Saturday, December 28, 2013

Decks cleared for shifting Gir lions to Palpur Kuno Sanctuary: MP Chief Minister

Decks cleared for shifting Gir lions to Palpur Kuno Sanctuary: MP Chief Minister
Travel Biz Monitor

Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh (MP), said that with the decision of the court, now decks were cleared for shifting Asian lions from Gir, Gujarat to Palpur Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, Shivpuri district, MP. This will be major attraction for tourists from all over the world, he said, instructing officials of the State Tourism Department to chalk out a comprehensive plan to get MP figured on International tourism map.

Chauhan was addressing a review meeting of the Culture and Tourism Department at Mantralaya. He said that there was need to focus on Khajuraho Dance Utsav, Bhagoria Utsav, and Tansen Samaroh and their marketing at international level. He said that global publicity about tourism should be done, as per a report in the Free Press Journal. Chauhan instructed officials to generate more employment in the field of tourism.

Giving Narmada- Kshipra Link Project as an example, Chauhan said that its confluence might be a tourist place. Madai and Palpur also might get their identity in the tourism sector globally. A golf course has been proposed for Sanchi and Khajuraho.

Gir’s lions will soon be in Palpur Kuno Sanctuary: CM

Gir's lions will soon be in Palpur Kuno Sanctuary: CM

Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan said that with the decision of court, now decks were cleared for shifting Asian lions from Gir, Gujarat to Palpur Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, Shivpuri district. This will be major attraction for the tourists from all over the world, he said, instructing officials of tourism department to chalk out comprehensive plan to get MP figured on International tourism map.

He was addressing a review meeting of culture and tourism department at Matralaya on Thursday.He said that there was need to focus on Khajuraho dance utsav, Bhagoria Utsav, Tansen Samaroh and their marketing at International level. He said that global publicity about tourism should be done.

Chauhan instructed officials to generate more employment in the field of tourism. Madhya Pradesh has its specialties' about culture, natural and spirituality and their publicity at global level should be done.

Giving Narmada- Kshipra Link Project as example, Chauhan said that its confluence might be a tourist place. Madai and Palpur also might get their identity in tourism sector at global map. Golf course has been proposed for Sanchi and Khajuraho.

Tajmahal of Bhopal will also be given a face- lift without tempering its archelogical face. Floating restaurant will be opened at Atal Behari Regional Park, Indore. He also instructed to kick off tourist activities at Indira Sagar Island. He instructed to make Bharat Bhavan as global art centre.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Lion territory doubles in three years

Lion territory doubles in three years
The Times of India

The king of the jungle has conquered new territories. About one-third of theSaurashtra region has been marked as Asiatic lion-inhabited areas by the state forest department. A recent study based on frequent lion kills and compensation given to farmers says the big cats rule over a huge 20,000 sq km of area — almost double the 10,500 sq km recorded in the May 2010 census.

A detailed analysis reveals that there are about 1,500 villages in Saurashtra where lions regularly venture out to kill domestic as well as herbivorous animals. Most of these villages are located in Junagadh, Amreli and some even in Bhavnagar.

Experts say this is a result of good conversation efforts put in by the state government. The Gir national park and sanctuary is unable to contain the growing population of the lions — the numbers have consistently grown from 284 in 1990 to 304 (1995), 327 (2000), 359 (2005) and 411 according to the last census held in 2010. The first census of independent Gujarat state conducted in 1968 had put the lion population at 177.

The next census, due in 2015, will be carried out over an area of 20,000 sq km.

Forest department officials believe that out of 411 lions recorded in the last census, 114 have strayed into newer areas. Since the big cat can live close to friendly human habitations, it has even moved out of forest corridors where it feeds on domestic cattle.

Sandeep Kumar, deputy conservator of forests, who conducted the study, says, "The study does not take into account stray kills. We have identified areas where the lion presence has been continuous over longer periods."

Petition filed in SC against translocation

Petition filed in SC against translocation
Times of India

A Rajkot-based NGO Wildlife Conservation Trust – Rajkot has in a fresh petition moved the Supreme Court against the translocation of Lion to Kuno Palpur, Madhya Pradesh. The fresh petition demanded that the petition which is active in the conservation measures in the Gujarat state has tried to put forward several arguments before the expert committee formed by the order of the Supreme Court dated April 15 this year.

