Friday, March 30, 2007

One more Asiatic Lioness falls into well; Rescued

Hello friends
Gujarat Samachar, Gujarati Daily has reported one more lioness falling into well on 29th March 2007.
Incidence happened at village Gundaran (Gir) of Talala taluka. A adult reproductive lioness of about 7 - 8 years fell in to baricadded well of farmer Kesarbhai Lakhabhai. It was chased by a male lion. The good thing is it was rescued by prompt action of forest department.
But still the moral of the story is "Open wells are death traps" and something needs to be done urgently.
Kishore Kotecha
Rajkot - Gujarat - India

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

ROPE Techniqe to keep wild elephants away from farm lands

Hi All


On 27th-28th Feb 07, I attended a symposium on 'Emerging Conservation Strategies of Endangered Species" in which one of the speaker was Winnie Kirru from Kenya. She is doing 'Man Animal Conflict' project at Amboseli Park in Kenya. The stress in her speech was on using simple techniques by use of local and cheap resources. Therein she mentioned using spices dipped ROPE Technique to keep elephants away from farm lands. This is dart cheap and effective compared to wire or wall barricading. Those who are interested in contacting her please write to me so that I can forward your email to her for further communication directly.


Kishore Kotecha

Rajkot Gujarat India

Big cat deaths? New body will soon have it well under control

Ahmedabad Newsline Dtd. 27-3-2007


Rajkot, March 26: WITH 25 big cats reportedly found drowned in blind wells inside Gir Sanctuary on an average every year, politicians across party lines, the district administration and the Forest Department have set aside ‘jurisdiction problems’ and joined hands to form ‘Sinh Bachao Samiti’ (Mission Save Lions) to address the issue. Up till now the Forest and the Revenue Department had been passing the responsibility buck citing jurisdiction issues when it came to covering up wells located inside the sanctuary or along its periphery.


Initiated by senior BJP leader Narsinh Padhiyar, and supported by the Congress, the informal group will be assisted in its task by the district administration including the Collectorate and District Development Officer along with the Forest Department. The SBS will conduct surveys, procure funds and undertake the job of ensuring wells are well covered or parapets constructed around them.


In an inaugural meeting on March 24, a steering committee was formed and assigned the task of building parapets around blind wells located inside and along the periphery of Gir Sanctuary. The meeting was chaired by Padhiyar. The committee, to which six MLAs from Junagadh and Amreli and two MPs from Junagadh have extended support, will be approaching the State and Central governments to raise funds for the same. The committee members will also approach individuals and groups, both within the country and overseas, for donations.


According to a survey conducted by the Forest Department in 2004, there are as many as 1,000 wells within the sanctuary and around 8,000 along its periphery. The number is likely to have gone up in the last three years. Most wells, some of which are as deep as 100 feet, do not have parapets and there have been a number of instances in the past where lions or their cubs have fallen into the well and drowned. In February, two cubs drowned after they were chased into the well. Last week, two more cubs fell into a well located in the area adjacent to the sanctuary in Amreli district. With Gir being the lone abode of the Asiatic lion in the country, the incidences have been a major cause for worry.


The Forest Department had constructed parapets at 700 wells dug and used by maldharis settled inside sanctuary area. However, a number of other wells were left uncovered and parapets not constructed due to ‘jurisdiction issues’ between the forest and the revenue departments.


“The issue has been hanging fire since years even as wells have been claiming lives of more and more lions,’’ said Padhiyar, adding, “We have spoken to six MLAs and two MPs, who represent three districts of Junagadh, Amreli and Bhavnagar, to provide us grants.’’


“Around Rs 10 crore is required to cover approximately 8,000 wells on the periphery of Gir (within a 6-km range),’’ said Junagadh District Collector Ashwini Kumar, adding, “As these wells belong to individuals, grants from MP and MLA funds meant for social welfare cannot be directly utilised. In this regard, the committee has decided to approach the State and the Central governments to provide 25 per cent of the grants for wildlife conservation’’

Sunday, March 25, 2007

One more trouble to Asiatic Lions from nobody but his devotees!

Mahant on hunger strike in Girnar, seeks transfer of local forest officer

Ahmedabad Newsline By: Sibte Husain Bukhari


Junagadh, March 24: While forest officialsgrappling with a who dunn it poaching case, are trying to seal at least half a dozen roads and highways passing through the Gir sanctuary to ensure safety of wildlife, they have one more problem at hand.


The priest of Bordevi temple located inside the Girnar forest is demanding ‘extra rights’ for himself as well as pilgrims and shepherds. When forest department declined citing dangers of allowing free access at all hours to pilgrims and shepherds, he has began a 48-hour hunger strike and demanded immediate transfer of local forest officer.


