Saturday, May 31, 2014

Lioness rescued from well

Lioness rescued from well
Business Standard

A lioness was rescued from a well near a village in Gir Somnath district this morning by a team of Gujarat Forest Department officials.

The lioness had fallen into the 60-feet deep well, which had very low water level, in a farmland in Girgidhda village, about 300 km from here.

The farmer who owns the field heard the trapped animal's roar and informed the Forest Department, which dispatched a rescue team.

"Our team rushed to the spot and rescued the lioness after a 90-minute operation," Anshuman Sharma, Deputy Conservator of Forest, told PTI by phone.

A large crowd had gathered at the spot to see the rescue operation.

A team of veterinary doctors was examining whether the animal had suffered any injury. The lioness will be released in the Gir forests once it is ascertained that the animal is fine, he said.

It was not known how she fell into the well. Usually, such incidents happen when a wild animal is chasing a prey, Sharma said.

Sasan Gir forest, a part of which also falls in Amreli district, is the last abode of Asiatic lions. As per the 2010 Census, the forest houses 411 lions.

This is the second such incident this week. On Thursday, forest officials rescued a two-month-old lion cub from a well near Moti-Barman village in Amreli.

Asiatic lion's abode set for Unesco leap

Asiatic lion's abode set for Unesco leap
The Times of India

The proposal for the World Heritage Site status for Gir and Girnar could make it the county's first to be on both cultural and nature site lists. The site houses the Asiatic Lion and also has several places like Girnar, Uparkot, Junagadh Caves and Ashok-era edicts.

The area has large number of ancient monuments including the Adi-Kadi Vav and Navghan Kuwo, Buddhist Caves and Ashok edicts and is the only place to have Asiatic lions. Girnar hills also have a sun temple.

The proposal for Gir and Girnar is ready and the final touches are being given before it's forwarded. This would probably be the first proposal from the country in the mixed category. Girnar hills are both nature and pilgrimage sites that have several cultural heritage along with several natural wonders such as vulture breeding grounds. The adjoining Gir forest is a national park and wildlife sanctuary.

The forest department is all set to submit the proposals for inclusion of the Great and Little Rann of Kutch (GRK and LRK) and Gir and Girnar in Unesco's World Heritage Sites list.

Both the proposals would have to be first cleared by the state's wildlife warden because they are protected areas under India's forest laws and then sent to the Union ministry of forest and environment, which will be then forward them to Unesco, the body that recognizes the site as such.

For the GRK and LRK the proposal will be sent in the natural heritage category of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. The GRK and LRK were already made it to the tentative list in 2010, however, last year the UNESCO body had sought some clarification from the Gujarat government and had asked to send the proposal afresh. The work was handed over to Gujarat Ecological Education and Research Foundation.

The department has formed a working group of six Indian Forest Service (IFS) officers, headed by the state wildlife warden. The IFS officials were asked to prepare the new proposal, bringing in Dholavira and the wild ass found in these area.

The Rann, considered the world's largest seasonal salty lagoon, is to be clubbed with the Little Rann of Kutch under the "natural heritage" criteria.

Meanwhile, the Historic city of Ahmedabad, Dholavira in Kutch, Patan's Rani ki Vav stepwell and the wild ass sanctuary in the Little Rann of Kutch are on the list of tentative heritage sites. The Vav is all set to be declared as the World Heritage site in June.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Herbivore numbers in Gir up 6.48%

Herbivore numbers in Gir up 6.48%
The Times of India

The number of herbivorous animals in the Gir wildlife sanctuary increased by 6.48% in the last one year. This was revealed during the herbivore count conducted by the forest department recently in the Gir sanctuary. If the figures for the last five years are considered, the number of herbivores in Gir has almost doubled, said officials

The count had revealed that there are 79,289 herbivores in the sanctuary including Chital, Sambhar, Nilgai, Chausingha, Wildboar and Chinkara. Officials said Chausinha and Chinkara numbers had not increased as expected. In the year 2009-10, there were only 38,953 herbivorous animals in Gir. Forest department officials said that the density of the prey base for Asiatic lions was around 79 animals per sq km in the sanctuary where lions were found over 1000 sq km out of the total 1412 sq km area of the sanctuary.

