Thursday, May 31, 2007

Mulayam`s lion safari hangs in balance


Mulayam`s lion safari hangs in balance


Lucknow, May 31: With the change of guard in the state, fate of the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav's dream 'lion safari' project at his home district Eatwah hangs in balance.


The high profile project has been taken off the priority list of the present dispensation and no monetary provision is likely to be made for it in the budget for the current financial year, Principal Secretary, Forest, V N Garg said here today.


"It is not a high priority area for the government," he said.


Garg said that the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) had sanctioned the project subject to the fulfilment of certain conditions, which are yet to be met.


When asked about the budgetary allocation made during the previous regime for the project, he said that Rs 1.51 crore was allocated but it had been transferred to the PLA as it remained unutilised.


The project was envisaged on a huge tract of land in the fisher forest area of Etawah district and the land had also been identified for the purpose.


The conditions specified by the CZA included setting up a lion breeding centre, forest department sources said here.


The department had been encountering problems in securing lions for the breeding centre though efforts were made to get them from the Gir forests in Gujarat, forest officials said.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Panel formed to curb lion poaching


Panel formed to curb lion poaching

Times of India By: Nayan Dave


JUNAGADH: In a bid to prevent poaching incidents of Asiatic lions and to keep a track on people carrying out suspicious activities outside the Gir forest, Gujarat government has decided to form a 10-member monthly monitoring committee (MMC) comprising police and forest department officials.


The decision was taken after a government resolution (GR) was issued by the environment and forest ministry, recently. The committee will meet once a month to discuss and plan strategies to curb lion poaching, say sources. Apart from DIG (Junagadh range) who is heading the committee, Junagadh range, Conservator of forest (wildlife, Junagadh circle), DSP Junagadh, Bhavnagar & Amreli, two deputy conservators of forest (DFO) of Junagadh and one each from Amreli, Bhavnagar and Dhari form the core committee.


Chairman of the committee and DIG Junagadh range, Mohan Jha said of the 22 talukas, lions were found to be straying in 11 talukas of Junagadh district while seven districts have been identified in Amreli and four in Bhavnagar district.


"During the committee meeting officials decided to include Ghogha and Bhavnagar talukas in Bhavnagar district and Dhoraji and Jetpur talukas in Rajkot district under the MMC,"Jha said. MMC member, Bharat Pathak, conservator of forest (wildlife) said, "With the help of the police, it will be easier to strategise comprehensively to curb poaching activities,"he said.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Soon, tigers may be bred in special farms


Soon, tigers may be bred in special farms

Hindustan Times, By Chetan Chauhan


With its tiger population dropping at an alarming rate, India plans to breed the big cats in special farms. The idea is to replicate China’s successful model of tiger farms, which has seen the country go from less than 50 tigers in the wild to about 5,000 in these farms.


Environment and Forest secretary Dr Prodipto Ghosh told reporters on Monday that the government is considering allowing tiger farms in India.


“They can be in zoos or forest areas but not in tiger reserves,” he said. The proposal is in its initial stage.


The Central Zoo Authority has allowed breeding centers for several endangered species like vultures but no such attempt has been made for tigers.


But there are some sceptics. Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India says: “India will make a fool of itself if it promotes tiger farming. To raise a tiger in a farm costs $10,000 and to kill one in the wild only costs Rs 40. Instead, the government should work to provide food and protect tigers.”


The announcement comes days after the Wildlife Institute of India revealed the tiger count in central India had declined by about 60 per cent since 2002. As compared to 1,233 tigers in 2002, the institute estimates the number to be 490.


Ghosh said that the ministry accepted the institute’s findings as the new methodology was accurate.


“Earlier, tigers were identified only on the basis of pugmarks. The new methodology uses camera traps, sightings, pugmarks and genetic tests among others,” he said.


The secretary also raised the issue of Gujarat not allowing the rehabilitation of Gir Wildlife Sanctuary’s Asiatic lions at the Palpur Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. “The lion is the pride of India and not only of Gujarat,” he said.


China allows tiger farming by wildlife sanctuaries and private entrepreneurs. But a recent International Fund for Animal Welfare report stated that tiger body parts from these farms were being sold to wine distilleries and restaurants that serve tiger delicacies.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Another security lapse at Gir


Another security lapse at Gir

Times of India By: Himanshu Kaushik Print Edition


Sasan: The state government claims that adequate security has been provided in and around the Gir forest, but the recent attack on a Maldhari labourer within the sanctuary has raised questions over such tall claims. The government, it seems, has not learnt a lesson from the recent poaching incidents.


On Monday, Gagan Rana Charan, a resident of Kasiya Nes who fills the water points in the sanctuary, was attacked by three unidentified persons when he was engaged in his daily duties. Gir Maldhari Seva Samaj leader, Malde Bamrodia said Gagan was about 10 km from Kasiya Nes in the sanctuary when three persons armed with swords asked him to leave the spot immediately.


A terrified Gagan reached the Kasia range check post where he informed the guard on duty about the incident, said Bamrodia. The incident took place inside the sanctuary when State Reserve Police Force, which is providing security, and CID (crime), which is investigating the poaching incident, were present in the area.


Another Maldhari staying at a Nes in Gir said security was beefed up after the poaching incidents, but officials turned lackadaisical in their attitude later and they rarely check any vehicle entering the sanctuary these days. Deputy conservator of forest V B Pati said the preliminary investigations revealed that Gagan was just slapped. He said, “We launched a search operation in the nearby villages and in the sanctuary but could not find the three persons.” He added that there was some inconsistency in Gagan’s statement.

Corporates' help for conserving lions


Corporates' help for conserving lions

Times News Network


GANDHINAGAR: Corporate houses based in Gujarat offered the Gujarat government assistance in conserving the Asiatic Lion, even as the government tried to convey the message that the situation arising out of poaching and other threats to the lion, was not as grave as was made out to be in the media.


A meeting of government officials, NGOs and representatives of business houses was held here on Wednesday, to launch a society for conservation of lions. Corporate houses, willing to help out with finances or other logistics, will be given membership of the society which plans to raise about Rs 40 crores for lion conservation.


The meeting began with a presentation on the lions in Saurashtra where the government said that the growth in lion population in the state was showing a healthy trend. The presentation underplayed the recent death of eight lions in poaching incidents, which created a furore and has now forced the government to seek public-private partnership in this conservation effort.