There is a long history of tussles between forest officers and religious heads in Girnar and Gir Sanctuary. While religious heads of temples located in the forest want more freedom, forest officials have a tough time keeping them and the stream of pilgrims and vehicles under control. Mahant of Bordevi temple, Ramcharandasis demanding `extraordinary’ rights for the temple which is located en-route the Girnar mountain in the middle of the dense Girnar forest, some 12 km from Junagadh city. “Mahant Ramcharandas is demanding that there should be free access to the road leading to the temple, hastle-free cattle grazing in forest area, and the right to use of river-sand and stones. The priest says these are the temple’s exclusive rights but we have declined,’’ a senior officer says. With VHP and BJP supporting Mahant, the forest department’s denial has sparked off a controversy.


Meanwhile deputy conservator of forest (Girnar range) S K Mehta said, “Following state’s direction road repair work en-route to parikrama is under progress. So entry of four wheelers has been restricted for now. Besides mahant has not approached us on this.”


Range forest officer (Girnar south range) B K Parmar whose transfer has been sought says giving in to the demands “is against forest protection and conservation rules and we cannot allow it”. On condition of anonymity, a forester said that during surprise checking surrounding temple, objectionable things including empty liquor bottles were found in the lion habitat.

Request for help in three Asiatic lionesses poaching case

Hello friends


Most of you are aware that three Asiatic lionesses are systematically poached in Gir forest around 27th- 28th Feb 2007.


I write this to seek information, guidance, comments or clue that any body can give to solve this case. The brief of incidence is as under.


In Gir, first time such poaching has happened where it appears that a professional gang (with the help local person/s) is involved. There are six traps found similar to those used in MP tiger poaching. Also at the same place full skins and intestines of all three are found. The place where these things are found is assumed to be place of poaching. But No bones or flesh or blood is found at this place. Forest department or CID has so far not found any concrete clue in the case. If you have specific query to understand case better, please feel free to write to me.


The information which I receive from any of you shall be passed on to investigation officer. If you wish to hide your identity I will do that for you or if you wish to give information directly to investigating officer I can send you his email address. But please  please help us solve the case. It is very much important otherwise this will transmit a wrong signal amongst poachers that Gir is no man’s land!


Also let me know if you know names of some experts / agencies / NGOs who have solved or helped to solve such poaching cases in past, in particularly tiger poaching cases. Similarly also let us any names of illigal wildlife traders or suspects or gangs that you know.




Kishore Kotecha

Rajkot – Gujarat - India

Mob: 0091 98240 62062

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Open wells turn fatal for Gir lions


Times of India By: Himanshu Kaushik


SASAN: It is a vicious circle in Gir the farmer digs a well to irrigate his crops, lions stray into fields in search of prey and water and fall prey to these wells. These are typical pits, over 100 feet deep, but without parapets, which turns them into a major hazard for the Asiatic lion.


Last month, two lion cubs were chased into a well. Last Saturday, two cubs accidentally fell into an open well in Dhari range and died. Forest officials say, at least eight adult lions and leopards were rescued from such wells, last year.


This should have provoked the authorities to do something, but the issue invariably gets mired in jurisdiction problems. Forest officials say they can do nothing about farmers digging such wells outside the sanctuary, because they are under the district collector's jurisdiction.


Alongside the road from Una to Jasadhar, there are several such open wells in fields which have no barricade either. Conservator of forest, Bharat Pathak says, "This is a costly affair,we have so far covered about 700 wells in Gir forest, but many well are still open."


According to him, the six-km radius of the sanctuary had about 8,000 open wells. Forest officials say that when these wells are dry, it is easy to rescue the big cats but not in winter when the water table rises, filling the wells.


A senior officer pleading anonymity, estimates there are at least 1,000 such wells (15 feet wide and 15 feet deep), which are not in fields, thus making it difficult to fix accountability. According to this officer, this did not amount to a criminal offence. Neither have any cases been registered by the district administration against anyone's wells becoming death traps for lions. Amreli collector M Shahid says, "The collector does not have powers. There should be better co-ordination between the forest department and government agencies. There should be an adequate policy to cover these wells".

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Gir also a thoroughfare!

Times of India By: Himanshu Kaushik Date: 20 March 2007


SASAN: If one has to travel from Visavadar to Talala in Junagadh district by a regular highway, one would have to go through Bilkha and Mendarda to reach Talala,which is at least 130 km away. Instead, people just drive through the Gir sanctuary, which reduces the total distance to 52 km.


The option may save travellers time and fuel, but it adds to the air and noise pollution of the Gir sanctuary, besides increasing the inflow of uncontrolled visitors to the protected habitat of the Asiatic lion. Welcome to the Gir sanctuary which, apart from becoming a happy hunting ground for lion killers, has also turned into a virtual thoroughfare connecting Junagadh and Amreli.


At least 500 vehicles pass through the Una-Talala or Dhari-Una road in Gir everyday. And there is no curbing this traffic, even after darkness.


The shrines located in the sanctuary also add to the lions' troubles. The Kankai Mata temple, Banej, Pataleshwar Mahadev and Tulsishyam are some of the religious spots inside Gir which are thronged by visitors. People even spend nights inside the sanctuary on certain religious occasions.


Forest officials said when night stay in the sanctuary was banned, there was a hue and cry, forcing them to permit camping during the day. However, people living in these shrines move about in the sanctuary unchecked, anytime of the day.