The petition submitted that the committee was bound by the directions given in the judgment and was not willing to hear any arguments against translocation.

The petitioner has also tried to raise a technical ground stating that the status of Asiatic Lion was not critically endangered but according to the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Lion has been listed as endangered species.

The trust has also tried to base its petition on the behaviour of the lion. The petitioner talks of a small pride can be just one female and her cubs, the largest can number up to 40, but the norm is around .

Accordingly, to order translocation without considering that pride behavior may only act as a counterproductive to their survival, the petitioner argued.
The petitioner NGO, who has been in the Gir for fencing the well and also several conservation programmes has not dealt upon the traditional points of poaching and prey base and gun culture which were raised by the Gujarat government in its review petition and even during the course of the argument.

The petitioner organization in fact has tried to play around on the animal behaviour and even the fact that the court has been misguided on the issue of status of Lion. The petitioner demanded that the Apex court should consider that the under Wildlife Protection Act, 1935 the Chief Wildlife Warden, the state government and Central government are appropriate authority to decide on the translocation of the any species.

The petition also demanded that the court should direct that the recommendations of the National Board for Wildlife on matters relating totranslocation of any wild animal do not bind the Chief Wildlife Warden, the State Government and the Central Government. The petitioner also sought direction stating if translocation of any wild animal as defined in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, can be undertaken without the specific approval of the state and can be overruled by anybody body.

The petitioner has stated that the status of Asiatic Lion was not critically endangered

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

PIL in supreme by Wildlife Conservation Trust, Rajkot against translocation

PIL in supreme by Wildlife Conservation Trust, Rajkot against translocation
Print Edition

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Two pairs of Asiatic lions arrive at Lucknow Zoo

Two pairs of Asiatic lions arrive at Lucknow Zoo
The Times of India

Lucknow Zoo will receive two pairs of Asiatic Lions from the Sakkarbag Zoo in Gujarat for the upcoming Lion Safari in Etawah. Two pairs of lions (two males and two females) are expected to arrive by Saturday under an exchange programme with Sakkarbag Zoo in Junagadh.

Sources said that by the end of January, the four Asiatic Lions would be shifted to the breeding centre at Lion Safari in Etawah.

"We have one pair each of Asiatic lions at Lucknow and Kanpur Zoos that were procured from Hyderabad and Rajkot zoos." said director Lion Safari Gurmeet Singh. With these two pairs that we are getting from Sakkarbagh Zoo in Junagadh in Gujarat, total numbers of Asiatic lions we have procured so far for Lion Safari will reach eight. "By the end of January or in the first week of February, these royal beasts would be shifted to Lion Safari in Etawah," he said.

"At present, we are focussing on the construction work at the enclosures for the wild beasts at the breeding centre, besides the erection of nearly 8 kms of outer boundary wall and setting up of a power unit and a water tank at the Lion Safari in Fisher Forest area," he added.

Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and chief minister Akhilesh Yadav had visited Etawah on October 5, 2013 and took part in the last phase of the plantation drive at the Fisher Reserve Forest area where work on the Lion Safari is underway.

To give wild beasts a natural feel, nearly 1.5 lakhs saplings were planted on nearly 1,000 acres of land within the periphery of Lion Safari in Fisher Reserve Forest situated on Etawah-Gwalior national highway.

Once the facilities are in place, visitors can drive through a thoroughfare, spotting lions roaming in the safari. The safari riders will be provided caged vehicles and they will enjoy watching wild animals roaming in the open.

Meanwhile, minister of state for zoos Shiv Pratap Yadav, principal secretary, forests and environment VN Garg and principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) Rupak De, had visited London Zoo and Longleat Safari Park in England where safaris are developed.

Sources said that the safari will be developed on the pattern of London's Longleat Safari Park. The state machinery plans to develop enclosures for other wild animals such as elephants, tigers, cheetahs and zebras close to it, on the lines of the London's Park.

Some 150.83 hectares of land in Fisher Reserve Forest area was acquired and notified as lion safari in 2005.

However, it was shelved by the Mayawati government in 2007. It was again revived after Samajwadi Party came back to power in March 2012. The Union ministry of environment and forests had approved the master layout plan of the project in December 2012.