Parimal Nathwani, president, corporate affairs of Reliance Industries Limited, immediately announced that the group was willing to take up work of covering 1,500 open wells which have become virtual death-traps for the lions and other animals. Besides, Nathwani said, Reliance was also willing to provide a modern ambulance, manned by a veterinary doctor, to rush to rescue of injured animals.


Not to be left behind, Harshad Brahmbhatt who represents the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) offered to set up communication facilities in the forest area for better coordination between forest personnel.


Sunil Parekh, adviser of Zydus Cadila, offered medicines and help in scientific research to the forest department. He emphasised on creating a gene pool for sustained growth in the lion population. He said Zydus could invite wildlife experts from other countries, if need be, to provide better technical inputs to the forest department on this matter.


Offers for covering of wells also came from Tata Chemicals and Shell Hazira with the former looking to get itself with community development in the sanctuary.


Principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife) Pradeep Khanna said: "We were happy with the overwhelming response from corporate houses and we would like to build a long-term association with them for conservation of wildlife in Gujarat."

No roar of support, but biz houses pitch in for King


No roar of support, but biz houses pitch in for King

Ahmedabad Newsline


Gandhinagar, May 23: Protection OF Asiatic Lion was made a public cause with the setting up of the Gir Lion Conservation Society here on Wednesday. Big business houses from the State promised to dole out support in cash and kind for the cause in the presence of Forest Minister Mangubhai Patel and top bureaucrats from the Forest Department. Principal Secretary in the CMO, K Kailasnathan, represented Chief Minister Narendra Modi.


Though not as much as the government might have liked to, the industrialists promised futuristic help, with Reliance Group proposing to build parapet walls around 1,500 wells in and around the Gir sanctuary area.


Every year over a dozen lions die after falling in these open wells.


The Cadilla Group came forward with help towards maintaining a lion gene pool in cryogenic conditions to aid lion conservation and research. Excel Industries of Kutch also proposed to help in building well parapets and covers.


In all not more than a dozen industry houses were present for the meeting called by the Forest Department to launch the society.


The government is aiming to collect a corpus of Rs 40 crore for lion conservation through this society, membership for which would be open to general public.


While individual membership would come at a cost of Rs 5,000, institutions can become life members by paying Rs 1 lakh to the society.


While Chief Minister would chair the society, Conservator of Forests (Junagadh) would be the ex-officio member (secretary) of the society.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Gujarat biz may open purse strings to save lion; Lion carcass found in Tulsishyam


Gujarat biz may open purse strings to save lion

Times of India Print Edition


Gandhinagar: Nearly 150 Gujarat-based businessmen, including top corporate bosses, are likely to attend a high-level meeting called by the state government on Wednesday to discuss how they can help protect the Asiatic lion in Gir.

The meeting will mark the formal launching of Gujarat State Lion Conservation Society, in which some representatives of trade and industry will also be roped in.

“We have decided to ask the corporates to build parapet walls over 8,000 open wells situated outside the Gir sanctuary. Each parapet will cost not more than Rs 12,000,” a senior official said, adding, “These open wells cause the death of 10 to 15 lions on an average every year.”

The meeting will be held at the Gujarat Ecological Education and Research (GEER) Fo u n d at i o n , Gandhinagar, and be chaired by Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The state government is actively wooing business houses to contribute generously to the lion conservation fund that aims to raise about Rs 40 crore. The fund was created after poachers killed eight lions in Gir in recent months and large gangs of hunters from Madhya Pradesh were arrested for the crimes.


Lion carcass found in Tulsishyam

Rajkot: A lion was reported dead near Underadi ness in Tulsishyam range of Gir forest on Tuesday. The carcass of the two-year-old lion did not bear any injury marks. Its nails and other body parts were also found intact by forest officials. A team of veterinary doctors reached the spot to examine the carcass and carry out postmortem to ascertain the cause of death. Forest officials said that prima facie it has been found that the lion died of natural causes.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Lion cub seperated from its mother seen in Timbadi Village; Another incidence lion pride kills three domestic animals


Lion cub seperated from its mother seen in Timbadi Village; Another incidence lion pride kills three domestic animals

Divya Bhasker – Rajkot Print Edition

Translation in Brief:

News 1: Yesterday night a lion was separated and found on Timbadi – Vaghaniya road in Liliya. First of all people from the village tried to trace the mother to surrender the cub. But after hard work of whole night they could not succeed. Then the villagers informed the Forest Department to help the cub. The incidence shows how the people surrounding Gir forest has become alert in Asiatic Lion Conservation issue.

News 2: In two separate incidences, two days before two cows were killed by a family of lions; and yesterday evening one cow owned by Maldhari Ukkabhai Dabhi was killed by a lioness and two cubs.

News 3: Leader of Laur village D. D. Varu informs that before five years there were only two lions and now there are fifteen lions residing in the area.

Kishore Kotecha’s comments on this article:

Two incidences in above news 2 and two other incidences of attack that I have sent earlier today clearly depict how tolerant the people of Gir are? In spite of health & wealth loss to them due to lions, they still love and protect the beast. I can only say “People of Saurashtra are Lion Hearted”.

News 3 above signifies Asiatic Lion’s move to regain its original territory by its own. And little more speed by Govt. of Gujarat to develop these satellite areas would once again create a praiseworthy history of conservation.

Lion pair resides in Talala; Attacks a by-passer.


Lion pair resides in Talala; Attacks a by-passer.

Gujarat Samachar (Gujarati Daily) Print Edition

Translation in brief:

Again the incidence happened on Pipalava Road in Talala town near Gir WLS. A resident of Pipalva village was passing by the railway crossing when a lioness came out from the mango farm and attacked the pedestrian Mahadevbhai Ramjibhai Pandeghari. He was injured in legs and thigh. He was taken to Talala and then to Junagadh hospital for treatment. Forest Department has started exercise to catch this pair for release inside the forest.