Officials said that the growth in number of herbivores in the last one year was around 6.48%, which is lower than the growth in 2012-13. In 2012-13, the number of herbivores had increased by 38%. Their number in 2011-12 was 53,873 which had jumped to 74,455 animals in 2012-13.

According to officials, the herbivore count just completed had revealed that there were 23,326 langoors. This was contrary to the claim made by the Madhya Pradesh in the Supreme Court. The expert group had submitted in the apex court that that there were no langoors or peafowl in the Gir Sanctuary. According to forest officials, the number of chitals has increased from 32,155 in the year 2009-10 to 63,306 in the year 2013-14.

The growth in the number of Chausingha was not satisfactory, said officials. In fact, except for the year 2012-13, their number had been falling steadily over the last five years. Chausingha numbers had fallen from 1165 in 2009-10 to 756 this year.

Official said this was the first time that the herbivore count had been conducted over 22,000 sq km area where lions were found. Scat analysis had revealed that lions were present over around 10,000 sq km in 2010 and had not spread over an area of 22,000 sq km. Officials said that the herbivore count for Gir sanctuary had been completed while it was still being conducted in other areas.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Skin, hair, bones of suspected lion found near Visavadar

Skin, hair, bones of suspected lion found near Visavadar
The Times of India

The Junagadh forest department has swung into action after skin, hair and bones suspected to be that of an Asiatic lion were found at a farm in Visavadar taluka on Sunday.

Arvind Gondaliya, a farmer, spotted the skin and hair in a farm near Muni Ashram around 3 pm and sounded off the department. The area from where the skin was found is located near Mandariya village, some three km from Visavadar.

Forest department officials rushed to the spot and seized wild animal's skin and hair. It has been sent for laboratory test at Sasan Gir.

Officials have launched a search for the carcass believing that the wild animal may have died a few days ago.

"The skin and other carcass will be taken to Sasan Gir for micro analysis and sent for forensic test to ascertain whether the remains are of lion or not,'' said Sandeep Kumar, deputy conservator of forests, Gir National Park and Sanctuary, Sasan-Gir.

Senior forest officials said they are investigating all aspects, including poaching, in this case.

"We can't rule out anything at this stage and investigating all the aspects. In some cases, lion die due to electrocution and farmer dispose of the body somewhere else and the skins and bones are found scattered," said a senior forest official.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

With Modi at helm, Madhya Pradesh's hope of getting Gir lions fades

With Modi at helm, Madhya Pradesh's hope of getting Gir lions fades
The Times of India

After Narendra Modi, proud custodian of Gir lions, moved from Gandhi Nagar to the helm at Delhi, Madhya Pradesh's hopes of getting the magnificent species on its land have faded.

While Gujarat government has already moved a curative petition in Supreme Court as its last legal resort to retain its Asiatic lions, speculations are rife in Madhya Pradesh that National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) might reconsider its earlier recommendations once Modi takes charge as chairman. The Prime Minister is the ex-officio chairman of the board.

During former PM Manmohan Singh's tenure, NBWL had opposed Gujarat government's plea in Supreme Court. And the wildlife board's recommendation had a significant role in Supreme Court's April 15 verdict on shifting lions to MP in six months.

Moved by criticism, Modi had even got a review petition filed to stop transfer of the pride of lions to MP. This was also dismissed. Filing a curative petition was last legal resort left with Gujarat, said sources.

But in another blow to MP's hopes, two Gujarat-based NGOs have filed separate petitions challenging translocation of lions to Kuno.

First, a writ petition was filed by Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT), a Rajkot-based NGO, which claimed that certain facts were not brought to notice of Supreme Court. This petition was admitted in February. Last week, Supreme Court sent a notice to MP government to respond within a month.

