Principal Secy on Illegal Mining PIL
Outlook India.com
http://news.outlookindia.com/item.aspx?705889

The Gujarat High Court today said it was not convinced with state government's actions to stop illegal mining in protected Gir forest area, the home to Asiatic lions and summoned a top official.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) against illegal mining in Gir forest region filed by RTI activist Amit Jethva a few days before he was shot dead in July.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice S J Mukhopadhaya and Justice K M Thakar asked the Principal Secretary, Mines and Minerals, to remain present in the court on January 21.

It said the law against illegal mining has been there since long but such activities have been rampant in the region as admitted by the government in its affidavit.

The task force constituted by the government to check illegal mining has failed as there has been no penal action against those responsible, the court said.

The Bench said it was not satisfied with the government's reply and, therefore, wanted Principal Secretary to explain what penal action would be taken against those who have failed to implement the law on illegal mining.

The PIL was filed by Jethva a few days before he has shot dead opposite the High Court on July 20.

After Jethva's death, the court included Amit's younger brother Bhavani and uncle Vijay Rathod as petitioners in the PIL.

Jethva's father Bhikalal had alleged BJP MP from Junagadh, Dinu Solanki, was behind the murder as he had filed the PIL. Solanki has denied the charge.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

MP wants to translocate antelopes to Palpur Kuno

19-12-2010
MP wants to translocate antelopes to Palpur Kuno
Zee News.com
http://www.zeenews.com/news675469.html

With a huge rise in endangered blackbuck population in Madhya Pradesh, the state forest department wants to translocate 1000 Indian antelopes to Palpur Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, where its chief predator Cheetah is proposed to be re-introduced in India.

"We have sent a proposal to the Centre seeking permission and funds to translocate 1000 blackbucks in Palpur Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary spread over an area of 300 sq km in Sheopur district where the Cheetahs are going to be re-introduced in India," Madhya Pradesh Forest Minister Sartaj Singh told a news agency.

Blackbuck population has witnessed a tremendous increase and now these animals with twisted horns were entering fields. Farmers are complaining that their crops were being damaged by the Indian antelopes, he said.

"We have blackbuck in the entire state and we want 1000 of these to be translocated in Palpur Kuno," he said, adding the work of shifting blackbucks and Cheetah can go simultaneously.

Singh said Cheetah were very fond of preying on these mammals.

He said the first pack of Cheetah from South Africa will reach Palpur Kuno in the next winter.

Singh said Cheetahs were being brought from South Africa and Zimbabwe to three places in the country, including two in Madhya Pradesh's Palpur and Naurodehi Wildlife Sanctuary in Sagar district.

The minister said Palpur Kuno was a very fit place for Cheetah as it doesn't have dense forest adding that this fastest mammal on earth can easily run in this place.

The Cheetah is largely believed to become extinct from India after the last one died in Surguja district, now in Chhattisgarh, in 1947.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Lion roar spoils Open Air drama at Gir village

17-12-2010
Lion roar spoils Open Air drama at Gir village
Divya Bhaskar
Briefly translated from Gujarati

In an odd incident that happened at Bamnasa village (Taluka – Talala), all the performers of folk drama (Bhavai) had to run away when they heard lion roaring very nearby.

Yesterday night folk drama performers is open air stage at village centre of Bamnasha village. Villagers and people were enjoying the show when suddenly three lions entered the village and started roaring. Everybody including artists were scared and ran away. Later lions killed a stray cow and enjoyed the kill.

A lion claw made out of buffalo horns, dog skin!

17-12-2010
A lion claw made out of buffalo horns, dog skin!
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?Daily=TOIA&showST=true&login=default&pub=TOI&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&AW=1292579843890

Make fake claws using body parts of dogs, goats, mongoose, cows and buffaloes and pass them off as original claws of the king of the jungle! This was the modus operandi of 25 tribals arrested by forest department on charges of poaching and cheating.

The gang of 25 tribals from south India was arrested on Tuesday morning with fake claws by the forest department, acting on a tip off from volunteers of Prakruti nature club.

This is the second incident in recent times where fake claws are recovered from tribals who gain entry from nearby areas in the sanctuary as casual labourers. Earlier, on January 9, the Amreli police had used a decoy and arrested two people in connection with selling fake lion claws. Two fake lion claws with nine nails were recovered. The couple had demanded Rs 1.5 lakh from the decoy for the two claws.

Officials said that a case of cheating will be registered against the gang as they were found cheating people by selling fake claws. Sources in Sasan said that the math is simple: a single fake lion paw made from a buffalo horn would cost just about Rs 2,500 - Rs 3,000. But if a paw is shown to the prospective buyer, a single nail would cost anything between Rs 10,000 and Rs 12,000 per nail.

And if any one wanted the claw with all five nails, it would be anything between Rs 50,000 and Rs 75,000. This prompted the cheats to go to great lengths to craft together a paw with claws using hair, skin and bones of different animals.

Officials said lion's claws are sold like gemstones in parts of Saurashtra. These claws are worn for virility and as a status symbol. Fishermen venturing out to sea wear it to make them 'lion-hearted'. The fishermen and members of a particular community are known to encase these claws in gold and wear them as pendants.

Sources said that the manufacturing of the paw with nails was complex. First a nail like structure was prepared from the horns of the buffalo and then it was fitted into the paw using the skin of dog or mongoose. The paw was filled with dried flesh of a dog. Hairs from the mongoose and goats' tail were used to give it an authentic look.

Officials said that to a trained eye, the claws were obviously fake. The final report, however, will be submitted by the Forensic Science Laboratory. Ramesh Katara, the deputy conservator of forest, said that prima facie the seized paw appeared artificial and definitely not that of a lion's.

Katara further said that the 25 tribal people arrested from Kodinar town of Junagadh district hail from Shimoga in Karnataka. The arrested people include 10 men, 10 women and five children. "During interrogation, we found that these people have made it their business to sale fake body parts of lions and other endangered animals," Katara said.

Principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife) R Asari said, "These are fake claws. The gang has even used adhesives and oil colours to make them look real. The gang has used domestic cattle along with skin of dog and goat. But we are not taking any chances. The FSL team has arrived to check the veracity of the seized material."

HC stays land deals in Gir periphery

17-12-2010
HC stays land deals in Gir periphery
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?Daily=TOIA&showST=true&login=default&pub=TOI&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&AW=1292579843890

Issue involves possession of land by non-Maldharis

The Gujarat high court has stayed land deals in the periphery of the lions' den – the Gir sanctuary – as the issue of possession of land by non-Maldharis in the surrounding forest reserve is to be resolved before the division bench.

Earlier, a single-judge bench held that the land was allotted to Maldharis towards rehabilitation purpose. But since the land was sold to other people, it frustrates the purpose of conservation of forest and hence should be taken back by the forest department as per the Indian Forest and Wildlife Protection Act.

After declaring Gir forest as sanctuary, the government in 1977 began shifting 845 Maldharis from the forest to the outskirts and allotted plots for their rehabilitation. Some 588 families were given land in the periphery of the sanctuary. However, revenue department later allowed them to sell the land to non-Maldharis and 292 plots were sold out.

The forest department said, those Maldharis who sold their land actually went back to the forest. Hence the purpose for allotting the land was defeated. As per the state government's declaration of the area as reserve forest, nobody except Maldharis should be allowed to stay or carry out non-forest activity on this land, which largely falls under the Mendarda block of Junagadh.

When the forest officials restricted one Anil Chudasama from construction on a land purchased in this area, he approached the authorities and later the high court. While the forest department insisted that such people who have purchased land from the Maldharis should be evicted, the revenue department had another take on it.