Officials fear that these relaxations could lead to Gir going the Sariska way, where tigers began disappearing. Former principal conservator of forests and member of the National Wildlife board, GA Patel says, "Sariska has a busy highway passing through the sanctuary which could have played a major role in the poaching of tigers."


Patel adds there is no political will to curb the traffic. "We are fighting a losing battle. Something should be done to save the big cats. There is need for some drastic measures." Additional principal chief conservator of forest Pradeep Khanna says the issue has been taken up at different levels and on several occasions. Forest minister Mangaldas Patel agrees some measures have to be taken to curb traffic.


The Roads through GIR

Visavadar – Sasan

Jamwada – Kankai

Jamwada – Banej

Una – Talala (24 Hours)

Jamwada – Dhari

Babariya – Patra – Banej

Junagadh – Talala

Haripur – Hirenwel

Dhari – Una via Tulsishya (24 Hours)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Mystery still prevails over how lionesses were poached


Times of India By-Himanshu Kaushik Dated 19-3-2007


BABARIYA RANGE (UNA): The question about 'how' the lionesses in this range of Gir Sanctuary were poached last month is intriguing for both — the investigators as well as the people living in the vicinity.


What has deepened the mystery over the poaching and subsequent skinning, ripping of claws and removing of bones from the carcasses, is the absence of blood at the spot.


The CID team investigating the case and forest department officials are eagerly awaiting the forensic science laboratory report, which they think would clear the air.


As far as the villagers living in the range are concerned, they are not ready to buy the theory that the three lionesses were killed in the Babariya range.


One of the local farmers, Chandresh Thakkar, who was the first to call Bharat Pathak, conservator of the forest, said, "When I reached the spot along with the forest team, we didn't find a single drop of blood. Usually a big animal has about 50 litre of blood."


A villager while echoing Thakkar's sentiments wondered


that if a trap was laid, where did it vanish. Moreover, if an animal is trapped, there should be footmarks of the animal trying to escape, whereas there were no such signs.

Barring some makeshift spears made out of wooden sticks, nothing else was found from the spot or nearby. This, villagers, said could not have been used to kill the lionesses. Also, such an attack would have made the big cats roar that could have been heard in a radius of three to four kilometre, which wasn't the case.


GA Patel, former principal conservator of forest, affirmed this. "It is a fact that a lion when injured or attacked would retaliate and would emit a typical sound signalling it was in pain."


The possibility of the lionesses having been shot, was also ruled out by experts, while officials said the big cats could have been poisoned.


Meanwhile, forest officials are sticking to their theory of this being handiwork of an international gang.


They also assume it could be a gang from Madhya Pradesh because bones, skulls and claws were taken away. These, according to officials, fetch a good price in the international market.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

More two Asiatic Lions died by falling into open well

2 more lion cubs found dead

Times of India – Net Edition By Himanshu Kaushik   Dated 18-3-2007


DHARI (GUJARAT): Two more lion cubs were found dead in an open well in Rabarika village on Saturday. This takes the total toll of cubs claimed by open wells, in the last three weeks, to four.


On February 24, two Asiatic lion cubs were chased into a well by a jeep. Forest officials had found tyre marks in the field, where the well was located in Dhari range.


The incident has added to the worries of the forest department, which is yet to get to the bottom of the poaching incident of March 3, where three lionesses were found dead without a trace of blood or bones on the scene of crime.


But authorities seem to be taking Saturday's loss quite casually. While they admit incidents like these are "bound to happen", they claim nothing can be done "as the forest department cannot regulate or use it's pressure in the Collector's jurisdiction and force people to cover their wells".


On Saturday, the department's officials received a call from farmer Chhaganbhai Patel, who said two lion cubs had fallen into the open well in his field in Rabarika village of Khambhataluka, 7 km outside the sanctuary.


Forest conservator Bharat Pathak said the two cubs might have fallen in the well some days back, but the incident was reported late because Patel did not visit his field regularly. Post-mortem of the cubs showed that they had drowned in the well.


Pathak found nothing suspicious and said the claws too were intact and there were no signs of poisoning.


Officials of Dhari range say the prides seemed to have shifted from west Gir to east Gir and were hence spotted in villages.


There have been incidents of lions straying out of the sanctuary, in search of water with the onset of summer, especially in Dhari range where most of the human-beast conflicts have taken place in the last few years.


Ramesh Patel of Dalkhaniya village here says, "Lions being spotted in the villages was very common".



Two more lions meet watery grave in Gir

Ahmedabad Newsline Net Edition    Dated 18-3-2007


Junagadh, March 17: TWO more sub-adult lions met a watery grave when they fell into a blind well on Saturday in Rabarica village located in forest- revenue border in Gir (East) division. This is the second such incident in the past 20 days. On February 26, two cubs fell into a well without a parapet wall at Nani Dhari village in Dalkhania forest range. According to official sources, two sub adult lioness, aged about one and half years, fell into the parapetless well located in a farm owned by Babubhai Senjaliya.