Father fights male Asiatic Lion to save three year old daughter


Father fights male Asiatic Lion to save three year old daughter

Gujarat Samachar (Gujarati Daily) Print Edition

Translation in brief:

The incidence happened on Pipalava Road, Near Railway Crossing at Talala town near Gir WLS. When a labour contractor Mohan Arjan Sondarva was working in a Mango Farm, he saw an adult male lion heading to his daughter. He ran and picked up her three year old daughter and hugged her to his body. Angry lion attacked him but he survived after some minor injuries due to timely help from people from adjoining farms.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Gir is still cool for lions


Gir is still cool for lions

Times of India Ahmedabad Print Edition By: H S SINGH

The Times of India reported on May 17 that over 100 peacocks died at Morena in Madhya Pradesh in three days due to soaring heat. This compelled me to consider the probability of the survival of the Asiatic lion in the proposed alternative home in the same region with similar terrain and climate.

The lion evolved in a sub-tropical environment and survived in temperatures never exceeding 43 degrees Celsius even during the hottest years. The extreme climatic condition and its impact on the lion perhaps requires further review before deciding on rehabilitation.

In Africa, extreme summer temperatures don’t exceed 37 degrees Celsius in lion territory. Although in some areas, temperature goes beyond 43 degrees, in the Serengeti National Park temperature never exceeds 32 degrees Celsius.

Even in the Gir forest, summer temperatures often reach 40 degrees Celsius but rarely 43 degrees. Dense riverine vegetation of seven major rivers and their tributaries and evergreen trees like Manilkara hexandra and Ficus bengalinsis in Gir greatly influence local environment, reducing temperatures by two to three degrees Celsius.

During hot summer months, most lions retire in this riverine forest and riverbeds or under trees. This is perhaps one of the main reasons for lions adapting to Gir in contrast to the open Savannah of Africa.

One-and-a-half century ago, lions were prevalent in north-west India — north of the Narmada and southwest of the Ganga. A majority of the area was under forest cover, crisscrossed by several perennial rivers that had thick riverine vegetation. Thus lions enjoyed a mosaic of climatic conditions. Temperature in these patches never exceeded 42 degrees Celsius even during the hottest summers.

But over the last 150 years, the environment of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh has changed drastically. Majority of the hills in the Vindhya and the Aravallis are rocky and rivers are not perennial, restricting the forests only in small patches. The environment of Palpur Kuno and other sites like Kummal Gadh, Sita Mata, Dara Jawaharlal Sagar area are now very hot. In 2005, summer temperatures exceeded 50 degrees Celsius for the first time in Orissa, Bihar, West Bengal and eastern Uttar Pradesh. Even tall trees died, leaving only those plants which could tolerate the extreme climate.

In Palpur Kuno, temperature varies from two degrees Celsius in extreme winter to 49 degrees Celsius in extreme heat. Whether the lion can survive in such temperature is a matter of intense debate. Rocky hills, degraded forests and increased levels of green house gases will further aggravate the situation. Experts should critically examine these elements before undertaking any experiment.

The author is Gujarat Chief Conservator of Forests, (Research).

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Gir Nature Club to form youth brigade for lion conservation


Ahmedabad Newsline By: Sibte Husain Bukhari


Junagadh, May 13: In wake of three poaching incident occurred in Gir forest for last two month, wherein eight lions have been killed, Khambha village-based Gir Nature Club has announced to form an Asiatic lion brigade, which will work for the protection of lions, specially in an area identified as Sasan (Gir)-Palitana corridor.


According to the club’s president Amit Jethwa, “In a bid to protect lions, long term conservation steps have been planned and this brigade is a first step in this direction. Physically strong men between 15 to 45 years of age group will be enrolled in this brigade. Members would be given special identity card and dress code,” he said.


Jethwa added that presently more then 40 youths have been registered with the brigade. The first ever two-day training camp of the brigade is scheduled to be organised on May 12 and 13 in Kadambgiri area. In this camp, members will be given primary information about behaviour of the lions, and how members can lend their hand in conservation of lions. In addition to this, Yoga, trekking and physical fitness training will also be provided by the experts during this camp, he said.


Beside this, series of camp would be organised in taluka centres falling in the surrounding areas of the Gir and the brigade will be put on action mode in these talukas. Following this, we are also forming a group for children, ‘Kids for Asiatic lions’, wherein children between the age group of 8 to 14 years will be accommodated. “This is aimed to sow seeds for conservation at an early age,” Jethwa said.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Babaravidi, a maternity home for Asiatic lionesses

Kishore Kotecha’s Comments: Following story is a very good example of ‘Conservation through local community’. This is the unique feature in whole world where such an extent of sentimental involvement by local people is shown for conservation of co-dwelling animals. This is shown depicted by Gir people since Nawab times (since 1850 AD!! )



Babaravidi, a maternity home for lionesses 

Times Newsline By: Sibte Husain Bukhari


Junagadh, May 11: Babaravidi has two unique features. While lions fall prey to paochers elsewhere, here they are safe in while living and breeding. Besides, people living in surrounding villages are lion-friendly and they do care a lot for the big cats, quite like their own family.


Babaravidi, a reserved forest area spread over 1,500 hectare outside Gir forest, is better known as a maternity home for lionesses. Located at about 15 km from Gir sanctuary in Maliya taluka of Junagadh district, it is surrounded by revenue area and a large human population. Wild cats find this place to be an ideal labour room and a safe haven for their newborn cubs.


The area with plain grassland provides suitable atmosphere to big cats. At least one dozen villages are situated along its border. The residents of these villages are lion-friendly and they consider themselves as parents of mother lionesses.


According to Babara village sarpanch Kalabhai Pithiya, his family has been engaged in agriculture in this area for decades. He says a group of lions came here about five years back, and since then, the lions have made it their permanent home. “And when the big cats conceive, they come here for delivering the cubs,” he said.


“When the lion poaching incidents surfaced, I convened a meeting. People from eight villages, especially youths and farmers, attended. They formed alert groups in each village to ensure the safety and security of the lions, particularly in this region,” the sarpanch said.


A septuagenarian of Babara village said: “It is our tradition that married daughters visit their parents’ home for delivery; we treat the lionesses and their cubs with the same feelings.”'


Villages like Babara, Pankawa, Chuladi, Pithiya, Dharampur, Juner, Vandervad and Itali are located on the periphery of Babaravidi. People living in these villages mostly belong to Aahir and Koli community and are farmers. “Lions are symbols of power, so we take care of these animals like our family members,” said Haridas, a farmer.