Last year, justice MR Shah appointed advocate Amit Panchal as amicus curie, who submitted a report that such land needs to be taken back. Accordingly, justice Shah held that Chudasama had no right to carry out construction or agriculture activity on the plot, though he was the third purchaser of the plot after the Maldhari sold it long ago.

The HC accepted that the land falls under reserved forest category. Moreover, justice Shah also directed the chief conservator of forest to inquire into the cases of 292 plots and decide as per the provisions of the forest act, which means that the land holding would be declared as illegal.

This had also an indication that the decision to allot land to the tribals in 1977 could be declared null and void. When this decision was challenged by Chudasama before a division bench, it ordered to maintain status quo on the land and clarified that the plot would not be sold without prior permission of the court.

Don't become prey to lions: CJ

While ordering a stay on land deals in the reserved forest surrounding the Gir sanctuary, chief justice SJ Mukhopadhaya called for maintaining a balance between development and nature. The forest department has been maintaining that the increased grazing has resulted in decrease of prey for lions in the forest. Moreover, the forest officials have also been insisting that the sale of plots allotted to Maldharis be declared illegal, and non-Maldharis be evicted from the place. However, the petitioner claims that he has been deliberately harassed by forest officials due to other social consideration and his ownership of the plot is legal. To this, the chief justice commented, "Lions' place has to be protected. You shift from the place before you become prey to lions.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Narendra Modi strategy works, Big B pulls in tourists


16-12-2010
Narendra Modi strategy works, Big B pulls in tourists
NDTV.in
http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/narendra-modi-strategy-works-big-b-pulls-in-tourists-72729


Thanks to nationwide road shows and a campaign featuring brand ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, Gujarat is witnessing an overwhelming tourist inflow this year - despite many infrastructural potholes.

While Gujaratis are known to be great travellers, the state tourism industry has never really flourished. But this year officials point to a sudden spurt. The May-September period this year is estimated to have seen 1.3 million more tourists compared to the same period last year, they say.

Gujarat Tourism Secretary Vipul Mitra attributes the increase to a variety of factors like roadshows and a countrywide awareness campaign, besides the pull of Bachchan, of course! Bachchan started shooting the "Khushboo Gujarati Ki" campaign by adman Piyush Pandey in April, generating a buzz about tourism in Gujarat. It started airing on television in October.

The campaign consists of three short films of 60 seconds each focussing on the ethereal beauty of Kutch, the sanctity of the Somnath temple and the magnificence of the lions of Gir.

Such a tourism campaign had never been carried out for the state and was the brainwave of Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

"We have had almost a thousand visitors per day after Diwali and this includes a fair number of foreign tourists," Sandeep Kumar, deputy conservator of the Gir National Park, told IANS.

Entry into the sanctuary, the last remaining home of Asiatic lions, has been regulated since 2000 to ensure the area does not see any intrusive activity.

For the same reason, only 90 vehicles were permitted inside the sanctuary earlier. However, the heavy rush saw the authorities increasing the number to 150 vehicles.

"The shortage of guides had many guards doubling up in this role," a local source said.

The first fortnight of November earned the sanctuary a record revenue of over Rs 45 lakh from over 35,000 visitors, say official sources.

This presents a pretty picture as compared to the revenue figure of Rs.2.10 crore in the eight months between October 2009 and May 2010 - with a monthly average of a mere Rs 26 lakh.

A similar response has been seen to 'Rannotsav', which begins at Dordo in Kutch district Dec 19.

Every year, the cultural festival is organised for three days. But the Gujarat tourism department has decided to extend the celebrations for a month this year; so it will include the new year and 'uttarayan' (makar sakranti) as well.

All the 400 tents at the venue are already booked for the first three days of the festival.

The Tourism Corporation of Gujarat has sought the approval of the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for a chopper service during the festival to enable tourists to heli-hop to places of significance in the region.

Since Kutch is a huge district and tourist townships like Dholavira, Mandvi and Narayan Sarovar are scattered far and wide, travelling on the roads is a time-consuming affair.

However, tourists who have visited these places drawn by the Bachchan campaign have expressed disappointment over the fact that the on-ground facilities do not match up to the expectations raised by advertisements.

"We tried to get a group of 250 people to visit Saurashtra and ran into serious accommodation problems leading to scrapping of the trip," says Rajeev Katayayan of Transhimalayan Travels, adding the state still needs to put the infrastructure in place.

Similarly, there was utter chaos at the Gir sanctuary as more people landed up than the place could contain and many had to go back disappointed.

"There was no accommodation; even all the private hotels in the area were packed. We went to Junagadh town and even Somnath but could not get proper accommodation. In areas around the sanctuary, even wayside hotels ran out of food," said Navin Kumar, who had travelled all the way from Sikkim.

However, state Tourism Minister Jaynarayan Vyas said it would be premature to arrive at any conclusion about the tourists inflow. "A detailed and more scientific study is needed for the purpose," he added.

HC stays land deals in Gir periphery

16-12-2010
HC stays land deals in Gir periphery
Times of India
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/HC-stays-land-deals-in-Gir-periphery/articleshow/7108405.cms

The Gujarat high court has stayed land deals in the periphery of the lions' den - the Gir sanctuary - as the issue of possession of land by non-Maldharis in the surrounding forest reserve is to be resolved before the division bench.

Earlier, a single-judge bench held that the land was allotted to Maldharis towards rehabilitation purpose. But since the land was sold to other people, it frustrates the purpose of conservation of forest and hence should be taken back by the forest department as per the Indian Forest and Wildlife Protection Act.

After declaring Gir forest as sanctuary, the government in 1977 began shifting 845 Maldharis from the forest to the outskirts and allotted plots for their rehabilitation. Some 588 families were given land in the periphery of the sanctuary. However, revenue department later allowed them to sell the land to non-Maldharis and 292 plots were sold out.

The forest department said, those Maldharis who sold their land actually went back to the forest. Hence the purpose for allotting the land was defeated. As per the state government's declaration of the area as reserve forest, nobody except Maldharis should be allowed to stay or carry out non-forest activity on this land, which largely falls under the Mendarda block of Junagadh.

When the forest officials restricted one Anil Chudasama from construction on a land purchased in this area, he approached the authorities and later the high court. While the forest department insisted that such people who have purchased land from the Maldharis should be evicted, the revenue department had another take on it.

Last year, justice MR Shah appointed advocate Amit Panchal as amicus curie, who submitted a report that such land needs to be taken back. Accordingly, justice Shah held that Chudasama had no right to carry out construction or agriculture activity on the plot, though he was the third purchaser of the plot after the Maldhari sold it long ago.

The HC accepted that the land falls under reserved forest category. Moreover, justice Shah also directed the chief conservator of forest to inquire into the cases of 292 plots and decide as per the provisions of the forest act, which means that the land holding would be declared as illegal.

This had also an indication that the decision to allot land to the tribals in 1977 could be declared null and void. When this decision was challenged by Chudasama before a division bench, it ordered to maintain status quo on the land and clarified that the plot would not be sold without prior permission of the court.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

25 tribal arrested for selling fake lion parts

15-12-2010
25 tribal arrested for selling fake lion parts
Times of India
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/environment/flora-fauna/25-tribal-arrested-for-selling-fake-lion-parts/articleshow/7105902.cms

About 25 tribals have been arrested from the outskirts of Gir forest in Junagadh district in Gujarat for selling fake lion parts, forest department officials said today.

"We arrested 25 tribal people who originally belong to Shimoga in Karnataka after they were found selling fake lion claws in Kodinar town of the Junagadh district," Deputy conservator of forest Ramesh Katara said.