The state government had sanctioned Rs 89 crores for the Lion Safari project and authorized Uttar Pradesh Awas Vikas Parishad for the construction and execution work.

Uttar Pradesh gets four Gujarat lions for safari

Uttar Pradesh gets four Gujarat lions for safari
The Times of India

Two pairs of Asiatic lions (two male, two females) from Sakkarbaug Zoo, run by state forest department, will leave for Uttar Pradesh on Thursday.

The UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav had sought four lions from Gujarat government for UP's proposed safari park in Etawah.

According to sources, a UP government team is in Junagadh to transport the four lions and they will be moved on Thursday.

The lions will be used for breeding at the safari park in UP. The proposed safari in UP has an enclosed area and requisite approvals from the Central Zoo Authority.

According to an official, there are around 150 Asiatic lions outside Gujarat in various zoos in India and the world.

The proposed safari at Etawah was mooted in 2005. It is going to have a breeding progamme for Asiatic lions.

Some 150 hectares in Fisher Forest on the Etawah-Gwalior national highway was acquired and notified as Lion Safari in 2005. A breeding centre, veterinary hospital along with water-bodies and approach road is being constructed for the safari.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mumbai NGO roars against translocation of Gir lions from Gujarat to MP

Mumbai NGO roars against translocation of Gir lions from Gujarat to MP

Last month, Mumbai NGO Empower Foundation wrote to a panel created to study and chart out translocation of Asiatic lions from Gir sanctuary in Gujarat to Kuno Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, asking them to stay the trans-location till various issues are not resolved.

The NGO has cited more than 29 violations of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) guidelines and other points why the trans-location plan might be a failure. They highlighted MP's gun culture and rampant poaching that makes conditions adverse for lions.

"Madhya Pradesh constitutes about 50% of the world's tiger poaching besides the risky co-existence of the lion and tiger makes it unsuitable for trans-location...  Also, the expert panel does not consist of a lion specialist, only tiger experts. They should consult experts, maybe from Africa, to find out how lions might react to trans-location," says Jalpesh Mehta, founder of Empower Foundation who has also written to the IUCN and Maneka Gandhi, seeking  intervention.

The last census of 2010 recorded the population of Asiatic lions to 411. Earlier this year,  the Supreme Court directed the MoEF to take steps to reintroduce the Gir lions in Kuno. A report by two senior members of the expert panel raised concerns on trans-location over tolerance of local communities in Kuno to man-animal conflicts might be lesser than Gujarat.

Experts say it is important to avoid concentration of a species in one place to eliminate risk of extinction from epidemics and natural calamities. "It is important to have a small number placed in a different area... Kuno sanctuary was our best option from many others. What we need now is the Madhya Pradesh government to come forward with assurances on how it will prepare for trans-location. We'll discuss it at our next meeting," said AJT Johnsingh, member of the expert panel and veteran biologist.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A cop who hunted down hunters

A cop who hunted down hunters

dna gets talking to the joint director of CBI, Mumbai, and Colaba-resident, Keshav Kumar, on his exceptional feat in a unique poaching case at Gir.

Keshav Kumar speaking at Sanctuary Asia annual awards function.

It is said that the main job of a policeman is to serve and protect the citizens. But here is a policeman who has gone not one but a few hundred steps further. He managed to capture the poachers involved in the killing of 10 Asiatic Lions at Gir National Park in Gujarat. He recently won the Wildlife Service Award at the Sanctuary Asia Awards 2013, held last sunday, for it. Keshav Kumar, joint director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Mumbai, was the police officer in charge of investigating the incidence of poaching in 2007.

One of India's most respected police officers, his expertise lies in using forensic sciences and new age techniques and tools in criminal investigation. He received near perfect score for relevance, presentation, and content for the presentation he had given on "Convergence of Conventional Forensics and Wildlife Crime Investigation" to the Interpol's Wildlife Crime Division.
Kumar has also delivered a series of lectures at the National Police Academy, Gujarat High Court's Judicial Academy, the Rajasthan Police Academy and the Directorate of the Forensic Sciences and Laboratory in Gandhinagar. He was also presented the President's Police Medal in 2012 for his inspiring service to the nation.