Another was filed this month by Ahmedabad-based Priyavrat Gadhvi - a bio-technologist and member of the Gujarat State Wildlife Board. He claimed the Supreme Court was kept in dark on the importance of Madhya Pradesh's Kuno-Palpur sanctuary as an important natural corridor for tiger dispersal. Gadhvi said Kuno is a migration corridor for tigers of the Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan to Madhav National park in MP. The petition has been admitted, but is yet to come up for hearing.

MP's chief wildlife warden Narendra Kumar said, "We will submit our reply soon to the court notice on Rajkot-based NGO's petition." Another plea is yet to come for hearing, he told TOI. He refused to comment on speculations about Modi's role as NBWL's chairman.

State forest minister Gauri Shankar Shejwar said it would be too early to jump on any conclusion. "It's a process which will take time. Matter will be discussed after Modi's oath," he said.

Tiger state crouching to leap on Gujarat ka Sher

Tiger state crouching to leap on Gujarat ka Sher
The Times of India

For Narendra Modi, hailed by his admirers as 'Gujarat ka Sher', lion is more than an emblem for tourism iconography. He uses the royal animals, found nowhere else in India, as a providential bequest to lionize the people of the state.

Indeed, Gujarat is intensely proud of Asiatic lions of Gir, the sole abode of the beast on the planet. That pride gives ammo to the Gujarat government for its battle with BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, which is seeking the translocation of a set of lions from Gir under a centrally sponsored scheme.

MP, which wants to accommodate the lions in Kuno-Palpur, was buoyed by the Supreme Court's verdict on April 15, 2013, which cleared the translocation. Subsequently, Gujarat filed a review petition in the apex court; two more such petitions have been submitted to the court by NGOs based in Gujarat.

But the question is: will Modi, after he is sworn in as the PM, show some magnanimity to MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan? An expert group has recommended that 12 lions be initially translocated to MP and, over five years, 46 be moved. According to a 2010 census, Gujarat had 411 lions. The unofficial count today is around 500 as the lion conquers new territories.

Experts surmised that the growth in population would lead to lions straying outside the park boundary, enhancing the risk of conflicts with humans. And since Gir is the solitary home in the wild for the species, some experts felt that the lions faced the threat of extinction if catastrophe struck.

However, Gujarat has been arguing that the expanse over which the lions rule - 20,000 sq km - is so large that any catastrophe is unlikely to wipe out the whole species.

An imponderable in the equations drawn by scientists is the Modi-Chouhan relationship, which has been stiff in recent times. On the day the SC delivered its 2013 order, Chouhan welcomed the verdict. Almost a year later, in the thick of canvassing wars, Chouhan suggested that he was Modi's equal. Also, L K Advani's aborted bid to flee Gandhinagar and contest from Bhopal had Chouhan's backing.

At any rate, as the PM, Modi's choices in the translocation tussle will become more complex than they were when he was the CM. The PM is the ex officio chairman of the National Board of Wildlife (NBW), the main national authority concerned with the preservation of fauna. He will have two options: to let courts take the final call or to direct the NBW to review the project. Kuno-Palpur is sandwiched between Rathambore Tiger National Park in Rajasthan and Madav National Park in MP. Some experts believe that Kuno, which is in the corridor of movement for tigers, should be preserved as a tiger reserve. Besides, Kuno-Palpur is a problematic choice as the new home for lions because of its has a deadly gun culture spilling in from the Chambal Valley.

The lion, in the meantime, is drawing admirers to Gujarat from all over. The 'Khushboo Gujarat Ki' campaign featuring the Big B, launched in October 2010, brought a deluge of tourists to Gir. In 2010, 1.29 lakh tourists visited Gir. According to 2013-2014 data, 4.5 lakh visited Gir. Lions then became a cause celebre, spurring MP to aggressively follow up on the case in the apex court. Soon, UP too joined the lion-acquisition hunt. Just three days after taking over as the UP CM in March 2012, Akhilesh Yadav announced the revival of the dream of his father, Mulayam Singh, to set up a lion safari in his state. Since 'Gujarat ka Sher' is coming to power at the Centre, interesting times lie ahead for the lions of Gujarat and tigers of MP.