“To provide drinking water facility to domestic as well as wild animals, particularly roaming lions, water holes have been built in almost all farmlands here. Beside, if lions are found trapped in wells, our youth are always there to lend a helping hand,” said farmers of these villages.



Friday, May 11, 2007

Now, a lion safari outside Gir


Times of India


RAJKOT/AHMEDABAD: The forest department has moved a proposal to create a lion safari outside the Gir sanctuary. The safari, on the lines of the Devalia interpretation park near Sasan, will come up on 400 hectares of forest land in the Dhari range and will house up to a dozen lions.


While Devalia, which has as many lions, is located on the western end of the Gir sanctuary, the new safari at Ambardi will be outside the eastern end of the sanctuary. The idea is to reduce tourist pressure on the sanctuary and give domestic tourists another location to sight lions in the wild.


Like Devalia, the Ambardi project, which is still p e n d i n g clearance f r o m t h e Central Zoo Authority of India, will have zoo-bred lions which will be fed by the forest staff. The second safari will also solve the problem of giving protection to weaklings among lion cubs which are often abandoned because they are unable to keep pace with the rest of the pride.


Devalia gets about one lakh tourists every year, most of them day tourists from the neighbouring area, who return satisfied after sighting lions in this safari area, and do not feel the need to roam around the Gir sanctuary to spot the weal wild beats. "Unlike safaris in other states which are smaller in nature, the Gujarat safaris are big enough to give a real feel of the wild," said a senior forest official.


The area around Ambardi does not have a permanent settlement of lions, though many lions from the sanctuary often stray into the region where a park will now be created.


The forest department hopes the second safari will further reduce the vehicular and tourist traffic inside the sanctuary which is necessary to allow the lions some peace and privacy.


The department has also suggested the government that tourist fee inside the sanctuary be hiked substantially, while keeping the entry fee for the safaris at a very nominal level in order to reduce the pressure on the sanctuary.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Local Hand Duru Mohamad comes out clear in Asiatic Lion Poaching case

Above article was published on 28-4-2007 in ‘Akila’ Gujarati evening daily published from Rajkot. The articles says

“The main local hand, Duru Mohammad who was suspected as local helping hand in the poaching at Babriya on 3rd March, is given clean-chit. He turned out to be Lion lover and not a criminal. In fact he was the person who reported this incidence to the forest authorities! He is also beloved trekker amongst environmentalist. He has come out clear after various modern detector tests.”

Asiatic Lioness dies near Khamba; Total 20 deaths in last five months


Asiatic Lioness dies near Khamba; Total 20 deaths in last five months

Gujarat Samachar – Rajkot (Translated from Gujarati)


Junagadh, 9; One more death of a lioness in village Kantala of Taluka-Khambha on border of Gir wildlife sanctuary has come to light. Since January this year, 19 lions have died in wild in Gir and 1in Sakkarbaug Zoo.


Incidences of Asiatic lion’s death due to poaching and whimsical diseases have echoed in Central Govt. Conservator of Forest Shri Bharat Pathak has informed that a dead body of 12 – 13 years old lioness has been found in Kantala village near Khambha. Forest staff from Gir East region has reached the incidence place.


Viscera of the dead body is being collected and then cause of death body will be known. Claws and skin of the animal are found intact and hence natural death is assumed,


Since January to 9th May, 19 lions have died out of which 8 have died due to poaching, one at Sakkarbaug zoo due to diseases and finally a cub in Sasan area. Total death count of 4 months and 9 days is 20.


(This is word to word translation from Gujarati language hence English may be little irregular.)

Don't move, die here


Tehelka Weekly


As the only home in the wild for the Asiatic lion, Gir faces the problem of inbreeding. One epidemic can wipe out all the cats


The Gir National Park and Sanctuary is spread over an area of 1,412 sq km, and hangs on the southern tip of western India’s Kathiawar peninsula. The Nawab of Junagarh at the turn of the 19th century decided to save the 18 lions left in the wild, and over a century the number has grown to 350. But the genetic pool of the present population remains small. The risk of a contagious disease is very real. Inbreeding leaves the cats with a weaker immune system and makes them susceptible to epidemics. In 1994 Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park lost 1,000 lions to a mysterious epidemic called Canine Distemper. It was later found that dogs and hyenas were responsible for the infection.


Chief Minister Narendra Modi calls the lions the pride of Gujarat and won’t let them be shifted 

That incident was a wake up call. A year later, Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, suggested creation of another viable population in Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. Since then, the forest dwellers in Kuno have been relocated out of the sanctuary to create a viable lion habitat.


But Chief Minister Narendra Modi calls lions the pride of Gujarat. “To be honest to you, I don’t agree with the government’s position,” says a top forest official who does not want to be quoted. “I must confess it’s a political decision not to allow the lions to go out of Gujarat.”


The Forest department of Gujarat argues that the temperature in Kuno is too high; tigers and lions do not coexist; and that settlements there would be affected by the presence of lions. Wright disagrees: “Lions stray outside GNP to human settlements because it is packed inside. That would not be so in Kuno. Public awareness can be created. The whole debate is misplaced.”


The chief wildlife warden of Gujarat, Pradeep Khanna, says it is not. “Who says we are against relocation? Lions are themselves relocating to areas they deem fit. Several prides of lions have moved out of Gir. We plan to declare these places as protected areas. We have already started doing so. To start with, we have already declared an area of 18 sq km as protected. The whole Kathiawar peninsula offers excellent habitat to lions. So why disturb them?”


And so the deadlock over shifting the lions to another habitat to create more than one viable population continues.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Gir lions: Gujarat govt fails to relent


NDTV By: Swati Thiyagarajan

The most endangered big cat in the world, the Asiatic lion found only in Gir in Gujarat, now finds itself in an ego tussle between the Centre and the state of Gujarat.

With less than 350 lions, Gir is in a very vulnerable position. On the one hand that is not a viable population of the big cat. There needs to be at least 1500 animals for a population to be viable.

But in Gir, 350 is proving to be too great a number as every ecosystem has only a certain carrying capacity. With all the lions concentrated in just one area, anything from a disease to a natural disaster could spell the end.

And now if all negotiations fail, the only hope of appeal lies with the Prime Minister.

There is no denying that the lions are a major part of Gujarat's heritage and conservation history, but they belong to the world, not just India or even Gujarat.