When contacted in-charge deputy conservator of forest (Gir east) J S Solanki said that “post mortem report revealed that both female cubs died due to drowning”. Carcass and claws of both the cubs have been found intact and no mark or sign of any external injury have been found so far.” 

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Easy come, easy go for poachers

Times of India Net Edition, By Himanshu Kaushik Date 16-3-2007


SASAN GIR: The first-of-its-kind incident of poaching in Babariya range of Gir sanctuary on March 3, in which three lion carcasses were found completely skinned, has come as a shock to conservationists, who have so far focussed only on rampant poaching of tigers across the country.


But two weeks into the investigation, this only habitat of the Asiatic lion in the wild, comes across as a forest completely exposed to a still unidentified gang of poachers, who are out to make money out of the big beast's claws and bones.


This time, the poachers probably entered the forest through the Una-Talala road and left the same way, unhindered by a monitoring system which has been lulled into complacency because the threat perception was never taken seriously.


What makes matters worse in Gir is that unlike other national parks and sanctuaries, where entry of vehicles and persons is strictly monitored, this last haven for the lion king has many busy thoroughfares criss-crossing its 1,421 sq km expanse, which has 359 lions as per the census of 2005.


"With almost free access to human beings into Gir and hundreds of people living in the protected area, it is extremely difficult to find out who is a poacher and who is not," a senior forest official said. There are several check-posts at the entry points, but forest guards who man these posts simply note down the vehicle numbers without actually checking them physically.


The CID had taken over investigations from the forest department and is probing several leads, including the involvement of locals. In 2005, two lions were killed and the suspected killers, who were arrested, were also locals.


The post- mortem report indicates that the two lioness and a cub, whose carcasses were found on March 3, may have been killed a couple of days earlier.


Conservator of forest, Bharat Pathak, says he has increased the number of guards from 200 to 240 after the incident, but he admits that more needs to be done to tighten security in view of the new emerging threat from poachers.


Lion killings: Gir security to be beefed up

Times of India Delhi – Net Edition  16-3-2007


AHMEDABAD: The killing of three lions in Gir National Park, which came to light last week, has stirred authorities into action with an overhaul of the security arrangements for the big cats being considered.


The incident, in which the bones, skulls and claws were missing from the scene of crime, was discovered on March 3 and set alarm bells ringing in the Gujarat's forest establishment.


"This is for the first time that the bones and skulls are missing from the crime scene along with claws," Junagadh Conservator of Forest Bharat Pathak said.


"Poaching has happened in past in Gir. In 2005, two lions were killed but their claws and skin went missing and bones were intact. We traced the killers, who were locals," Pathak said.


"However, this time the bones are missing along with claws while we recovered lion skins with their carcasses," he added.


The forest department suspects the hand of international gangs behind the killing of two adult and one young lioness.


It has decided to review security arrangements of the sanctuary and make necessary changes, official sources said.


The gang could be after the bones of the lions, which are used for medicinal purpose in China and can fetch thousands of dollars in the international market, officials sources said.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Letting Gir guard down has opened doors to poaching

Ahmedabad Newsline Net Edition

Date 11-3-2007


Gandhinagar, March 11: Two incidents at Gir Lion sanctuary — the poaching of three lions last week, and chasing of two cubs to death in a well last month—- might just be symptoms of an ailment that has been in the making for over a decade now. With no proper recruitments since 1992, the average of a beat guard in the forests of Junagadh circle that houses the Gir sanctuary is 40 years plus.


Result of a 15-year moratorium on new recruitments at the cutting edge level, the inertia of higher ups in the administration has been sapping the Forest Department of energies so much required for guarding vast forests on foot. The seriousness of the situation can be gauged from the fact that in some ranges there is not a single beat guard below the age of 25.


“This is the cadre which is supposed to keep tabs on the goings on inside the forests with an area of about 700 hectares, sometimes criss-crossing 15-20 villages. This effectively means running up to 10-12 kms in a single day if a beat is to be serviced properly,” informs H M Rabari, a leader of Beat Guards Association fighting a case against the government. He has been a beat guard for the last 27 years with no promotions.


In 2003, 27 contract labourers were inducted as beat guards by the Department. That was the last time fresh blood got infused into the system. As per Forest Department guidelines, for a well-managed forest area about 50 per cent of the total strength should be below 35-years. In Gujarat’s forests, more than 90 per cent of staff is above that mark.


“We have sent many reports to higher ups, but a concrete action has not materialized. If properly involved the staff just could not have missed the roars of lions being trapped and poached. A lion’s distress sound can be heard for kms in the silence of forests,” says a Conservator of Forests.


So was the distress call of three lionesses missed because there was no one to listen? Ranges lie vacant for months as some go on leave, some are transferred and others just run away from depression. Many have taken premature retirement rather than face the rigours of the job.


Senior officers claim the situation is not going to continue for long. Written tests for appointment of 200 temporary forest Sahayaks (helpers) are to be held at the end of this month. But the whole process of recruitment and training would be complete only by the end of this year. “At least something is happening.


After a long time we are looking at recruitments and promotions at all levels from cutting edge onwards.