Artificial water supply for big cats in Gir forest

Artificial water supply for big cats in Gir forest
Business Standard

Water supply to 51 artificial water 'points' in the Gir forest has begun from last week to help Asiatic lions and other animals quench their thirst in the scorching summer, a senior forest official said today.

There are 50-60 Asiatic lions in the east region of the forest.

The 51 artificial water points are located in the arid Tulsishyam, Tarasiya and Savarkundla regions in East division (Dhari) of the forest where there is no availability of natural water. Therefore, the supply is being done by tankers, Deputy Conservator, Gir forest (East Division, Dhari) Anshuman Sharma said here today.

There are a total of 180 artificial water points in the 728 sq km eastern Dhari division of the Gir forest.

There is no need to supply water daily to the artificial water points located in the vicinity of Machhundri and Raval rivers, separating east division from west division in Dhari range, he said.

"As there is good flow of water in the rivers passing through the Dhari range during this season, the lions prefer to quench their thirst with river water," he said.

"However, we ensure that all the artificial water points, whether they are located in remote forest areas or near the rivers, are filled with water," Sharma said.

Water pumping wind mills have also been set up in the remote areas to help keep the artificial water points filled during peak summers, he added.

Another Asiatic lion pair shifted to Safari

Another Asiatic lion pair shifted to Safari
The Times of India

The pair of Asiatic lions housed in Kanpur Zoo will soon be shifted to the breeding centre of Lion Safari in Etawah.

Earlier, a pair of Asiatic lions was shifted to Lion Safari in Etawah from the Lucknow Zoo in April. Prior to that, eight lions (four males, four females) were brought from Gujarat's Junagadh and Hyderabad zoos under animal exchange programme.

A wildlife official said on Tuesday that senior authorities had recently called Kanpur Zoo and Lion Safari officials to the state capital to discuss the further course of strategy of shifting another pair of Asiatic lions to Etawah.

Wildlife warden Gurmeet Singh said, "We are planning to bring in another pair of Asiatic lions to Lion Safari. We will transport these animals by road. The pair will be housed separately like the earlier pair of Manan and Kumari at the breeding centre so that it could adjust in the new environment. Manan and Kumari, arriving in April, are behaving normally. Both are being fed nearly 15-20 kg of meat daily, besides we give them plenty of water. The two are kept in separate enclosures at the breeding centre."

In addition, the Lion Safari is also planning to bring in more wild animals, for which authorities had planned of shifting of few elephants, leopards, wolves and ostriches, after being approved by the Central Zoo Authority.

"Sitting in a vehicle, one will soon be able to share space with Asiatic lions, elephants, leopards, wolves and ostriches roaming in the safari. Also separate enclosure would be constructed for monkeys at the safari. At present, the Fisher Forest area, where Lion safari is coming up, has wild animals like antelopes (neelgai), sambhar deer, jackal and peacocks," added an official. The safari will give nature lovers in Etawah, Mainpuri, Auraiya, Agra, Kanpur Dehat, Kanpur and surrounding areas a chance to see animals in the wild.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Leopard dies in road accident near Kodinar

Leopard dies in road accident near Kodinar
The Times of India

 A four-year-old male leopard died in road accident on Una-Kodinar coastal highway late on Saturday.

Sources said that the leopard was hit by a speeding vehicle when it was crossing the road. Jamwala forest range officials rushed to the spot after the incident.

Sources said that there are good number of leopards in this area and they often come out on the road. However, this was the first incident in which a leopard has died in a road accident.

Earlier, two lions were killed in separate incidents when they were hit by vehicles on Bhavnagar-Somnath coastal highway last month.

Leopard run over in Guj

Leopard run over in Guj
Business Standard

A leopard was run over by a

vehicle on Kodinar-Una state highway near Kodinar village in Junagadh district, forest officials said today.

The incident occurred last night when the big cat was apparently crossing the road after straying out of the forest. when it was knocked down, said Deputy Conservator of Forest (Junagadh district) Ramesh Kumar.