It was due to Kumar's initiative that tools of conventional forensic sciences were used for the first time in India as far as wildlife crime is concerned. Kumar said, "I thought if we can solve murder cases with the help of conventional forensic sciences then why could we not use the same to track poachers. Earlier, as far as forensic in wildlife crime was concerned, it was related only to biology. The concept of using all the conventional methods of forensic, where physics, chemistry and pathology are also used, was new and more effective in tracking the crime."

At the outset of the investigation, Kumar had no knowledge about wildlife crime in India, although he had 23 years of experience solving conventional crimes. "Before I started my investigation I knew nothing about wildlife crime, therefore I took help from various wildlife crimes experts, wildlife NGOs and of course the forensic. When we examined the culprits' nails, lion blood was found on their nails. This was possible only because of polygraph and narco-analysis," said Kumar. He also added that it was the first ever case in India, where lions were hunted for trade.

"Tigers are usually the first preference as each part is highly valuable. But with tigers disappearing from national parks and forests, the poachers planned to hunt lions instead, also it is quite difficult to differentiate between the parts of the two species," clarified Kumar.

He also said that Belinda Wright, who heads the Wildlife Protection Society, gave him a very valuable piece of advice. "She told me to focus on the hazel-eyed Baheliyas, a tribal community of Madhya Pradesh, who specialised in poaching," said Kumar. In all, 37 poachers, who were from Madhya Pradesh, were convicted in the wildlife crime case. This is the highest number of poachers that have ever been convicted together for the same crime. The forensic method changed the way wildlife crimes were solved in India and gave a new dimension to it.

Kumar is one of the key persons responsible for the creation of the CID Wildlife Crime Cell and he continues to be relied upon by states across the country to help them solve crimes relating to wildlife. His methods and inputs have already raised the conviction rates as far as wildlife crimes are concerned and there is no doubt they will continue to increase further.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Gir named best protected area

Gir named best protected area
The Times of India

Gir Sanctuary has been recognized and awarded the best protected area by a Mumbai-based wildlife magazine.

The awards were instituted in 2000, to recognize and draw national attention to the contribution of individuals working for the protection of wildlife and natural habitats in India.

This year, among various categories, Gir sanctuary was awarded for the best protected sanctuary. Chief conservator of forests R L Meena received the award on behalf of Gujarat. C N Pandey, the principal chief conservator of forests said: "The award was a recognition of the conservation efforts of the state and especially the people of Saurashtra who have protected lions as their family. It was because of this conservation that the population of lions increased to 411 according to the 2010 census."

Officials said that talk of relocating Asiatic lions from Gir meet vehement protests from local maldharis. Despite the wild cats preying on nearly 6,000 domesticated animals in the forest, satellite areas and villages, locals consider the lions to be a part of their family. Gir forest was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1965 with the main area declared a national park. Gradually, more lion habitats in adjoining regions were also declared sanctuaries and ultimately Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary was created in 2007. Several ecological studies were also conducted to identify problems and prepare a conservation project. This was followed by implementation of the Gir Lion Sanctuary Project in 1973 to resettle maldharis.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Leopard kills five-year-old girl in Junagadh village

Leopard kills five-year-old girl in Junagadh village
The Times of India

A five-year-old girl was killed by leopard in Surva village in Talala taluka of Junagadh district on Thursday late night. According to forest officials, deceased has been identified as Rekha Vavariya, 5, a tribal girl from Madhya Pradesh. Deceased's brother Hiru (18) was also injured by leopard when he was asleep and he was refereed to hospital in Junagadh.

According to sources, the incident occurred on outskirt of Surva village where a tribal family from Madhya Pradesh was staying in the makeshift arrangement in the sugarcane farm.

"Leopard entered into the hut and killed the girl. Girl died on the spot while Hiru was injured by the wild animal'' said sources. Tribal family came here for work in sugarcane field as agricultural labourers.

Sources said that agricultural labourers, mostly tribals, have become victims of wild animals in Junagadh district as they stay mostly in open agricultural field and becomes easy target of wild animals during sugar cutting seasons and other agricultural operations.

Ahmedabad: Gir cats in the crosshairs of man and herbivores

Ahmedabad: Gir cats in the crosshairs of man and herbivores

Recent incidents of killing of lions show that they walked into a trap meant for nilgais and wild boars.