While this would strengthen the basics, we are also in the process of designing programmes which see public participation in forest policing,” says Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF), M L Sharma.

An insider hand in glove with Gir poachers?

Ahmedabad Newsline Net Edition  By Sreenivas Janyala

Date 12-3-2007


Forest officials believe so, but CID officials probing the case feel it is too early to comment


Ahmedabad, March 12: IS it an inside job? That is what the forest department seems to think so in the lion poaching cases. The CID (Crime) which has been entrusted with investigation, a couple of days ago, is mum on the issue. Investigating officers feel it is too early to comment. But, they have picked out at least a dozen locals, and two beat guards of Babaria range, who have been suspended, for questioning.


The obvious clues with the forest department as well as CID crime indicate a few things:


Only locals know the presence of ‘Marsuka na kundi’ a water hole in the Babaria range, where the killings of two lionesses and a cub took place around March 1. Throughout the day, this water hole is visited by wild animals and a few resident lions and lionesses. But this water hole is tucked away about 500 metres off the Babaria-Una road and a new comer cannot spot it.

* A few locals who also double up as guides know that the resident lion population is sighted near the water hole almost daily.

* None of the vehicles which passed through the check posts to enter the 5 kms forest road raise suspicion as registration numbers are all mostly local.



*e are two check posts on either side of the Babaria-Una road which passes through the forest — at Jakia on the Una side and at Jamvala towards Talala. But only the locals know that the Jamvala check post is in Revenue area and there are two other roads that take off from the forest road before the check post, which means any vehicle coming out of the forest area can go in any direction to avoid the check post especially if it is loaded with 120 kgs of bones and claws of two lionesses and a cub.


Conservator of Forest (Junagadh) Bharat Pathak says, he is sure there was a man on duty at the Jakia check post and that he would have noticed any suspicious vehicle or its occupants. But Pathak is unsure if such a vehicle would have passed through the Jamvala check post because there are alternative roads from there.


“An operation of this scale could not have taken place without some local help. You cannot ignore facts like: the location chosen was perfect and, probably a local vehicle was used not to raise any suspicion. In both cases you need local help. I am keeping my fingers crossed. It could be an inside job with help from an outside gang also,’’ says Pathak.


Meanwhile, statements of at least a dozen people living in nearby areas have been taken by the forest department and CID so far in connection with this case. The forest department has suspended two forest guards in whose beat the poaching occurred. But, CID (Crime) IGP Keshav Kumar says, “It is too early to draw any conclusions.’’


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Warning for the King (Asiatic Lion)

By Hiral Dave

Indian Express Net Edition, Dt. March 10, 2007


To see the Asiatic Lion in its den you have to register at the Gir Forest National Park. But a hundred rupee note can ease your passage into the home of the tawny cats. At Babra Vidi, a protected forest area located 30 km from Sasan (the sanctuary headqarters), the locals will happily palm the currency note and play guide, even guaranteeing a lion sighting. There are no formalities, no check post, no regulations, no restrictions.


The show at Babra Vidi with its nine lions, say the locals, has been going on since two years. “A pride of lion has been living here for couple of years. We feed them so we know where they can be located,” says local guide Razaq (name changed), as he takes the Sunday Express team around Babra Vidi, just three days after two lioness and a cub were hunted down on March 3 in the Barbaria range. They offer to rent vehicles at Rs 700 for a three-hour ride.

On top of a hill at Babra Vidi, there’s a Forest Department check-post. But no one stops anybody. The local operators know that. It has been this way for years now.


Babra Vidi is also approachable from Gadu near Veraval. The tourists coming from Somnath temple can directly come to Babra, even without passing through Junagadh or Sasan. These holes in the sanctuary perimeter may explain how the endangered animal could have been killed in its backyard.


The GIR national park is spread over 1,400 sq km and there are many ways to enter it. The carcasses of the lions were found on March 3 near the Babaria-Una highway. The Babaria-Una road is only one of the total seven state highways that run through the park. A 15-km long meter-gauge railway track too ribbons through the sanctuary. About two lakh tourists, apart from locals, travel on these roads every year to pilgrim spots like Kankia and Tulsishyam.

Additional Principal Conservator of Forest Pradeep Khann admits there are problems. “The incident of poaching does indicate security lapses. But our immediate concern is to focus on investigation of the killings,” says Khanna, adding, “It’s time to review many aspects and strength protection as the department too has many limitations like staff shortage.” At present, the Forest Department has 300 guards, each of whom is responsible for keeping vigil in a 12-km area.


Poaching, unlike in the country’s tiger preserves, however, is not a regular occurrence at the Gir Forest National Park, which was set up in 1965. According to the Forest Department this is the first incident of poaching where the involvement of international gangs is suspected. In the past lion killings have been determined to be largely retaliatory killings by villagers.


Asiatic lions were once found in Rajasathan, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab. It was in 1911 that the Nawab of Junagadh, on the advice of British Viceroy Lord Curzon, initiated efforts for the conservation of the Panthera leo persica. At that point there were only 20 lions left in Gir. Since 1913 their numbers have grown steadily. The 2005 census has put the population of lions in Gir at 359.