"We have also found bones, jaws, claws and horns of animals like dogs and cows from them. It seems that the tribals were also trying to sell those as lion bones," Katara said.

The accused from a tribe called Pahadi Rajput, who have been camping on the outskirts of Kodinar taluka for the last one month, were held yesterday, the official further said.

"We have send the items recovered from them for forensic examination," he said.

The arrested comprise 10 men, 10 women and five children. "During interrogation we have found that this people have made it their business to sale fake body parts of the lions and other endangered animals," Katara said.

In 2007, eight lions were poached in and around Gir forest by a tribal gang from Madhya Pradesh's Katni area as their bones, claws and skin fetches huge prices in the international market.

Lion poaching continues in Gir: foresters bust gang of 25

15-12-2010
Lion poaching continues in Gir: foresters bust gang of 25
DNA By Jumana Shah
http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_lion-poaching-continues-in-gir-foresters-bust-gang-of-25_1481551

In the first reported incident of its kind since the lion poaching incidents of May 2007, a gang of suspected poachers comprising about 25 tribals from Karnataka, was busted in Kodinar, Gir (west), late on Monday night.

The tribals were caught with five bags full of different lion body parts, Rs60,000 in cash and some sharp weapons. No carcass of lion has been discovered yet, but foresters believe these tribals to be "most probably poachers".

A renowned big cat expert, refusing to be quoted, said five bags of lion body parts would mean more than five animals had been killed. "On the basis of past experience, I can say that the poachers must have chopped up the entire body of the beasts so that the carcasses, which let off a sharp stink, were not discovered and no alarm was raised," he added.

The forest department officials were tipped off by a local activist, Dinesh Goswami, who came across a woman selling what was purportedly a lion nail for Rs3,000 in Sutrapada bazaar.

When he enquired a little, the woman got scared and fled to her hideout in Kodinar. As he followed her there, he saw a group of several tents hidden in the forest thickets.

He immediately alerted the forest officials who cordoned off the area and apprehended the tribals late in the night (after 11.00 pm) on Monday.

"They are a tribe of nomads from Simoga district in Karnataka," said Ramesh Katara, division conservator of forests. "It looks like they have killed animals; we found lion skins, hair, bones, claws, teeth, etc, in the bags. We believe they have hidden weapons close to their hideout. We hope to find that out during the questioning. It is too soon to tell whether they are hardened criminals, part of an international gang or petty poachers." Katara was part of the team that raided the hideout of the gang.

'Lion census reports could've drawn poachers' attention'


15-12-2010
'Lion census reports could've drawn poachers' attention'
DailyBhaskar.in By Jumana Shah
http://daily.bhaskar.com/article/lion-census-reports-couldve-drawn-poachers-attention-1654252.html

It's ironical but perhaps a bitter truth. The prosperous population of the Asiatic Lions in Gir could have become an eyesore for poachers. Wildlife experts from across the globe, following the issue closely, believe that the latest census report of the state government, highlighting a healthy growth in the population, may have drawn the attention of international poaching gangs.

It is widely held that there was calm in the region after the crackdown on poachers following the poaching cases in 2007. But the rise in lion population and the knowledge that they are roaming free in non-protected areas, may have drawn poachers' attention back to Gir. "These gangs keep a watch out for such things," a senior reliable source said.

The official lion census covered 5,000 sq km in four districts, but lions have been spotted roaming freely over approximately 10,000 sq km. Gir wildlife sanctuary is spread over only 1,600 sq km. Twenty-one lions were recorded in Kodinar, Una, Sutrapada and Chhara regions in Gir West where the recent gang was apprehended.

"This is a very serious development. Though the forest department is doing as good a job, it is not humanly possible to guard the whole area sufficiently. They have gone very far away and there are too few people," a senior police officer who was a part of the investigation team in 2007 said.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Karnataka Gang Held with wild animal claws

14-12-2010
Karnataka Gang Held with wild animal claws
Divya Bhaskar (Rajkot Edition) Pg. 18
Briefly Translated from Gujarati

Gir-W DCF said, he received tip about Karnataka gang with 11 men and 9 woman selling animal claws. He urgently sent his officials to investigate to coastal town Sutrapada. All 20 were arrested with animal claws, bones, skin and fifty thousands in cash.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Lion jumped over compound wall

09-12-2010
Lion jumped over compound wall
Gujarat Samachar
Briefly translated from Gujarati

Dalkhaniya village is on the border of Gir forest East division near Dhari. Lions are frequently visiting this village in search of food. Yesterday three lions killed two calf on the village roads. One of the lion jumped into house of Bhadabhai Kurjibhai Dabhi by jumping over ten feet high compound wall. But it could not come out the same way. So it broke loosely fitted iron gate to get out of the house. House owner was shocked to see such an unusual lion show!

Gir lions lose all central funds to tigers this year

09-12-2010
Gir lions lose all central funds to tigers this year
DNA
http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_gir-lions-lose-all-central-funds-to-tigers-this-year_1478874

The tigers have got the lion's share of central government funds this financial year - literally.

Absolutely no funds have been allocated for the conservation of the Asiatic Lions in Gir in the financial year 2010-11. This, according to the Union minister of state, finance, Namo Narain Meena, is because of the paucity of funds under the centrally-sponsored 'Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats' (IDWH) scheme.

Significantly, the Gujarat government has sought Rs262.36 crore for a plethora of conservation initiatives in the past two years.

Though the grant was 'in principal' approved more than a year ago, the time and method of actual allocation, as also the release of funds for lions is not happening.

This, combined with the state government's difference of opinion with the Centre over the translocation of Gir lions to MP, has become a standoff point between the two establishments.

"We are unable to understand why the central government is being so tightfisted with lions when the tigers are being allocated huge amounts regularly. Though the state government has enough allocated funds for now under the Lion Conservation Society of India, several mega projects are on hold," a senior forest official said requesting anonymity.

While the tiger population is declining steadily, the population of the Asiatic Lions in their last abode in Gir has been steadily increasing. At the last count in May 2010, their population was 411.

In response to a question by Mehsana MP Jayshree Patel in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, Meena replied, "Gujarat has submitted a proposal for consolidating long term conservation of Asiatic Lions at the total cost of Rs.262.36 crore for a period of five years, which has been approved 'in principle' by the Planning Commission.

However, the planning commission has suggested that financial assistance under the project may be met out of the ongoing scheme of IDWH. Due to paucity of funds in the scheme for the current financial year, no amount has been released so far."

Sources in the know of developments in New Delhi claim that the highest priority there is to halt the diminishing tiger population in the country and all the funds are being directed into that effort.

"The lions are safe in Gujarat and multiplying. We were impressed by the way Gujarat dealt with the poaching problem. The forest dwellers in Gir are tolerant towards the big cat, while the tiger is being killed in other states. That is a burning problem," a source said.

Two more lions arrive at Rampara

09-12-2010
Two more lions arrive at Rampara
Gujarat Samachar
Briefly translated from Gujarati

Gujarat dforest department has develope Asiatic lion gene pool at Rampara near Sindhavadar (Vankaner) in Rajkot district. Last week three male and one female lions were shifted from Sakkarbag Zoo-Junagadh. These animals were keeping good healthy and were well settled into the new environment. Hence two more male lions were brought here yesterday. Now there are total five male and one female lions at Rampara

3,000 babus roped in for the programme

09-12-2010
3,000 babus roped in for the programme
Times of India
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/3000-babus-roped-in-for-the-programme/articleshow/7067946.cms

Sachivalaya in Gandhinagar wears a deserted look as babus are missing. And this situation is expected to last till Monday. The reason is Gunotsav, where not just government but forest officials too have been roped in to conduct this state-sponsored programme that will kick-off on Thursday.