The leopard was a eight-year-old male, he said.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

UK’s Varakas Group to build resorts in Gujarat

UK's Varakas Group to build resorts in Gujarat

It seems that the fragrance of 'Khushbu Gujarat Ki' campaign led by actor Amitabh Bachchan to promote Gujarat Tourism has spread to overseas. A UK-based NRI investor is planning to invest in hospitality at tourist spots in Gujarat.

The NRI-owned £180-million Varakas Group Plc has announced its plans to create wildlife resorts at Sasan Gir, lion sanctuary in Saurashtra region and one at Kevadia on the banks of Narmada river in South Gujarat.

Listed on the stock exchanges in London, Varakas Group is promoted by Himmz Modha, a Gujarat-born UK resident.

The group has laid out ambitious plans for projects in Gujarat, Mumbai and Bengaluru along with setting up advisory operations for insolvency and asset reconstruction services.

"We are in the process of setting up a wildlife resort at Sasan Gir and another resort at Kevadia, near the Narmada dam. The other focus area will be advisory services for asset reconstruction and insolvency cases wherein the Varakas Group has global expertise," said Modha, a first generation entrepreneur and angel investor.

Outlining the group's development plans, Modha said, "We have identified several new and upcoming real estate projects in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Gujarat where the Varakas Group will invest. Our focus will be on commercial realty projects and we will invest directly, as well as by acquiring real estate companies in these cities."

The Group, employing 670 people worldwide established its presence in countries like the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Switzerland and India.

The group plans to create 100 jobs in the business advisory and asset restructure arm over the next couple of years.

Shifting lions bad for tiger too, says petition in SC

Shifting lions bad for tiger too, says petition in SC
The Times of India

A fresh petition filed in the Supreme Court suggests that the proposed translocation of Gir lions to Kuno-Palpur in Madhya Pradesh may harm tigers moving from Rajasthan to Madhya Pradesh. It also suggests that the arrival of the tiger in India may have been responsible for the decline in the population of Asiatic lions in the country. The petitioner, Priyvrat Gadhvi, who has been appointed member of the State Wildlife Board, has moved the Apex Court against the proposed translocation of Gir lions.

The petitioner has stated that the proposed translocation is not safe for either of the big cats as there is a strong possibility of lions coming into conflict with tigers. Scientific evidence of at least four tigers regularly using the natural corridor between Madhav National Park in MP and Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan has been submitted to the Apex Court. (Kuno-Palpur is sandwiched between these two sanctuaries.)

In the petition moved through lawyer, Nachiket Dave, Gadhvi has cited from scientific papers, photographs and various foreign authors, to establish that tigers from Madhav National Park pass through Kuno-Palpur wildlife sanctuary while going to Ranthambore National Park.

He has further stated that the Supreme Court has not been made fully aware of the importance of Kuno-Palpur wildlife sanctuary as a natural corridor for tigers and the volume of actual tiger movement in it. The petitioner even undertook a study tour from Ranthambore to Kuno and followed the pattern of tiger movement. He has also submitted a scientific study, 'Genetic Evidence of Tiger Population Structure and Migration within an Isolated and Fragmented Landscape in Northwest India,' done by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad.

The findings of the study reveal that the population and migration of Ranthamobore and Madhav National Park tigers have important implications for protection and management of this species in northwest India.

"We propose that substantial conservation efforts must focus on maintenance and improvement of connectivity between Ranthambore, Kuno-Palpur and Madhav National Parks. Since these forests are located in different states (Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan) of India, collaborative efforts should be made to protect this trans-boundary landscape," the study says.

Did tigers drive out Asiatic lions?

Gadhvi has further stated in his petition said that the Apex Court has not been fully informed about the co-existence of tiger and lion. Due to the lack of overlapping territories, there isn't much evidence to throw light on the interaction between the two big cats. However, several noted naturalists have suggested that tigers may have contributed to the decline of Asiatic Lions in India, the petition states.

Apart from quoting Indian writers, Gadhvi has also cited several foreign authors. Kenneth Anderson, author of 'The Call of the Man-Eater', had noted in 1961 that the tiger had originally come down from the north -from Siberia and Manchuria. "The lion slowly began to lose ground before that more active animal," Anderson had stated.