But the poaching this month has pushed this question into the forefront: is it wise to have only one home for the lion? If earlier the magnificent cats were hunted down by Maharajas for sport, now shrinking forests, increased human presence, blind wells and electrified fences are taking a toll on the lions in Gir.


“According to our reports, around 25 big cats die every year after they fall into wells or get trapped in fences,” says Conservator of Forest Bharat Pathak. Since January 2007, three lions have drowned in a well. Last year a carcass of a lion was found at Kamleshwar dam with its legs tied. In 2005, there was a poaching case in which three men poisoned two lions.


But the real danger comes from wells. There are as many as 1,000 of them, at least 15 ft wide and equally deep in the vicinity of Gir. About 600 well are located at nesses (localities of Maldharis or cattle owners), of which there are 54 with 350 Maldhari families with the sanctuary.


With the Gir Sanctuary reaching its carrying capacity, about 20 lions in recent times have strayed out on to the coastal belt that stretches from Porbandar to Sutrapada and have made it their home. Yet the plan to find them a new home in Madhya Pradesh has still not been realised.


Line of Attack

August 2005: Carcasses of two lions were found in Dalkhania village. Investigations found that both lions were poisoned. Their claws were missing but were later dug up from near a temple. The Forest Department arrested three people

January 2007: The carcass of a lion that was electrocuted was found in a cotton field. A case was registered against the farmer who had illegally wired the area to draw power. The incident occurred at Charnyawadi area near Simar village, which falls under Jashadhar forest range in Dhari division of Gir forest

February 2007: Two cubs fell into a well in the Dalkhania range and drowned. Preliminary reports revealed they were chased by locals. Investigation is on

November 2006: A lion was found dead at Kamleshwar Dam near Dhari. The lion’s legs were tied with a wire

2003: Two lions died in Gir after they were brought back from Barda in Porbandar district. They had strayed and reached Porbandar through the coastal belt.



Ten days after killings, probe in CID hands

Sibte Husain Bukhari

Ahmedabad Newsline, Net Edition  Date: March 10, 2007


Junagadh, March 10: Ten days after the poaching incident in Gir sanctuary, which claimed the lives of three lions, the investigation has been handed over to CID (Crime) on Saturday. The probe by Forest Department officials here yielded nothing concrete forcing them to concede that the perpetrators were too “clever as they did not leave behind any clue”.


When contacted Principal Secretary (Forest and Environment) P N Roychaudhary said, “Police are specialised in handling criminal investigation, and because the culprits were too smart it needed expert hands and so the probe has been handed over to the police department.”


“Our department has expertise in forest related issues like conservation of forest, environment, wildlife and its requirement and so on. We know to do these jobs. However, we aren’t experts in criminal investigation and this requires such expertise,” he said.


On the findings of the dog squad and FSL report, Roychaudhary said, “No fire arms were used in committing this crime according to FSL findings. Beside, dog squad stopped at two different places on road, which clearly indicates the exact distance between two vehicles.”


The culprits, he said, came in two or more vehicles, stayed in forest for reasonable time (more then six hours), deftly completed their work and disappeared from scene.


According to Roychaudhary, it was a professional job with possibility of international gang involved. He added that there was possibility that the crime was organised with local help. He added that though locals may not have been directly involved, they may have provided logistic support.


Roychaudhary said that bones of three big cats weigh not less than120 kg. These, he said,

“Locals clearly know lion behavior and their location but we need concrete proof and solid evidence. To get to the bottom of the crime, we need people’s support . Those who have any information should contact us,” he said.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Three Lionesses Poaching case - Cash reward from Asiatic Lion Protection Society

Hello friends,


Everybody is concerned about Three Lionesses poaching issue as poachers are still not caught and not only that but in spite of hard work forest department has not been able get the desired result as poachers expertly did their job. Also no strong information or clue is found so far. Gujarat Forest Department has declared cash reward of Rs.50000 to the informer.


To further encourage quick information, ASIATIC LION PROTECTION SOCIETY has also declared cash reward of Rs.21000 to the genuine informer in association with the Forest Department.  


Our society treats the incidence very seriously as it may transmit a wrong signal amongst illegal wildlife traders that poaching is easy in Gir.  It is utmost necessary to catch the culprits.  We request other NGOs and individuals also to help in detection of this case. Please let us know if you find about illegal wildlife trade or activity going on in your area and if you think it may be connected to this poaching case.


Apart from above, our society has also offered to Gujarat Forest Department services of our members physically in the field.



Kishore Kotecha
Asiatic Lion Protection Society
128, Star Plaza, Phulchhab Chowk, Rajkot 360001 India,
Phones: +91 281 2444 074 Mobile: +91 98240 62062

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Intl gang involved in poaching (of Asiatic Lions)?

Intl gang involved in poaching?

Source: Times of India Print Edition Date 8th March 8, 2007, By Himanshu Kaushik


Rajkot: The detection of mutilated carcasses of three lionesses, whose claws, bones, skulls and some body parts were taken away by poachers in Gir sanctuary last week, has sent alarm bells ringing in the forest department.