They have a right to life and protection and all avenues to save them must be explored. One cannot allow the lions to become a mere memory that exists on India's Ashoka Pillar.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Lion shifting may lead to public movement


Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik

Print Edition


Rajkot/Ahmedabad: The shifting of lions from Gujarat to Kuno-Palpur in Madhya Pradesh will led to a mass movement in Gujarat.


            Several voluntary organizations are preparing to challenge the said decision in the Gujarat High Court and also launch a mass movement against the Centre’s decision to shift lions from Gujarat.


            Mahesh Pandya of Paryavaran Mitra, a non-government organization, has already taken a legal opinion against the decision to shift lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh.


            He said, “As soon as the Centre announces a date to shift the lions,Paryavaran Mitra and several like minded organizations will join hands and challenge the decision in the court.” He added “We admit that the state has failed to provide adequate protection to the lions in the state, but instead of shifting the lions out of Gujarat, there are several alternatives available with the Centre to shift them within the state.”


            Pandya said that soon a people’s movement will be launched in major cities of the state which will further be taken to villages. He said, “The ecological cycle of Gir and nearby areas depend upon lion. Shifting of lions will break this cycle. Spotted deer, chinkara and other small animal population will increase. Centre should rethink on its decision and the state forest department should find ways to save the lion.” Pandya also demanded that instead of shifting the lions, the Centre should monitor the efforts of state forest department for lion conservation.


            Meanwhile a nature club in Dhari-Forest Club-took out a rally and handed over a memorandum to the mamlatdar demanding lions should not be shifted out of Gujarat. Forest Club president M K Bharad demanded that the Centre should give adequate grants to the state for purchasing more equipment rather then shifting them.


            Hasmukh Dave, also a member of Forest Club, said, “From bandh to stopping vehicles carrying the lions out of Gir, Forest Club is geared up to go to any extent to protect the lions from being shifted out of Gujarat.” The club has been assured of the required support by traders from several villages and nearly cities, he added.


            Even the Maldhari community in their last meeting with Chief Minister Narendra Modi had made it clear that they would not allow a single lion to be shifted out of Gujarat.


Malde Bamrotiya, leader of the Gir Maldhari seva Samaj, said,”At no cost will we allow shifting of lions. We have told the CM that the community will go to any extent to protect the lions and Modi has also assured that his government will not give away even a cub.”


“The community is set to launch an agitation once the Centre announces the date of shifting lions,” he added.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Now, each Gir lion under security lens


Ahmedabad Newsline By: Sibte Husain Bukhari


Junagadh, April 30: AFTER poachers claimed the lives of eight lions in the past one-and-a-half months, the forest department, caught on the backfoot, has doubled up efforts to ensure safety of lions within Gir Sanctuary and outside. As part of its efforts to conduct an unofficial census, foresters are trying to locate each and every lion or its group in respective territories.


Forest officers, posted in Gir and other lion populated areas, are unwilling to make any estimation of lion population so far. A senior forest official said, “If a lion, in individual or in group is not sighted in last 48 hours, intensified drive is launched to track it which continues till the animal’s exact location is found.”


“Ground forest staff is keeping a close eye on each big cat. Beat guards and foresters identify lions by their colour, age and accompanying cubs and assign them names accordingly. For males, names like Bhabho (aged), Bhuro (gray), Jambuvo(bluish), Tiliyo (spotted) and Chhapalo (crazy) are given. Females have been identified by the number of accompanying cubs,” a forest official said.


The official pointed out that Gir forest and Girnar area are considered areas with zero human interferences. But the vidi land and coastal belts, where lions have made their new home, are of prime security concern as the surrounding areas have dense human population. Make-shift wireless stations have been erected in vidi land and staff posted for round-the-clock duty.


Within last six months over 15 lions, including cubs, have reportedly died due to natural and unnatural reasons. According to wildlife experts, every year 40 to 70 lions are added to their population while mortality rate is about 25 to 30. “Lion population increases at the rate of 12 percent annually while mortality rate is 10 percent. So the population increase stands at two percent which is the natural cycle, they said.


According to 2005 census, lion population was estimated at 359 plus. Lions have made their dens in four segments— Gir National Park and sanctuary and surrounding areas, Girnar mountain forest, coastal belt in Junagadh district, and grass (vidi) land area in Bhavnagar district.


Out of 359 lions, 290 plus have been found in Gir forest, 20 in Girnar forest, 10 were sighted in coastal belt while about 40 were located in various vidi lands.

Sarkashlal Singh The Kingpin behind 8 Asiatic Lions Poaching

Sarkashlal Singh

Asiatic Lion News 1st to 4th May 2007


Some lions should be shifted to MP

Times of India By Nayan Dave


RAJKOT: To add to the ongoing debate on a fresh abode for the threatened lot of Asiatic lions, Divyabhanusinh Chavda, India president of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) says that a few pairs of lions should be immediately shifted to neighbouring Madhya Pradesh.


A member of Cat Specialist Group, a Species Survival Commission set up by World Conservation Union, earlier known as International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), Chavda says, the obvious solution is to create another home for the Asiatic lion before it is too late, at a distance from its present location.


Gujarat had the unique honour of housing four large cats: cheetah, tiger, leopard and lion. In the wake of poaching incidents knee-jerk reactions are not enough and will not deliver the desired results, he says.


Author of Hunting Leopard— Cheetah, "End of trail, the Cheetah in India", published by Oxford University Press and The Story of Asia's Lions published by MARG, Chavda says, "At the outset, the forest department's field staff must be strengthened by filling up positions lying vacant for several years for better patrolling.


They must have the permission to use their weapon against poachers and illegal entrants. The Assam government did this at Kaziranga National Park to protect the great Indian one-horned rhinoceros. From a dozen rhinos a hundred years ago, the count has increased to 1,800 lions now."


He says shifting few pairs of lions to Madhya Pradesh is also necessary keeping in mind the possibility of an epidemic in Gir, the main reason behind the big cat's extinction in Tanzania.


"Lions started dying large numbers in Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania spread across in 8,000 sq km. The bloodsucking fly menace led to the deaths of 90 out of 100 lions within a few months in 1962. In another such incident in 1993, Serengeti Plains in North-East Tanzania, spread over 18,200 sq km, saw the death of about 1,000 big cats out of 4,000 as a result of a teak fever epidemic in a year," he says.