Education department officials said that over 3,000 class I and II officials including IAS, IPS and IFS officials have been sent to schools in remote parts of the state to head the Gunotsav exercise. The officials will visit one school in a day and do a thorough assessment of the quality of education imparted and the infrastructure of schools in the state. This exercise will go on for three days.

Meanwhile, officials said this is the first time the forest department officials have been asked to join in the Gunotsav programme. According to the state government directive the deputy conservator of forest and assistant conservator of forest will also join in the programme.

A senior officer said that even those in the Gir sanctuary and other wild life sanctuaries have been asked to report for duty during Gunotsav. For nearly three days from Thursday, the officials have been asked to remain present in the allotted villages.

"Having all forest officers out on duty is risky as the beat guards and junior officers cannot be given the responsibility of sanctuary in absence of any senior. Forest officers involved in field work should be kept out of Gunotsav as they are required forground administration," said a forest officer.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Naturalist opposes Centre's move to relocate Gir lions

08-12-2010
Naturalist opposes Centre's move to relocate Gir lions
Divya Bhaskar
http://daily.bhaskar.com/article/naturalist-opposes-centres-move-to-relocate-gir-lions-1630650.html

A noted naturalist has strongly opposed the Centre's long-pending move to relocate Asiatic lions from Gujarat's Gir Forest to Madhya Pradesh.

The Narendra Modi Government should not make any compromise on this issue and must oppose the move, Lav Kumar Khacher said here.

"Under no circumstances, the Madhya Pradesh Government's request (endorsed by the Centre) for relocating one or two prides of lions from Gir to Sheopur district should be accepted," the 80-year-old said.

He was speaking after releasing a book on crocodiles in the city's Vishwamitri river, written by Raju Vyas, a herpetologist.

Asiatic lions found only in Gir can not survive in the different environment and geographic conditions in Madhya Pradesh, he said.

It is the Centre's almost decade-old proposal to relocate some Gir lions to a 300 sq km forest at Kunopalpur in Sheopur district. The plan is devised to save lions from a potential future disaster that could wipe them off as all of them are concentrated in the Gir forest.

According to the latest census conducted in April this year, there are 411 Asiatic lions in Gir. In contrast, the tiger population in MP was dwindling fast because of poaching and shrinking habitat, Khacher said.

Protection and Conservation of Asiatic Lions in Gir Forest

08-12-2010
Protection and Conservation of Asiatic Lions in Gir Forest
PIB
http://pib.nic.in/release/release.asp?relid=68281

The Gir forest in Gujarat is the only home for Asiatic Lions in India. The Ministry provides financial and technical assistance to the State Government of Gujarat for protection and conservation of Asiatic Lions in Gir forest. The details of financial assistance provided during last three years and the current year to the Government of Gujarat under Centrally Sponsored Scheme 'Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats' for protection and conservation of Lions are as follows:


The Government of Gujarat has submitted a proposal for consolidating long term conservation of Asiatic Lions at the total cost of Rs.262.36 crores for a period of five years, which has been approved 'in principle' by the Planning Commission. However, the Planning Commission has suggested that financial assistance under the project may be met out of the ongoing scheme of 'Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats'. Due to paucity of funds in the scheme for the current financial year, no amount has been released so far.

This information was given by the Minister of State for Finance, Shri Namo Narain Meena who is holding the charge of the Ministry of environment and Forests in a written reply to a question by Shrimati Jayshreeben Patel in Lok Sabha today.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

State plans incentives to attract new hotel projects


07-12-2010
State plans incentives to attract new hotel projects
Times of India By Nayan Dave & Himanshu Kaushik
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?Daily=TOIA&showST=true&login=default&pub=TOI&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&AW=1291714927937

Realising the need to upgrade infrastructure at tourist hotspots following an aggressive ad campaign by Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan, the state government plans to offer a slew of incentives to hotel projects.

These include relief in electricity duty and 6% interest subsidy on loans up to Rs 50 lakh for new hotel projects.

Talking at a seminar on investment opportunities in Gujarat in the run up to Vibrant Gujarat 2011 summit, the state tourism minister Jay Narayan Vyas emphsised the need for proper infrastructure and said that his government had identified the issue and would shortly announced the policy decision.

Terming the current tourism infrastructure inadequate, managing director of Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Limited (TCGL) believes the state would require a lot more hotels in all categories to cope up with the pressure. According to figures available, flow of tourists has increased manifold post Amitabh Bachchan campaign.

Already, hoteliers are making a beeline for tourist spots. Around five luxury hotel projects are on the anvil near the Gir forest. National brands like Tata and Mahindra, apart from some Gujarat-based players are developing at least five new star category hotels in and around Sasan. Tata Group is re-opening 29-room 'Gir Lodge', which will be promoted under its 'Gateway' brand. Tatas took the property on lease from TCGL way back in 1995. However, the hotel with picturesque view of Hiran river and the Vasadoor hills in Sasan is closed since a decade. Club Mahindra has come into a lease agreement with the promoters of Wonderland Resort that was commissioned last year.

Rajkot-based Sanjayraj Group, which has interests in real estate, hospitality and education, is also developing a 5-star resort on 30 acres of land. "We are developing the resort at an estimated cost of Rs 30 crore (excluding land). The 100-room property is aimed at attracting high-end domestic as well as foreign tourists," said Indranil Rajguru, chairman of the company.

Another Rajkot-based realty firm, Kotecha Group is in the process to commissioning a 4-star hotel. Ahmedabadbased realty firm Popular Group is diversifying into hospitality to develop 5-star ecofriendly resort near Sasan on 30 acres of land.

Even Gujarat government is in the process of creating 'Little Africa', an eco-friendly resort in a bid to provide employment to youth of the African-origin Sidi community settled in Saurashtra region. The theme-based resort to be developed on 25 acres of land would be promoted by global giant IBM.

4 lakh tourists visited state in Feb: The state recorded over 30 per cent rise in foreign tourists in February 2010 compared to the corresponding period last year. In February 2009 about three lakh foreign and NRI tourists had visited the state. The number shot up to over four lakh in February this year.


Tourist inflow has gone up following Big B's ad campaign but infrastructure needs to be upgraded

Kuno Palpur to get cheetah, not lions


07-12-2010
Kuno Palpur to get cheetah, not lions
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?Daily=TOIA&showST=true&login=default&pub=TOI&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&AW=1291714927937

Controversy Ends As MP Agrees To Take African Cheetah

Madhya Pradesh has agreed in principle to accommodate African cheetah in Kuno Palpur. This could mean that the neighbouring state, which is famous for its tigers, is off Gujarat's back as far as the Asiatic lion is concerned.

The MP government had been trying to get wild Asiatic lions from its only habitat in the world in Gir, but Gujarat had refused to part with its pride. Finally, the Centre had proposed that MP settle for zoo-bred Asiatic lions for Kuno Palpur.

However, after a presentation by the Wildlife Institute of India and the Wildlife Trust of India over reintroducing cheetah at Kuno Palpur, it looks like the controversy could be drawing to a close, as the two big cats cannot survive together. Gujarat government had also taken the stand in SC that lions and tigers cannot stay together. The matter is pending in the Supreme Court since 2006.

Sartaj Singh, forest minister of MP, told TOI over the phone, "Union minister for forest and environment Jairam Ramesh had decided to introduce cheetah in Kuno Palpur and Nauradehi wildlife sanctuaries in MP, apart from Rajasthan. The Wildlife Institute of India had made a detailed presentation after which the MP chief minister has agreed in principle to have cheetahs in Kuno. As of now we have put the proposal to shift lions to Kuno on hold".