Officials do not rule out the possibility of an international gang being involved in poaching. They said that the bones of lions are not used in any medicine, but in international market, it can be mixed with powdered tiger bones and sold. A lion claw in the local market is available for 10,000, which is worn around the neck to ward off evil spirits. Officials, who are aware of the demand for claws, said that this is the first incident where bones were also taken away by poachers. In the earlier incidents of poaching involving local gangs, it was only the claws which went missing. The alarm bells had started ringing much earlier when a gang  of poachers from Madhya Pradesh was caught.


What has got the officials most worried is that big cats are venturing out of the Gir sanctuary and are now found up to Palitana in Bhavnagar. Former principal chief conservator of forest G A Patel said that the lions have formed satellite habitats away from the sanctuary. This is a cause of concern for officials as they do not have adequate staff and the existing staff is not paid as per their duty hours. He said that the government needs to increase the area of Gir sanctuary. The government has made announcement in the Assembly that it is actively considering the proposal to increase the protected area.


Principal chief conservator of forest M L Sharma, when contacted, did not rule out the involvement of any national or international gang. He said, “We are exploring all the possibilities to catch the culprits and we have teams specially investigating the case.”


Additional principal chief conservator of forest Pradeep khanna was not available for comments. Sources said that Khanna was in Junagadh along with other officials investigating the case.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

March 7, 2007's Update on three Asiatic Lioness poaching

Poachers find many roads to Gir

Ahmedabad Newsline (Indian Express Net edition) Date 07-03-2007


Rajkot, March 6: With seven highways, as many roads and pilgrimage routes passing through it, Gir sanctuary may be providing ‘refuge’ to more than just the Asiatic lion.


In view of the easy accessibility to the sanctuary that the roads and the highways may provide to poachers, the recent poaching case has raised security concerns, said Forest Department officials on Tuesday.


“The poaching of two lionesses and a cub, the carcasses of which were found on the Babaria-Una road on March 3, has for the first time indicated that professional poachers have entered Gir,” said Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) Bharat Pathak on Tuesday.

The forest department has already begun checking records of vehicles that passed through the Babaria-Una road, which is open to visitors all day. “Given the accessibility to poachers, the open highways now raise serious security concerns.


The department needs to be more alert to prevent any untoward incident in the future,’’ he said.


Forest Department officials admit the need for greater vigil and co-ordination within the department to keep eye on the seven highways including Dhari-Tulsishyam, Dhari-Kodinar, Kasia-Sasan, Devadia, Talal-Una and Kankai-Tulsishyam. The Kankai-Tulsishyam highway passes through the heart of the sanctuary, which is home to nearly 359 lions.


According to officials, while efforts to close the highways have failed, their closure might lead to other problems.


“They are being used by locals, who help in conservation of the forest. Before a decision is taken on the issue, the needs of the local people will have to be considered as well,” said Pathak.


Meanwhile, around seven persons with vehicles were detained for questioning by the Forest Department on Monday.




Gir poaching: Hunt on for culprits, no arrests yet

Ahmedabad Newsline (Indian Express Net edition) Date 07-03-2007 By: Sibte Husain Bukhari


Junagadh, March 6: With no clues available, the State Forest Department has started the tedious task of checking records of vehicles plied on the Babaria-Una road in the last week, in an attempt trace the poachers who killed two lionesses and a cub around March 1. But with hundreds of vehicles using the road daily, it is an uphill task to verify each and every vehicle and the antecedents of the occupants of the vehicles while inside the sanctuary. Sources said, a few suspect registration numbers of vehicles which passed through the sanctuary have been identified and records are being checked.


Though the forest department has declared a reward of Rs 50,000 for providing correct information, nothing concrete has been emerged and no arrests have been made. However, forest department’s special investigation team started intensified drive to nab the culprits and investigation is going on in various directions.


When contacted, Deputy Conservator of Forests (Gir-West) B L Shukla said, “I have visited Veraval railway station on Tuesday and communicated with Gujarat railway police and Railway protection force’s official. They have been asked to keep close eye on trains bound to Madhya Pradesh. As in this case too, considering previous incidents,MP gang’s possible involvement is highly suspected.” Beside pamphlets have been distributed in villages existed on forest-revenue border, he added.


Conservator of forest (wild life) Bharat Pathak said, “Investigation is going on and suspects have been questioned but no one is detained so far.” He added that under Wild life (protection) Act 1972, killing of lion is serious crime. Accused person, if convicted, is liable for three to seven years’ imprisonment and fine or both.


Deputy conservator of forest (Sasan-Gir) Maneshwar Raja has said, “Entire forest staff of Gir east and west forest division have been alerted.”





‘Link between deaths, trend of wearing paws’

Ahmedabad Newsline (Indian Express Net edition) Date 07-03-2007


Gandhinagar, March 6: There are more than 5,000 men in Saurashtra region wearing lion paws, said Babra BJP MLA Bavkubhai Unghad in House on Tuesday. The allegation came a day after Forest Department confirmed that two lionesses and a cub had been killed by poachers.