"If an epidemic spreads in Gir forest, it would be difficult to save the rare species of Asiatic lions as the Gir forest is only spread across 1,412 sq km," he adds.





Tehelka By: Mihir Srivastava


There is a new surge in demand for lion body parts in China. Gir has become a major supply post


In two separate incidents in March, remains of six poached lions were recovered from the Babariya range of the Gir National Park and Sanctuary (GNP), the only home in the wild of the Asiatic lion. Two more lion carcasses were found in early April, raising the toll to eight.


This is new for Gir. "It is for the first time the organised poaching network has targeted lions," says Belinda Wright, head of the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI). The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Gujarat with help from the WPSI is investigating the case. The investigation has unearthed clinching evidence of the involvement of the Katni gang of poachers from central India.


The Katni gang consists of hunting tribes, the Bahilyas in this particular case, who are made to travel far and wide for poaching operations by illegal wildlife traders in Delhi and the Fatehpur-Kanpur belt. This is not the first time the Bahilyas have come to Gir. In 2001, one such gang was apprehended, 10 men arrested, and iron traps and cage, skinning knife, and other hunting material confiscated from them. Two years later, in Chota Udaipur region in the vicinity of GNP, another gang was nabbed with four leopard skins in its possession. In both cases, the poachers were there not for lions but for leopards. "Since the winter of 2006 they are now specifically targeting lions," says an investigator in CID.


Apart from lion skulls, skin and other body parts, the recoveries made at the site of the killing included iron traps, kerosene stoves, utensils and skinning knives. This shows that the Bahilyas here followed their typical modus operandi of poaching tigers elsewhere in the country.


1936    First lion census conducted, estimated lion population: 287

1968    The number of lions drops to 177

1972    Gir lion sanctuary project initiated. 580 of the 845 Maldhari families living in the forest shifted

1995    The lion population crosses 300 mark


Fifteen women were among 17 Bahilya tribe members arrested at their camp on the dry riverbed of Machhundri inside the protected area, about 15 km from the site of the crime. The men had managed to escape. The investigation trail later led the CID to Bhavnagar railway station where some more arrests were made.


Wright calls it a break from the past, and sees it as the beginning of a new phase in poaching of wildcat in India that has the potential of wiping out the only Asiatic lion population in the world. "It is still too early to say that lion body parts are being passed on as that of tigers. But it is also true that the organised poachers are in communication with the traders in India and China, and there appears to be an increase in demand for lion parts in the Chinese mainland."


The information from China suggests that Wright's apprehension could be true. Unlike the tiger's skin, tiger bones can be crushed and made odourless and disguised as other types of bones. "In case of lions it is very unlikely that traders will be able to distinguish the difference," says Wright who visited the Chinese mainland last year to investigate the burgeoning market for India's poached wildlife.


Tiger bones are the most valuable ingredient in the age-old Chinese traditional medicine system and are believed to cure rheumatism and arthritis and increase life span. Tigers' eyeballs are used to treat epilepsy, their bile for convulsions, their whiskers for toothache and their penises make for a potent sexual tonic. With the modernisation and economic boom sweeping the Chinese mainland, belief in traditional medicine has actually gone up. More and more people are acquiring the financial means to afford traditional treatment.


This has skyrocketed the prices and demand. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) believes that at least one tiger is killed daily for use in traditional Chinese medicine. Now that tigers are hard to find, lions are being made effective substitutes. In all likelihood, lion bones fetch the same price as the tiger's as there is no visual difference.


To meet the demand China has a huge stockpile of dead and alive tigers and lions. Xiongsen located just outside the southern Chinese city of Guilin is the world's largest battery farm for rare animals. It holds 1,300 tigers — almost as many as the whole of India — and about 300 lions.


The big cats' carcasses are dumped in huge vats of rice wine and left to rot for up to nine years. The Chinese believe that the tiger's strength passes into the wine as its body decomposes. They are then sold in tiger-shaped bottles of bone-strengthening wine of about £60 each. Apart from the livestock, the farm has a stockpile of skeletons of 600 tigers, lions and other animals in 100 refrigerators in underground caverns because there is no space to put them all in alcohol. The stock is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.


But this does not seem to be sufficient. The soaring prices of tiger/lion bones and rapid increase in demand have become a powerful incentive to poach. The price is estimated to be between US$140-$370 per kilogram depending on the size of the bones. In Taiwan, a bowl of tiger penis soup (to boost virility) goes for $320, and a pair of eyes (to fight epilepsy and malaria) for $170. Powdered tiger humerus bone (for treating ulcers rheumatism and typhoid) brings up to $1,450 per pound in Seoul.


In 2005, the Xiongsen wine company received permission from the State Forestry Administration and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce to produce 4,00,000 bottles of "Bu Gu Jiu" — bone strengthening wine. The name sounds like the tiger bone wine "Hu Gu Jiu" and the packaging is suggestive of tiger contents, although the approved wildlife ingredients are of the African lion. The reported annual sale is about 2,00,000 bottles for profits that run into millions. Also, the restaurants here offer an extraordinary range of dishes: a plate of lion meat is served for 380 yuan.


A delegation of the Chinese government at last year's 54th meeting of the cities standing committee distributed a statement that said: "A law enforcement investigation was made immediately and the report arrived at the top wildlife authority in China on August 29 advising that only 16 legally obtained lion carcasses were found, and no tiger bone was used to produce wine." The statement went on to say that any association of the tiger with the wine was only a kind of advertisement, like the popular Tiger Beer brand in Thailand.


Statements from the forest department in Gujarat, though, are conflicting. Chief Wildlife Warden, Pradeep Khanna, agrees that the matter is serious. "There were more than average deaths last year, but I openly said I was not worried about it. But after the poaching of lions, I agree that there are reasons to worry. We knew the gravity of the situation. Within a couple of days we sought specialised help and the case was handed over to CID," he says. Khanna's boss, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, ML Sharma, believes that the Katni gang was not after lions. "They had come to poach leopard," he maintains.


Sharma also holds the Central government responsible for the lion killings. "The Central government has failed to check the rampant organised trade in animal parts and now Gir has to bear the consequences," he said. Wright does not agree. "That the Central government has not done enough to check wildlife crime in India is common knowledge. This does not mean that the State government sits back. There are many issues that the State government has to look into to ensure security. The local government has to equally share the blame."