Gadhvi's petition further states that, in 1965, Richard Perry in his book, 'The World of the Tiger', had stated: "If tigers arrived in India later than lions, as is possible, then there is every probability that they were the containing factor." Further, Jack Denton Scott in his book 'Speaking Wildly' states: "Often larger and stronger than the lion, the tiger is credited with driving it from India."

The petition has also annexed a painting of lion-tiger conflict painted in the 18th and 19th century.

Gujarat files fresh plea against translocation of Asiatic lions

Gujarat files fresh plea against translocation of Asiatic lions

A new petition filed in the Supreme Court has opposed the translocation of Asiatic Lions to the Kuno-Palpur Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh on the grounds that the sanctuary is a migration corridor for the tigers of the Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan to Madhav National park in MP.

It should be noted that the petition — which has been admitted but is yet to come up for hearing — says that this aspect of the Kuno-Palpur Sanctuary, being used as a migration corridor by the tigers, could end up endangering the feasibility of the translocation of some Gir lions.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had on February 2014 admitted a writ petition demanding a review of its April 2013 judgment that ordered the translocation of Asiatic Lions. The writ petition filed by Wildlife Conservation Trust, a Rajkot-based NGO, had claimed that certain facts were not brought to the notice of the Supreme Court.

The recent petition is filed by Priyavrat Gadhvi — a bio-technologist based in Ahmedabad and a member of the State Wildlife Board. Talking about the petition, Gadhvi said that the Supreme Court had not been made aware of the importance of Kuno-Palpur Sanctuary as an important natural corridor for tiger dispersal and the actual volume of tiger movement.

"Earlier when a tiger was found close to the Kuno-Palpur Sanctuary it was dismissed as a stray incident. But now, there are scientific studies including a report by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, to prove that Kuno-Palpur is an important tiger migration corridor," said Gadhvi.

He said that the 2012 report by CCMB clearly states that there is a healthy gene-flow between Tigers of Ranthambore National park and Madhav National park in Madhya Pradesh. "The team used DNA analysis from scat-samples (excreta) obtained from Ranthambore National park, Kuno-Palpur sanctuary and Madhav National Park to establish the fact that there was movement of tigers via Kuno-Palpur," said Gadhvi.

The other argument in the petition is the historic evidence that the two big cats cannot co-exist. "In my research I found the opinion of many renowned naturalists who had in the past written about tigers being the reason for restriction of lion territory in India which never went south of the Narmada river." said Gadhvi, who is being represented by Nachiket Dave.

This concept of reintroduction will endanger both lions and tigers, he added.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Annual census of herbivores begins in Gir forest

Annual census of herbivores begins in Gir forest
Business Standard

A two-day annual census of herbivores in Gir forest and national park began today to ascertain the exact population of these species.

Greater Gir, spread across Junagadh, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts of Gujarat, is the only habitat of sub-species of Asiatic lions.

"A total of about 50 teams of officials have fanned out on 19 routes, imaginary divisions have been identified in the national park and protected forests of Gir to assess the exact number of herbivores," Gir's deputy conservator of forest Sandeep Kumar told PTI here today.

The members of each team travel in the area to get an idea of the total number of herbivores in the sanctuary. The counting happens two times a day, he said.

The exercise covers survey of ungulates like spotted deer, sambar, blue bulls or roj, four-horned antelope, Indian Gazelle (chinkara), wild boars and langurs. Peacocks too would be counted during the exercise.

"We undertake this exercise every year to monitor the population of these animals," Kumar said, adding that since peacock is the national bird, they have included it in the census every year.

Lions prey on ungulates and a healthy population of the latter in Gir forests is cited to be one of the reasons why the big cats have survived there.

Around 75,000 ungulates were recorded in Gir during the 2013 census.