HS Pabla, MP's principal conservator of forest, said, "We were offered Nauradehi and Kuno for reintroduction of Cheetah. But if we decide to shift to Nauradehi, the department will have to shift people from 21 villages, while Kuno Palpur was already prepared for the lions, so we just have to bring the cheetah and release them". The WTI also had rated Kuno as priority for reintroducing the cheetah. SK Nanda, principal secretary (forest) Gujarat, said, "We are not aware of MP's decision. But if it is true it is a welcome decision. We have been contending that two big cats cannot stay together. And Kuno already had tigers".

CHANGE OF SPOT
1993
| Wildlife Institute of India carries out a survey in Gir over the decline in lion population. Prepares a project to shift lions to Kuno, identified as a sanctuary in 1981
1995 | First phase of pre-translocation begins in Kuno
1998 | Gujarat protests 2005 | Centre decides to shift lions to Kuno, Gujarat government refuses
2006 | Faiyaz Khudsar, trustee of Biodiversity Conservation Trust of India, files petition seeking transfer of lions to Kuno
July 2010 | Centre shortlists three sanctuaries, including Kuno Palpur, for reintroduction of cheetahs
Nov 2010
| MP agrees in principle to have cheetahs in Kuno

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Four Lions for Ramapara Gene Pool

04-12-2010
Four Lions for Ramapara Gene Pool
Divya Bhaskar
Briefly translated from Gujarati

V G Rana, Zoo Director, Sakkarbaug Zoo informed that today four Gir lions were sent to Ramapara Bid land. Total eight lions are to be sent to Rampara gene pool of which four have been sent. Ramapara, near Vankaner in Rajkot district is the first gene pool for Asiatic lions.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

His son fallen, Jethava’s father rises to dare

01-12-2010
His son fallen, Jethava's father rises to dare
Indianexpress
http://www.indianexpress.com/news/his-son-fallen-jethavas-father-rises-to-dare/718414/

Bhikha Jethava, father of slain RTI activist Amit Jethava, is now leading a protest against two upcoming industrial projects in Kodinar on the periphery of Gir Wildlife Sanctuary.

Bhikha, a footwear merchant in Khambha village of Amreli district has written a letter to Union Minister of Environment and Forest Jairam Ramesh in this regard.

He has said the Simar Port Ship Yard at Chahara village and

Shapurjee Palonjee Thermal Power plant project at Kaaj village will prove disastrous to wildlife in the sanctuary.

"The Kodinar coastal forest is located under Jamvala forest range of Gir. Nearly 100 Asiatic lions are found on this belt, which will be in proximity to the proposed sites of the two projects. Industrial activities in the area will adversely affect the environment," said Bhikha.

He said he is yet to get all the details of the projects, but is still raising the issue, as the site selection process is already over.

He added: "I have to take forward the mission that my son started. He sacrificed his life for wildlife and environment conservation. Now I am doing my bit."

Bhikha is, however, not associated with the Gir Nature Youth Club (GNYC) founded by Amit. In a short span of few years, GNYC has successfully created awareness about wildlife and environment in Saurashtra.

"Amit's friends and associates are now running GNYC. I have decided to work alone," said Bhikha.

Amit (32) was shot dead from point blank range opposite the

Gujarat High Court in Ahmedabad on July 20, a few days after he had filed a PIL in the HC against alleged illegal mining activities in the periphery of Gir.

The Ahmedabad Crime Branch has arrested Pratap Solanki, nephew of Junagadh BJP MP Dinu Solanki in connection with the murder.

Plan fraught with perils

01-12-2010
Plan fraught with perils
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?Daily=TOIA&showST=true&login=default&pub=TOI&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&AW=1291194677453

The decision of the environment minister to release zoo-bred lions in the Wild of Kuno Palpur will not be a cake walk for forest authorities.

Experts feel that it will not be easy to implement the idea as it will pose a major challenge. However, officials from the state government said that the centre was trying to save itself as it has spent Rs 64 crore without any positive results.

Ravi Chellam, director, Wildlife and Biodiversity Research, Education and Conservation, and who has been awarded doctorate for his research on Asiatic lions, said, "One has to consider wild lions for such projects. Releasing zoo animals will have breeding and management issues. It will pose many difficulties. The lions from the zoo, if released in the wild, will have to deal with behavioural issues. This release would come with challenges."

However, a senior officer from the state forest department said that the central government is wishing to release zoo-bred animals because in Kuno Palpur, Rs 64 crore has already been spent and they don't have any results to show.

Former principal chief conservator of forest GA Patel said, "This is just an eye wash. This would be the first experiment in the country. This move is only to save their skin as they have spent Rs 64 crore and the result is zero. There have been objections by the Comptroller and Auditor General. This project is just an eye wash."

He also said that when the original plan was being formulated, the Gujarat government was not consulted.

"Keeping ground realities in mind before embarking on any wildlife project is essential to ensure its success," said Patel.

Kuno Palpur to get lions from zoos?

01-12-2010
Kuno Palpur to get lions from zoos?
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?Daily=TOIA&showST=true&login=default&pub=TOI&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&AW=1291194677453

The UPA government is adamant on having Asiatic lions in Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh, a state known for its tigers. The alternate habitat for lions will come up even if it means releasing zoo-bred lions in the wild, a move that has not gone down well with wildlife experts.

Union minister of forest and environment Jairam Ramesh told the Lok Sabha recently that the proposal to establish Kuno Palpur as an alternate Asiatic lion sanctuary was on. Replying to a question from south-central Mumbai MP Eknath Mahadeo Gaikwad on whether captive lions from Delhi and Hyderabad zoo were being relocated to Kuno Palpur, the minister said, "If the option for release of wild lions from Gujarat is not available, then release of zoo-bred Asiatic lions will be considered".

The MP government's request to part with Asiatic lions has already been accepted by the zoos from Delhi and Hyderabad and Bhopal. Expert on Asiatic lions Ravi Chellam says this would lead to a difficult situation because releasing zoobred lions will lead to behaviour and management issues where the tame beasts will have to be taught hunting. The Wildlife Institute of India had, in order to conserve the single isolated population of Asiatic lions, in collaboration with MoEF, initiated a habitat feasibility study.

It was then decided to have Kuno Palpur sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh as an alternate home for Gir lions and for release of wild lions from Gujarat. The matter is still pending in the Supreme Court over translocation of lions from Gujarat to Kuno. Gujarat has objected to the

Gir lion gets 262 cr from plan panel

01-12-2010
Gir lion gets 262 cr from plan panel
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?Daily=TOIA&showST=true&login=default&pub=TOI&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&AW=1291194677453

Centre Okays Funds For Greater Gir Project

The Planning Commission has approved Rs 262.36 crore to expand the home of the Asiatic lion in Gir, which is its only habitat in the world. The project, 'Greater Gir', was envisaged by Gujarat government for conservation of the Asiatic lion.

This was revealed by Union minister of forest and environment Jairam Ramesh in Lok Sabha recently. The funds would be released to the state government over a period of five years.

The project was taken up under the centrally sponsored Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH) scheme. Sources said since 90 per cent of the fund was to
be provided to the state, the Central government has requested the Planning Commission to make allocation for the same.

Replying to a question by Ahmedabad (east) MP Harin Pathak in the LS, Ramesh said Gujarat government had submitted a project for consolidating long-term conservation of Asiatic lion in the greater Gir region. The project was for Rs 236.17 crore. Ramesh said the forest ministry has requested the Planning Commission to provide additional funds under IDWH, which had been approved in principle.