The state's forest department staff is ageing with an average age over 45. No recruitment has been done at the lower levels for the past 20 years. As a result there is virtually no night patrolling, informs a former chief of the GNP. This has allowed a free run to poachers and illegal night safaris are the order of the day. While Sharma denied any knowledge of night safaris, Khanna acknowledged it.


On why forest officials were unaware of the presence of Bahliyas in GNP even after two months of their arrival, Khanna said there could be no justification for the lapse but justified it all the same. "They come here with agricultural labourers from other states who work in the sugarcane fields in the park's vicinity. We do not want to harass genuine labourers who travel from so far to work," he said.


Khanna's alibi finds no support from senior officials in his own department. "There is no difficulty in locating Bahilyas," says the former GNP chief. "They dress differently, they speak a different language and their looks are strikingly different from the locals. They stay in their secluded camps away from the rest of the labourers. If only the forest staff care to patrol half of the required hours, they would know about their presence."


The whole blame cannot be put on the outside gangs though. Investigations have found that certain local people extended help to the poachers, even though the local Maldhari tribe is known to have contributed in conservation efforts. But a senior forest official says the Maldharis have become very materialistic. "They had pure ghee in their houses not long ago. Now they even sell the milk meant for their children in the market," he says.


Local tribes like the Gujjars in Rajasthan and UP are known to have abetted poaching of tigers for money. "Lions are our lifeline. If they are not there, nothing will be there. Nobody will come to Gir," says Raju, a shopkeeper in Sasan, but adds in the same breath, "They say one lion is worth a lakh rupees, which means the poachers made six lakh rupees!" Locals in Gir know that poaching lions means big money.



On protect lion mission... Modi makes an unplanned visit to Gir

Ahmedabad Newsline


Junagadh, May 2: The Gir killings and the Centre's suggestion to shift some lions to Madhya Pradesh weighing heavily on his mind, Chief Minister Narendra Modi rushed from Junagadh, where he had come to take part in the Gujarat Day state-level celebrations, to Sasan Gir, the headquarters of Gir National Park and Sanctuary, on Wednesday morning. Following his last visit on April 6, this time too Modi's visit to Sasan was an unscheduled one.


Modi was in Sasan Gir for eight hours and chaired three separate meetings. A marathon meeting was held with officials in which State Forest Minister Mangubhai Patel, Urban Development Minister I K Jadeja, Principal Forest Secretary P N Roychaudhary, PCCFs, IGP (Junagadh range) Mohan Jha, Collectors and SPs of the Junagadh, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts, and other senior officers from police and forest officials were present.


In addition to this, two separate meetings were conducted with the sarpanch of some 27 villages in Gir area, representatives of about 40 NGOs and 30 eco clubs, noted environmentalist and wildlife experts at Sinh-Sadan forest guesthouse. It is learnt that the chief minister was worried about the safety of Gir lions and used the occasion to appeal for the launch of a "Gir Wildlife Friend Mission".


Modi received various suggestions regarding protection and conservation of lions. He said in his meetings that he would seriously consider the suggestions and that the State Government was serious about the poaching cases.


Modi also said that besides the Rs 40-crore Project Lion declared by his government last month, steps had been initiated to start a wildlife crime control cell in the state police department, fast track court and wildlife protection task force.



Ahmedabad Newline

Two months, 50 arrests, CID yet to let cat out of bag


Rajkot, May 2: It's been two months since the first poaching case in Gir hit the limelight. Over 50 arrests, including that of alleged kingpin Sarkaslal Singh, later, the question is whether the CID has made any headway in the poaching case.


Singh was arrested on April 26, four days before the deadline given to the police by the State Government, and while his five-day remand custody has ended, there is little the CID is willing to let out.


When contacted, IG CID (crime) Keshav Kumar, who is heading the investigation, refused to comment. "We will let you know when the time comes,'' said Kumar when asked about the development of the investigation


Meanwhile State Chief Minister Narendra Modi headed for Sasan on Wednesday to check out the status of the probe.


In the three poaching cases in the past two months, eight lions have been killed.


Around 50 people, mainly women residing in temporary colonies in Una and Palitana, sites nearer to poaching spots including Babariya range in Gir and Bhandaria village in Palitana taluka of Bhavnagar district, were arrested.


While Singh has admitted his involvement in the trade of hide and claws, he has all along maintained that he is not involved in the killing of lions in the Gir forest.


For the CID now, the direction of the case would depend on results of brain-mapping and narco-analysis tests on Singh.


A CID source also added that "the bones, hide and claws of the lions, which are vital evidences to prove the poaching case, have not yet been found".




Intelligence network to stop poachers

Times of India


SASAN/RAJKOT: The state government appears to have finally realised the importance of involving people staying in villages near Gir sanctuary to build up a strong intelligence network, in the wake of several incidents of lion poaching in the recent past.

The government has decided to organise mass contact campaign in the nearby villages.


The move, including a step taken by Chief Minister Narendra Modi to seek suggestions from NGOs engaged in wildlife and forest conservation, eco clubs and sarpanchs of villages bordering Gir sanctuary during his visit to Sasan on Wednesday, comes after the Centre on Monday raked up the issue of shifting lions to Madhya Pradesh. He held a closed door meeting with CID (crime) officials at Sasan.


Additional principal conservator of forest, Pradeep Khanna, said that the department will conduct a campaign to contact people in the nearby villages. He said that the department held a meeting with the leaders from the nesh, the villages of the periphery, volunteers from NGOs and some representatives of eco development committee.


Officials said that the government is going to identify individuals and nature clubs who would secretly work for the forest department and give regular information to the forest department about the suspicious movement in the Gir and nearby areas.


The Maldhari community present in the meeting made representations against shifting them out of Gir. The officials said that this was the major issue which the forest department was tackling as of late, this intelligence network has totally failed because of several reasons. One of the main reasons was the harassment of local people by forest department staff. This was highlighted in a memorandum given to Modi, who was a surprise face in the meeting.




Sarkashlal to be put through narco test

Times of India - Ahmedabad


AHMEDABAD: Sarkashlal Singh, the man accused of masterminding the poaching of Asiatic lions within Gir sanctuary, will be put through narco analysis soon.