The arrest of two farmers in connection with the death of a lioness has exposed a bigger malaise plaguing the regions that the Asiatic lions call their home i.e., the rise in number of herbivores.

This trend is resulting in increasing man-animal conflict with the Asiatic lions turning out to be the accidental victims in the fight.

Activists and farmers say that nilgais and wild boars destroying standing crop is a genuine problem that farmers in the region are facing although both are unanimous in their opinion that the lions are just accidental victims and not the targets.

"I have seen farms that have been completely destroyed by these herbivores. It is then obvious that the farmers will do something to protect their farms and many resort to laying traps for nilgais and wild boars," said Dinesh Goswami, an activist.

He said that the farmers in fact prefer having lions or leopards near their fields. "This ensures that the herbivores stay away. But the cats are unwittingly getting caught in farmers' attempts to protect the crop," said Goswami.

He added that unlike cattle being attacked by lions, there is no compensation for farm produce that is destroyed by herbivores. "The nilgais are turning out to be a big menace. They can't be killed and their numbers are increasing. The farmers don't get compensated for their loss so they resort to laying traps," said Goswami.

It should be noted that the census in 2013 had shown 18% increase in herbivores in the Gir Sanctuary and National Park in the past three years. There was also a 25% rise in wild boar population.

Ukabhai Vasa — who belongs to Dhamraj village in Sutrapada taluka of Somnath district — said that they spend 25% of their income in securing their farms. "If you want to know the destruction these herbivores are causing you have to visit the farms at night. Farmers are spending their earnings installing solar lights, laying boundaries and hiring watchmen," said Vasa.

He said that even if the government managed to fence the forest area a lot of trouble could be avoided.

Sasan's 5 lion cubs alive after 6 months

Sasan's 5 lion cubs alive after 6 months
The Economic Times

It is not often that lion cubs born in the wild survive even six months. But Laxmi, the mother of five lion cubs born in Gir on May 17, 2013, again proved that she can risk her life to protect her offspring. An extra-protective mother who is three-years-and-seven-months-old herself, has been taking good care of her cubs.

Officials who are closely monitoring the growth of the five cubs say one of the cubs was weaker than the others. "Laxmi took extra care and ensured that she fed this cub separately so that the weak one gets additional milk. It was because of the extra care by their mother that all the cubs have survived this long," an official. The naming ceremony of the cubs took place in Sasan.

Ravi Chellam, an expert on big cats, says that a lioness giving birth to five cubs is itself something rare. "The overall survival rate to adulthood is 50%. The survival of five cubs for six months is also good. However, death of some cubs at an early age is required as Gir is overflowing with lions. This is required for healthy conservation," Chellam said.

Deputy conservator of forests, Sandeep Kumar, said that the mother goes to hunt a neelgai or cheetal once in a few days. "These five cubs have still not tried their hand at killing an animal. They are still too young for that," Kumar said.

He further said that the father of the cubs often visits the family once in a couple of days. He stays away most of the time as the Laxmi is trying to keep the father away. She is yet to encounter any nomadic lion as the forest department is also keeping close watch on the movement of the lioness. Kumar said that the three male cubs - Shardul, Yuvraj and Vanraj - tend to be more adventurous than Heer and Mallika, the female cubs. The three male cubs even try to chase small animals that happen to pass by, said Kumar.

Laxmi breaks lion taboo to save cub

On Wednesday, Laxmi again displayed her overprotective instincts when she swam across a rivulet to save Shardul, Yuvraj and Vanraj. Deputy conservator of forests, Sandeep Kumar, said on Wednesday that Laxmi, along with her five cubs, was talking a stroll when Shardul, Yuvraj and Vanraj walked over the causeway and crossed the rivulet. Unaware of this, Laxmi kept on moving. She soon realized that the three cubs were missing. She immediately gave a call and got the response from the other side of the rivulet. Without thinking for a second, the lioness jumped into the rivulet and walked through neckdeep water. She then took the three cubs and crossed the rivulet using the causeway. The other two cubs, Heer and Mallika, watched their mother swim to rescue their brothers.

H S Singh, a lion expert, says that usually lions avoid water. "They jump or swim only in rare circumstances when it is a question of survival," he said.

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