This project will cover building of a protected lion corridor, tagging of lions, GPS mapping and creating sanctuaries in Palitana (Bhavnagar) and Barda Dungar (Porbandar), outside the 1400 sq km of Gir National Park, from where lions were seen moving out. The lion population now stands at 411.

Under the IDWH scheme, the Centre has provided assistance worth Rs 1.2 crore over the past two years. To another question, Ramesh said the relocation of 376 families and three forest villages from Gir Lion Reserve has been initiated. This is also part of the Rs 236.17-crore project.

After a string of poaching incidents in 2007, the state government not only focused its attention on Asiatic lion, but also prepared the Greater Gir project after observing that the beast was moving out of the sanctuary.

Lion roars will be heard at Rampur vidi(Rajkot District)

01-12-2010
Lion roars will be heard at Rampur vidi(Rajkot District)
Divya Bhaskar
Briely translated from Gujarati

Rampur near Vankaner about 30 kms from Rajkot, is first in world gene – pool for Gir lions. Since lion poaching in 2007, the project had caught up the seed. Most of the development work including cages, water points etc its already done. Only last stage of appointment of vaternary Doctor is yet to be doe. This is proposed to be done in one week's time. This means lions will be roaring at Rampara in one week! Cheers.

Illegal lion show at Vadal Bid near Savarkundala

01-12-2010
Illegal lion show at Vadal Bid near Savarkundala
Gujarat Samachar
Briefly translated from Gujarati

These days a mobile video clip showing a lion eating a cattle which is tied by its legs and pole is circulating in Savarkundla town. Forest department had received an application against one person alleging illegal lion shows. Department tried to catch the person but was unsuccessful.

Now a mobile clip circulating in the area has t forest department offials under pressure. The clip shows a lion trying to kill a calf tied by its leg and to the wooden post. Then a forest ike with two (so called) brave persons, who are not forest staff, with axe in hand try to scare lion away from the kill.

What should one conclude from this mobile clip? Are these kind of lion shows being done with the support of forest staff? This seriously needs and in-depth inquiry.

Gir Lions gains new territory

01-12-2010
Gir Lions gains new territory
Gujarat Samachar
Briefly translated from Gujarati

Since last four days a lion pair has been moving near Dhoraji. (Dhoraji is about 22 kms away from Girnar WLS). The pair first hunted on calf at Ukabhai's farm at Nani Parabdi village on Saturday pug marks of Lioness were seen on the site of kill. Then on Sunday, a bullock was killed at Arvindbhai's farm at Jamnavad pug marks of male lion were seen at this place. Finally yesterday morning a bufalloe was killed at Moti Kenal village of Dhoraji on Junagadh Road.

Forest department has put traps to catch the pair and bring them back to Girnar forest.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Relocation of 376 Families and 3 Forest Villages from Gir Lion Reserves

30-11-2010
Relocation of 376 Families and 3 Forest Villages from Gir Lion Reserves
PIB Press Release
http://pib.nic.in/release/release.asp?relid=67751

Preparatory measures for relocation including adequate publicity in local language have been undertaken for relocation of 376 families and 3 forest villages from Gir Lion Reserve. This has been informed by the Government of Gujarat to the Minuistry The Government of Gujarat has submitted a proposal titled 'A plan for consolidating long term conservation of Asiatic lions (Panthera leo persica) at the Greater Gir region including the Gir Protected Area System'. The proposal also includes a component for relocation of 376 families and 3 forest villages from Gir.

The Planning Commission has 'in principle' approved an amount of Rs.262.36 crores for a period of five years for this project proposal and suggested that financial assistance under the project may be met out of the ongoing scheme of 'Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats'. As the fund allocation under the scheme 'Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats' is meager, the project for lion could not be accommodated within this scheme.

This information was given by the Minister of State for Environment and Forests (independent charge) Shri Jairam Ramesh in a written reply to a question by Shri Natuji Halaji Thakor in Rajya Sabha today.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Guns out for maneater on the prowl

29-11-2010
Guns out for maneater on the prowl
Indian Express
http://www.indianexpress.com/news/Guns-out-for-maneater-on-the-prowl/717204/

Forest dept unleashes a 50-strong team of hunters, trackers with orders to shoot after leopard attacks kill 4 in villages near Surat

As panic gripped villagers in Mandvi and Mahuva taluka — four have died in leopard attacks in the last few months — forest officials have unleashed a 50-strong team of hunters, trackers, and lion experts from Gir to track and if necessary, shoot to kill the big cats that seem to have turned maneaters.

The foresters are trying to ascertain if it is a lone leopard, which is responsible for the four deaths.

Deputy Conservator of Forest A G Vasawa said, "We have launched a hunt. We have fired two rounds at one leopard who got injured but escaped in the standing crops of sugarcane. This is for the first time in south Gujarat that shoot-at-sight orders have been given by chief conservator of forests as the leopard seems to have turned a maneater. Similar order was given in the Panchmahals a few years ago when leopards killed eight persons in different villages. We are trying our best to catch them or shoot them."

Forest officials have also invited prince Yuvrajsinh Bhagirathsinh of Utera village nearby Ahmedabad and one Mohammedbhai from Rander, both professional hunters, to kill the leopard.

On late Friday night, the team was able to spot a leopard just a kilometre away from Vareli village in Mandvi taluka. The officials fired two rounds. The big cat was injured and blood stains could be seen in the sugarcane fields. The team followed the trail but the leopard remained elusive.

On Saturday morning, forest officials rushed to Bhatkai village in Mandvi taluka after the village sarpanch informed them that the injured leopard had been trapped in the cage but officials said it was not the one responsible for the four deaths.

The team on the hunt comprises over 50 foresters, among them experts from Sasan Gir who deal with lions and lionesses. But experts said there is vast difference in the behaviuor of leopards and lions. Leopards, they said, are more alert and easily hide in the bushes, whereas lions often attack frontally.

On November 18, two young leopards were caught in a cage placed on the river banks, while another one was caught in a cage kept in sugarcane fields in Kamlapore village of Mandvi taluka. The third one, however, broke the cage somehow and escaped before forest officials could reach the spot. The other two, both nearly one-year-old, were taken to the local forest office and one of them died on Friday night.

The forest officials have installed over 25 cages in seven villages where pug marks of leopards were seen earlier.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lion-Leopard on the same kill!

23-11-2010
Lion-Leopard on the same kill!
Divya Bhaskar
Briefly translated from Gujarati

In an unusual event, a lion and a leopard were found eating one bullock at the same time!

This incidence happened on the outskirts of Khilawad village, on the boundry of eastern Gir Forest. A bullock was hunted by a lion. Farmers Himabhai Bhalada and Rasikbhai Padshala show this usual scene of their village while going to their farm. But in the afternoon the scene changed. They show the lion on one side and a leopard on the other side of the same bullock, enjoying the feast at the same time. This was unusual! Normally leopard is scared away by the lion and does'nt permit to share its prey even in absence. Two leopards do share their prey but not lion and leopard.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Asiatic lions to spend quieter evenings in Gir

22-11-2010
Asiatic lions to spend quieter evenings in Gir
Times of India
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?Daily=TOIA&showST=true&login=default&pub=TOI&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&AW=1290659344093

If you thought you could take a shortcut through the Gir forest and breach the king of the jungle's privacy in the night, here's some news for you. The forest department, in keeping with the safety of the wild cats, especially the females, has decided to ban entry of vehicles on all roads within the sanctuary after sunset.

Principal secretary (forest and environment) SK Nanda said there were several roads passing through the sanctuary.

These roads were open even after sunset, so we have decided to close all of them soon after darkness. He also said that several speed breakers have been constructed on the road connecting Sasan and Talala. These breakers have been constructed at regular intervals to ensure that people are not driving above 40 km per hour speed.