This move is aimed at helping the yet-unsuccessful hunt for bones and flesh of lions poached by Sarkashlal and his gang of tribals from MP, said police sources.


"Sarkshlal has smuggled the bones out of Gir for illegal sale in the international market, centred in China. Forensic tests like narco analysis will help us know more from the mastermind," said police officials.


On Monday, after spending five days in police remand, Singh was produced before a court in Una and sent to judicial custody. During the hearing CID (Crime) officials sought the court's permission to subject Sarkashlal to a variety of forensic tests like brain fingerprinting and narco analysis.


On March 5, remains of three lions were found within the Gir. This incident was followed by two others -- one in Gir and the other in Bhavnagar -- taking the total number of lions killed by Sarkashlal and his tribal gang from MP to eight. 



Lion cub found dead

Times of India


RAJKOT: A lion cub was found dead in Mitiyana range of Amreli district on Tuesday morning even as a lioness in Gir was paralysed after it developed a fever.


Conservator of forest (wildlife) Bharat Pathak said the cub was killed in a fight among the wild cats. The lioness was found suffering from fever on Monday, he added. "The lioness has been taken to a veterinary hospital in Sasan town of Junagadh district for treatment," Pathak said.


The cub is the 18th Asiatic lion to have died in the sanctuary in the past four months.


Shifting lions to MP will be a mistake GUJARAT'S PRIDE

Times of India 2-5-07 By: G A PATEL


Gir lions provide us with probably the only success story of wildlife conservation in India. Due to the habitat shrinking and 'shikaar' in the past, lion population in Gir had come down to as low as 20 at one point. However, sincere conservation efforts, unparalleled in the world, resulted in a significant increase in lion population in the past 75 years.

   Today, there are 359 lions in the Gir Sanctuary and National Park and its surrounding forest areas. They are, in fact, gradually reclaiming lost territory in the surrounding forest areas. The Gir lions and people living in the sanctuary provide a much-needed example of the benefits of coexistence of wildlife and community to the world.

   Conservationists demanding translocation of lions are blindly supporting the statement that "all the eggs should not be in one basket." In case of any epidemic, the entire population of Asiatic lions will disappear. And they quote the example of African lions. Besides, recent incidents of poaching in Gir and Palitana have added fuel to the demand. Such issues cannot be taken lightly. However, we often fail to appreciate the fact that the situation of the Gir lion is different.

   Firstly, the much-talked about epidemic has never struck during known history. In fact, lion population is on the rise. There are 359 lions according to the 2005 census compared to 327 in 2001. The survival ratio, death rate and life span of the Asiatic lion is normal, rendering it a healthy and growing population.

   Secondly, all the lions in Gir are not in one contiguous landscape or habitat. There are at least four isolated populations at Girnar, Mitiyala, Palitana and the coastal areas of Kodinar. About a third of the total population is outside Gir. This clearly indicates that through a natural process of dispersion, the Asiatic lion is regaining its lost territories on its own. We need to facilitate and support this natural process.

   Thirdly, Gujarat has already initiated conserving such new lion territories naturally selected by the lions. We must seriously pursue such a programme in the vicinity of Gir to enlarge the Meta

   populations. Helping such natural expansion of the lion habitat is likely to give successful results rather than complete artificial translocation to a distant place - an approach which has already witnessed failure whenever attempted in the past. There have been two such attempts in the past with 100 per cent failure. The wisdom lies in learning from the failures and not ignoring them.

   The two unsuccessful attempts were made in the past. Gwalior state made an unsuccessful attempt to introduce African lions (with seven animals) in Sheonpur between Gwalior and Shivpuri that is close to the Kuno-Palpur site. Another unsuccessful attempt was made in 1956- 57 to introduce Asiatic lions from Gir in Chandraprabha Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh. Ironically, the second attempt of shifting Gir lions was also as per the recommendation of the Indian Wildlife Advisory Board which met at Sasan Gir in 1956. We need to seriously debate the issue so that we don't again lead the national wildlife advisory body into making a wrong decision!

   (The author is a former member of the National Board for Wildlife)


Master poacher an old hand

Times of India By: Sourav Mukherjee & Himanshu Kaushik | TNN

Ahmedabad: He is 50, no more than five-and-a-half-feet tall and slightly built. A pushover, you say?

Think again, he is the dreaded lion poacher of Gir sanctuary — Sarkashlal Singh, a native of Baijan village in Hosangabad district in Madhya Pradesh. CID officials have branded him the 'national mastermind' of the two poaching incidents in Gir and one at Bhavnagar. Eight Asiatic lions have been killed.

Sarkashlal was arrested for lion poaching by the CID (Crime) sleuths on April 25, just days prior to gala celebrations that the government has planned at Junagadh for Gujarat's foundation day.

"The master poacher, who is linked to the tiger poaching racket in Madhya Pradesh, had single-handedly coordinated the poaching of lions in Gir. He was connected to the infamous Sansarchand gang of MP's Sariska tiger reserve but was never arrested. Only his name figured during investigations," said a senior Junagadh police official.

And the poacher seems to know his job well, having dodged arrest for more than two decades now. Sarkashlal had not only got eight lions poached within the protected — supposedly secure — Gir sanctuary, he also got the lions' bones and flesh smuggled out of the sanctuary without the forest officials even raising an eyebrow.

Interestingly though, Sarkashlal has told the police that he was rarely present when poaching took place. "The lion was caught in metal traps and then bludgeoned and stabbed to death by tribal gangs. The dead cats would be skinned and boned by the tribals and only then would Sarkashlal step in. He took over from there and injected the lion claws, flesh and bones into the international market. In destinations like China, bones of each lion fetch more than Rs 50 lakh," said sources.

However, it is still not clear how Sarkashlal smuggled the bones and flesh of the lions, each weighing no less 150 kg.

For the killing, Sarkashlal hired tribals from Katni and Panna in MP who are experts in tiger poaching. He stationed them in Gujarat to make them familiar with the area. This meticulous yet simple planning ensured that when the gangs struck, the forest officials were caught napping.

"Sarkashlal commands fear and respect among the tribals who refused to divulge anything about the racket or the modus operandi for long. Close to 70 tribals from MP have been rounded up but they are such hardened criminals and fearful of Sarkashlal that a lot of grilling and forensic examination was required to corroborate facts," said CID officials.

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