Unghad was speaking on his special calling attention motion in the Assembly on the issue of two lion cub deaths in Dhari (Amreli) on February 24, much to the chagrin of Forest Minister Mangubhai Patel.


In his speech, Unghad said it was fashionable in Saurashtra to wear lion paws, and sought to know from the government whether it intended to investigate a possible connection between the increasing lion deaths and the trend.


On February 24, two lion cubs were found drowned in a 60-feet deep well from the fields of one Jilubhai Jebalia in Gadhia village of Dhari taluka. The village falls in the Dalkhani range of the Gir (East) forest division.


Unghad informed the House that from the site of the incident, the forest officials also found marks of a four-wheeler. According to the MLA, despite complaints, the foresters have failed to investigate the possibility of the cubs falling and dying in the well after being chased by some people.


In response to the motion, Mangubhai Patel, told the House that the site of the incident was 5-6 kms from the sanctuary boundary, and that following government intervention, any connection between the vehicle marks and the cub deaths was now being investigated.


During the debate on the same issue, in response to a question raised by BJP MLA Sunil Oza, the minister said that in the last five years, Gir sanctuary has reported 37 similar incidents with 19 lions dying after falling into wells. Against this, 18 big cats were saved from drowning by the efforts of the foresters.


On a query by Palitana MLA Mansukh Mandavia, Patel said Gir sanctuary has 275 wells, of which 198 have been covered and another 77 fenced by the forest department to prevent lions from falling into them. Also, another 637 wells that lie immediately outside the sanctuary area have also been covered, said Patel.


As per the official version about the Dhari incident, as explained by the minister in the House, at the time of the incident, a lioness with its six cubs was eating a dead blue bull killed by a pride a couple of days ago. The two cubs moved towards the well and fell into it.



Wells are biggest enemies of Gir Lions in Gujarat

Gujarat Global News Network, Ahmedabad Date: 6-3-2007


In the last five years there were as many as 37 instances when lions in the Gir sanctuary fell in wells. Of these 19 drowned while 18 could be rescued by forest staff and local people. This is despite the fact that almost all 274 wells in the prohibited area of the Gir forest have some kind of protection around them.


Even the wells in the area on the periphery of the sanctuary are covered. A week before two lionesses and a cub were killed by poachers, two cubs died because of drowning. The incident took place in the Gadhia village of Dhari taluka. They fell in a well in the farm of villager while they were playing.


Forest and Environment Minister pointed out that people had seen two lionesses and six cubs in that farm on February 24 with a kill. While the elders were enjoying the kill, the cubs played around and two of them fell into the well. It is 60 foot deep and its level is lower than the ground level. This resulted into the fall of the cubs, he said.



Gir forest authorities launched manhunt of poachers

Hindustan Times Date: 6-3-2007,000900040003.htm


Gir forest authorities have suddenly woken up from their slumber and launched a massive manhunt following brutal poaching of two lionesses and one lioness, which they discovered after coming across their horribly degenerated carcasses on Saturday, long after the killers had fled with all the priceless bones and claws of the big cats.


According to forest authorities, this is the first time in the history of Gir that a lioness has been killed by professional hunters.


Even as the forest officials are beginning to wear a mask of innocence, as has been their wont, more and more shocking details of the gruesome incident and their serious carelessness towards their duties are coming in.

















The big cats were hunted, and subsequently butchered to rip off their bones and claws, presumably on Thursday, according to locals. But till Saturday evening, no forest guard or official knew anything about the poaching despite the  Babariya Range chowky being hardly 500 metre from the place of incident. It required a local person to inform the forest authorities that decomposed carcasses of big cats were lying near their  chowky.


It has been further revealed that not only bones and claws but also the skulls of the Asiatic lions were missing. All that the forest officials could recover from the spot were scattered pieces of the animals' skin and flesh, which they have sent for forensic tests. The reported will be available in a couple of days, according to forest officials.


Highly placed sources in the forest department said that three pits at some distance and traps made of steel wire were found near the spot of poaching. Clearly, the poachers had planned everything quite meticulously. With the foresters busy in "other activities" and enjoying their slumber, there was no one to watch them to execute their plan. In fact, it would have been surprising if they had not succeeded in their deadly designs.


Besides police, the forest authorities have also sought help of the dog squad of the investigating agencies to nab the criminals. But to no avail. They have also kept a vigil on each and every train going from Veraval and Junagadh. They have interrogated eleven men on the grounds of suspicion but their inquiry has borne no fruits.


A gang of poachers from Madhya Pradesh was caught, before it could harm the big cats or other animals, by the Gir authorities a few years ago. Nothing questionable or suspicious was found from them. Keeping this in mind, some forest officials now believe that the poaches of lionesses and lion may have come from outside  Gujarat and, having done their job, must have escaped to their destinations.


Meanwhile, nature lovers and wildlife activists, headed by Gir Nature Youth Club (GNYC), have demanded a high-level official inquiry into the poaching of big cats and demanded resignation of the  Gujarat forest and environment minister Mangubhai Patel and immediate termination from duty of certain officials.







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