Nanda said that these measures are being taken by the forest department with a view to provide adequate safety to the animals and also give them safe passage. Usually, the speed at which animals cross the road in the night is less than that of the speeding vehicles. So, there is always a fear of accidents taking place. It was to provide extra security to the animals that the move to close the roads after sunset has been taken. However, in case of emergencies, there will be no restrictions.

Not just villagers, even heavy vehicles traverse on some of these stretches, making a rattling noise and leaving behind clouds of smoke. In the last couple of years, there has been an increase in the inflow of visitors in the protected habitat. The sanctuary is spread over nearly 1,500 sq km and houses 298 lions according to the last census. In all, there are 411 lions in the Gir and the surrounding areas.

The sanctuary had turned into a virtual thoroughfare connecting Junagadh and Amreli. Not just the Visavadar-Dhari stretch, there are some 10 roads passing through the sanctuary. At least 600 vehicles pass through the Una-Talala and Dhari-Una stretches in the Gir every day. The traffic is nonstop even at night.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Land prices shoot up; new hotels coming up

19-11-2010
Land prices shoot up; new hotels coming up
Times of India By Nayan Dave & Himanshu Kaushik
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/Land-prices-shoot-up-new-hotels-coming-up/articleshow/6949528.cms

The hopes of an increase in tourism activity in and around Sasan and Dhari areas have not only drawn the attention of businessmen for setting up five luxury hotels but also helped in doubling land prices in Dhari in the past few months.

In Sasan, Amitabh Bachchan's visit to the Gir sanctuary has drawn the attention of businessmen to tap possible flow of high-end tourists to the Asiatic lion's abode. Around five luxury hotel projects are on the anvil near the Gir forest.

In Dhari, the land prices have almost doubled as the state government has begun the process of setting up an interpretation centre on the lines of Devalia in the Ambardi area.

Officials said that the price of the land which was between Rs 1.5 lakh and Rs 3 lakh per bigah is now Rs 6-7 lakh. Sources said that towards the Dhari-Sarasia and Tulsishyam road, prices have suddenly increased. The government has recently begun the development of the Ambardi interpretation zone, which has raised hopes of increased tourism activity. Officials said that the number of those visiting Devalia was 1,35,200.

Meanwhile, the Amitabh impact can also be seen in Sasan. Developers are not only coming from within Gujarat but brands like Tata and Club Mahindra are amongst the few that want to extend their presence in the area. The Tata group is re-opening the 29-room 'Gir Lodge' with newly developed brand 'Gateway'. Tatas have taken a property on lease from Tourism Corporation of Gujarat (TCGL) way back in 1995. However, the hotel with picturesque view of Hiran River and the Vasadoor hills in Sasan is closed since a decade.

"Sasan is already a unique product and now it is powered by iconic brand Amitabh Bachchan. Asiatic lion safari, a world class product would boost high-end tourism in the region. Keeping this fact in mind, the decision to renovate the property has been taken. We plan to re-open the hotel before the end of March 2011," said PK Mohankumar, COO, The Gateway Hotel.

Club Mahindra has entered into a lease agreement with the promoters of Wonderland Resort that was commissioned last year. "The pact was inked immediately after the superstar completed shooting inside the forest last month," said a source at the three-star resort.

Rajkot-based Sanjayraj Group, with interests in real estate, hospitality and education, is also developing a five-star resort on 30 acres of land. "We are developing an eco-friendly theme-based resort at an estimated cost of Rs 30 crore (excluding land). The 100-room property is aimed at attracting high-end domestic as well as foreign tourists," said Indranil Rajguru, chairman of the company.

Another Rajkot -based realty company, Kotecha Group, is in the process of commissioning a four-star hotel in December this year. "The construction of the 30-room property started six months ago. Now we have decided to speed up the work to open the hotel in this tourist season itself," said Kishor Kotecha, director of the company.

Ahmedabad-based realty firm, Popular Group, is diversifying into hospitality to develop a five-star eco-friendly resort near Sasan on 30 acres of land. Nilay Patel, CEO of the group, said that the company is in the process of acquiring land.

Even the Gujarat government is in the process of creating a 'Little Africa', an eco-friendly resort in a bid to provide employment to youth of the African-origin Sidi community settled in the Saurashtra region. The theme-based resort to be developed on 25 acres of land would be promoted by global giant IBM. The tribal development department of the state government has entered into a tie-up with IBM India for the Rs 10 crore project (excluding land).

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tourism activities increase

17-11-2010
Tourism activities increase
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/Tourism-activities-increase/articleshow/6943745.cms

The hopes of a increase in the tourism activity in and around Sasan and Dhari area, has not only drawn the attention of the businessman for setting up five luxury hotel but towards Dhari the land prices have almost doubled in the past few months.

Reasons: Towards Sasan, the Hindi film Icon Amitabh Bachchan's visit to Gir Sanctuary has drawn attention of businessmen to tap possible flow of high-end tourists in the Asiatic Lion's abode. Around five luxury hotel projects are on the anvil near the Gir forest.

While towards, Dhari the land prices have almost doubled as the State Government has began the process of setting up an interpretation center on the lines of Devalia in Ambardi area.

Officials said that the prices of the land which were priced between 1.5 to tthree lakh per bigah was now priced at 6-7 lakhs. Sources said that towards the Dhari-Sarasia and Tulsishyam road the prices have suddenly increased. The Government has recently begun the development of the Ambardi interpretation zone which has raised hope of increased tourist activity. Officials said that the number of those visiting Devalia was 1,35,200.

Meanwhile the Amitabh impact can also be seen towards Sasan. The developers are not only from within Gujarat but brand like Tata and Club Mahindra are amongst the few to extend its presence in lion country. Tata group is re-opening 29-room 'Gir Lodge' with newly developed brand 'Gateway'. Tatas have taken a property on lease from Tourism Corporation of Gujarat (TCGL) way back in 1995. However, the hotel with picturesque view of Hiran River and the Vasadoor hills in Sasan is closed since a decade.

"Sasan is already a unique product and now it is powered by iconic brand Amitabh Bachchan. Asiatic Lion Safari, a world class product has been justified with the mega campaign, which would boost high-end tourism in the region. Looking to the fact, decision to renovate the property has been taken. We plan to re-open the hotel before the end of March 2011," said PK Mohankumar, COO The Gateway Hotel.

Club Mahindra has come into lease agreement with the promoters of Wonderland Resort that was commissioned only last year. The pact was inked immediately after the superstar completed shooting inside the forest last month," said a source active in the 3-star resort.

Rajkot based Sanjayraj Group, which is having interest in Real-estate, hospitality and education is also developing a 5-star category resort on 30 acres of land. "We are developing eco-friendly theme based resort at an estimated cost of Rs 30 crore (excluding land). The 100 room property is aimed at attracting high-end domestic as well as foreign tourists," said Indranil Rajguru, chairman of the company.

Another Rajkot based realty company Kotecha Group is in the process to commission a 4-star hotel in December this year. "Construction of 30 room property was kicked start six months back. Now we have decided to speed-up the work to open the hotel in this tourist season only," said Kishor Kotecha, director of the company.

Ahmedabad based realty firm Popular Group is diversifying into hospitality to develop 5-star eco-friendly resort near Sasan on 30 acres of land. Nilay Patel, CEO of the group said that the company is in the process of acquiring land.

Even Gujarat government is also in the process of creating 'Little Africa', an eco-friendly resort in a bid to provide employment to youth of the African-origin Sidi community settled in Saurashtra region. The theme-based resort to be developed on 25 acres of land would be promoted by global giant IBM. The tribal development department of the state government has entered into a tie-up with IBM India for the Rs. 10 crore project (excluding land).