Fresh prey-density estimate must before shifting Gir lions: Gujarat

Fresh prey-density estimate must before shifting Gir lions: Gujarat
The Times of India

Gujarat has reiterated that the proposed translocation of Gir lions to Kuno Palpur be based strictly on the new guidelines of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Gujarat has also demanded that Madhya Pradesh conduct an estimate of prey base density over a larger area than over only 350 sq km. Officials of the Gujarat government said that Madhya Pradesh has been pushing the prey base count done over only 314 sq km when it plans to release lions over 700 sq km area.

The state made these suggestions at the third meeting of the expert group formed to look into the translocation of lions to Kuno Palpur held on April 29, a day before the Lok Sabha elections in Gujarat. During the meeting, the action plan prepared by experts Ravi Chellam and Y V Jhala was discussed at length.

It may be recalled that the expert group of 12 members was formed following the Supreme Court order giving the go-ahead for translocation of lions to Kuno.

Sources said that Madhya Pradesh has once again demanded central assistance for the project and for conservation of lions in the area. At the meeting held on April 29, an official of the Gujarat government objected to the action plan and said that the apex court, in its April 15, 2013 order, had clearly stated that shifting of lions to Kuno should be based on IUCN guidelines, the sources said.

The new guidelines list a series of studies which have to be undertaken before translocation of the big cats is carried out. The Gujarat government objected that the proposed action plan does not mention the studies that have to be undertaken under the new guidelines, the sources said.

Some members of the expert group even raised objections to the question of another member who said that Gujarat had surplus lions and some should be translocated to Kuno. Several experts along with officials from Gujarat objected to the use of the word, 'surplus'.

The action plan also recommends that the process of translocation should begin by shifting a dozen big cats from Gir to Madhya Pradesh. It has suggested that, in all, 30-40 animals from the wild be translocated to Kuno over a period of time.

Govt seeks SC nod for cheetah project

Govt seeks SC nod for cheetah project
The Indian Express

A year after the Supreme Court stalled its ambitious cheetah re-introduction project, the government moved the court yet again on Wednesday with an assertive petition to let them go ahead with the plan in the interest of wildlife conservation.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), under the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), filed a fresh plea, demanding a reconsideration of the court's order on April 15, 2013.

By this order, the court had quashed the MoEF's decision to introduce African cheetahs in Kuno Palpur sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, after noting no detailed study had been conducted before introducing a foreign species to India and the designated expert body had also not been consulted. The project initiated by the MoEF in 2010 aimed to bring the cheetah, which became extinct from India's forests in 1952, back to the country.

Asking for a recall of this order, the NTCA disputed the court's observations and claimed that wildlife agencies had carried out comprehensive studies and analysis of not only Kuno but other prospective areas where cheetah could be re-introduced.

"It is the only mammalian species to have gone extinct in peninsular India in historial times and bringing it back will have special significance for the national conservation ethic and ethos. Cheetah are likely to present the lowest level of conflict with human interests," said the petition, while adding that their re-introduction would help conservation of grasslands and open forests in the manner tiger conservation did.

Maintaining that Kuno was found to be most appropriate owing to improved habitat status after relocation of 24 villages, the MoEF cited historical accounts from the Mughal Empire, penned by historian Dr Irfan Habib, to claim that cheetah occupied areas in MP, making it a historial habitat for them.

The government also countered the court's findings that the proposal was not placed before the National Board for wildlife and further, it was not in conformity with international conventions. It said one of the members of the Board had in fact termed the re-introduction plan as the most exciting venture to happen in the wildlife conservation sector while no other member raised any objection.

The petition opposed court's observation, pointing out cheetah was not a foreign species. On the issue of its preparedness, the MoEF said that the National Wildlife Action Plan of 2002 did not mention this proposal since the techniques of re-introduction and rehabilitation of carnivores were not adequately developed at that point in time.

"It was only with the success of the reintroduction of the tiger in Sariska, Panna and elsewhere that the confidence of undertaking such endeavours emerged," said the plea, contending the programme was neither illegal nor arbitrary.

It also assured the court that this shall not be done at the cost of tiger conservation or of any other national park or sanctuary. The MoEF favoured importing cheetah from Southern Africa, saying this region would provide the best genetic stock, having the largest gene pool from which animals for re-introduction can be easily obtained.

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