Farmers have field day hosting 'sleep with lions' for tourists

17-11-2010

Farmers have field day hosting 'sleep with lions' for tourists

Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/Farmers-have-field-day-hosting-sleep-with-lions-for-tourists/articleshow/6943734.cms

Some tourists who did the Asiatic lion tour in Diwali took the Big B line - "Agar aap sher dil hai to rahiye sheron ke sath" - in the Gujarat tourism ad campaign, 'Khushboo Gujarat Ki,' very seriously. These bravehearts who ventured into the heavily-packed Gir in the Diwali vacations were forced to spend the nights in the open fields in make shift tents, right in the den of the jungle king.

With the tourism infrastructure unable to cope with the tourist traffic, local farmers set up makeshift tents in their fields and let them out to make a quick buck. These tents were all over the field on a 10 to 15 km stretch between Sasan and Talala. Each of these tents were available for Rs 500-1000 per night, depending on what facilities one asked for.

A senior forest officer admitted that the proposition was fraught with risk as tents were set up exactly where wild animals, especially big cats prowled at nights. However, the forest department was not in a position to do anything, as fields were in the revenue area.

Also, since these tents were in private fields there prerequisite permission was not required. Officials said that Sasan Gir could host over 5000 guests daily, but the room capacity in Gir was barely of 400 beds. Of these, around 200 beds were in good hotels, while the rest were in shabby places and even these were occupied.

This year, Gir, between November 4 and November 13, saw over 33,000 tourists who took the lion safari. However, this figure was almost double as several people chose to visit Devaliya park after failing to get permits for Gir.

Officials said that beat guards networked with farmers to set up these tents and entered into a business partnership with them where they got a commission for every tourist they recommended for these farm stays.

A farmer refusing to be identified said the villagers had set up over 20 tents, and from November 6 to15 all these tents were booked. He said that the guests were warned that they would only get tents to sleep in and no other services would be available.

Another beat guard said that he had earned around Rs 20,000 through this network. He had partnered with a farmer and had taken tourist who could not find accommodation and got 30 per cent of what the farmer earned. He said that they had around 10 tents in one field and another 10 in nearby field.

State tourism minister Jaynarayan Vyas admits that tourism facilities are lacking in the state. "Tourism was no where in the focus in the past. It was only before three years that the tourism was given its due weightage. This is a service sector and one has to constantly go in for upgradation of the facilities," he said.

Gir locals offer instant homestays to meet tourist rush

17-11-2010
Gir locals offer instant homestays to meet tourist rush
Times of India By Himashu Kaushik
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/Gir-locals-offer-instant-homestays-to-meet-tourist-rush/articleshow/6943736.cms

Archana Khatau came with her family of seven from Indore to tour Gujarat. They failed to get accommodation at Somnath so they headed for Gir, having seen the ads promising tents and rooms.

But when they reached Gir, everything was packed. Till they met Rameshbhai, a local resident who had a bed and breakfast plan ready for them. He let out two rooms of his house for Rs 1,000 a night, after cleaning up the bathrooms and replacing the bed linen. "It was a nice experience to stay in the homes. The locals were too cordial and provided us the facility which matched with the hotels here."

Like Rameshbhai, many beat guards tied up with cab drivers to set up bed and breakfast facilities, anticipating a rush, following the promos featuring brand ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. For instance, a two-storey house just opposite Sinh Sadan, the official guest house of the forest department in Gir, hosted 10 families.

The local residents, sensing the lack of infrastructure at the most sought after destination during the festive season, decided to make some fast cash and hence they rented out portion of their houses to tourists.

At least six to seven locals including a couple of taxi operators, forest guides and beat guards had converted their residences illegally into guest houses. Rameshbhai told TOI, "We are a family of eight people and we decided to accommodate ourselves in one room and the other two were given to tourists." He said that their rates per night began at Rs 500. "But if they wanted a package with food, the charge was over Rs 1000, depending on the number of members," he said.

Rameshbhai's family, during the days they played host, were forced to change their own schedules to make their guests comfortable. "We used to get up early in the morning and finished our routine before the guests got out of their rooms. For those who wished, routine Gujarati food was served."

Mohammad Yusuf, a beat guard, too was among the hosts and let out rooms for Rs 1000 per night. Recalling an incident, he said, "South Indian Aditya Prakash from Chennai, who was staying here, said he wanted to eat Dhokla and we prepared it using the instant mixes available these days. We got it from the nearest town in Talala."

But for Vivek Nair, a resident of Bangalore, it was a horrifying night on Monday. "Failing to get rooms either in the homestays or hotels, we decided to stay in the tents. As the night passed by we could hear the roars of the lions which were so scary that we were afraid to even get out of the tents." He said he had two sleepless nights in the tents as he feared attack.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gir attracts 33K visitors, earns 42L during Diwali

16-11-2010
Gir attracts 33K visitors, earns 42L during Diwali
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/Gir-attracts-33K-visitors-earns-42L-during-Diwali/articleshow/6932246.cms

Call it the Bachchan effect or the Diwali rush, the Lion Conservation Society of the state government has managed to secure more funds for lion conservation this year. The Gir sanctuary and the Devaliya Interpretation Centre have recorded an income of around Rs 42 lakh in the last ten days alone.

This, an official said, is nearly 20 per cent of the total collection in the tourist season last year when the income from October 10, 2009, to May 15, 2010 was Rs 2.10 crore. Last year, a total of 2,05,592 tourists visited the Gir sanctuary during the season. But this year, between November 4 and November 13 alone, there were 33,222 visitors, said the official.

Deputy conservator of forest Sandeep Kumar said that all records were broken during this festive season. Till date, the highest income of Devaliya recorded in a single day was Rs 4,68,000, in early 2000. But this year, the highest income in a single day was Rs 5,39,250.

In Gir, Kumar said, the highest income was on November 9. This was Rs 1,75,200 from 1,752 tourists. The income of Gir National Park has never crossed the Rs 80,000 mark in the past. The average income per day in the past was around Rs 60,000-Rs 70,000.

In fact, senior officials in Gandhinagar said that the number of visitors, too, has gone up this year. In Gir sanctuary, at the national park, the number of foreign tourists has gone up by 25-30 per cent while in Devaliya it has gone up by nearly 30 per cent.

This year, after the Khushboo Gujarat Ki advertisement campaign featuring superstar Amitabh Bachchan, there was a demand to increase the number of permits, said Kumar. "The forest department identified two routes on which 30 vehicles could move at the same time and therefore the number of permits was increased from 90 to 150."

The income generated from the tourist was deposited with the Lion Conservation Society formed by the state government after the poaching incident in 2007. Government officials said the society takes up development work in the Gir region. This includes covering the wells, and ensuring that the officials and staff are well equipped, said the officer.

The officer also said that despite increasing the number of permits, there was a huge queue of visitors from 7 in the morning and many even had to return home without the permit.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Leopard Rescued from Open Well in Gir

13-11-2010
Leopard Rescued from Open Well in Gir
Divya Bhaskar
Briefly translated from Gujarati

Open Wells are death traps for wild animals, domestic animals and sometimes also for poor labours. There is an Open Well (Unprotected Well) In farm of Ramesh Bhura Baldaniya. A six year old leopard fell in to this well accidentally. RFO Visavadar said that leopard may have been running behind its prey and may have tallen into the Well. After six hours of hard efforts, it was rescued by the forest staff and primary treatments, it was freed in the forest. Visavadara area in western part of Gir forest.

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