Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cattle Killing by Lions


Cattle Killing by Lions

All News Paper

Print Edition


Leopard kills 36 sheeps at Nana Ankodia Village near Amreli. A leopard (assumed to be leopard from pugmarks) jumped 7ft high thorny bush and killed 36 sheeps in house of Maldhari Bholabhai Sindhabhai Gamara. There were about 70 sheeps in total. (Source : Gujarat Samachar 16-12-2008)


In one more common incidence, a lion killed 12 sheeps at Aelampur village near Una in Gir East. When the owner Maldhari Rajabhai Vijabhai woke up, he tried to scare away the lion by stick. In turn lionn attacked him too. Raja is admitted to hospital for treatment. (Source : Divya Bhaskar 20-12-2008)


Pride of 6 lions killed a Bull near Dalkhania, 12 kms away from Dhari in Gir E. The kill being on a hillock on roadside, hundreds of people gathered for 'Sinh – Darshan'. (Source : Divya Bhaskar 22-12-2008)

Protective lionesses kill leopard in Gir


Protective lionesses kill leopard in Gir

Times of India =default &Enter =true&Skin =TOI &GZ=T


Dhari (Gir): In a rare incident, a female leopard is believed to have been killed by lionesses on the outskirts of Gadhia village in Dalkhania range of Gir. The carcass was recovered on Sunday morning. At least three lionesses, moving together, may have killed the leopard for venturing too close to their cubs, believe foresters.


Officials found lion saliva on the leopard's wounds and pug marks of three lionesses, along with cubs', near the carcass.


"I had seen three lionesses late on Saturday evening taking shelter in my farm along with their very young cubs. The cubs were so young, the lionesses were carrying them in their mouths," says farmer Apabhai at whose farm the leopard was killed.


"Late at night, I heard wild cries of some big cats, making it evident that a battle was raging. In the morning, I found the dead leopard and informed the forest department," he added.


Chief forest conservator Bharat Pathak says, "All big cats are fiercely protective of their offspring. Lions are known to kill leopards in territorial fights. Though there is no confirmation, it could be motherly concern for the new-born cubs that might have provoked the lionesses."


Forest officials have sent the leopard's carcass to Jasadhar village veterinary hospital for postmortem.


About three years ago in Dalkhaniya range, an old leopard and a young lion had died after a fierce territorial fight.


"As the latest incident happened late in the night, we have no visual confirmation of the number of lions," said Manish Raja, divisional forest officer of Dhari. "Based on canine marks on the leopard's body, we can confirm these were marks of a lion."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Lions cause traffic chaos on Una-Gadhadha road


Lions cause traffic chaos on Una-Gadhadha road

Times of India ult&Enter= true&Skin =TOI &GZ =T&AW=1230216163265


Ahmedabad: This was a traffic that just wanted to stay jammed. On Monday night, traffic on Una-Gir Gadadha road in Junagadh district, froze for a couple of hours and nobody seemed to mind it. After all, not everyday do you get to see a lion and lioness parked in the middle of a road enjoying the cool evening breeze.


This couple was spotted sitting near Dholiwav village on Una-Gadadha road around 8 pm. Drivers who saw them stood some 500 metres away, soaking in the sight. Eyewitnesses said that as the news spread, people gathered around, careful not to breach the romantic moment. Amit Unadkat who also went to watch the lions told TOI, "For the past few days, one can see a group of lions moving near Ramdechi village, about two km from Talala. The spotting of lions here is quite common."


Rajesh Patel, also a resident of Gir Gadadha said that seeing the two big cats, he immediately called some of his friends. "People were sensitive enough not to disturb the couple. There was a lot of noise, but the duo seemed not to mind," he said. It was nearly a couple of hours before the lions decided it was time to go back into the jungle, and the engines revved up to proceed.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Nailing poachers, a first for Gujarat


Nailing poachers, a first for Gujarat

Times of India




Ten Asiatic lions were poached between March and April 2007 in Junagadh and Amreli districts and initially, three different offences were registered. To begin with, they were investigated by Forests department. However, with registering of successive offences and the toll increasing to 10 lions, state government handed over the investigation to CID crime, which was investigating a case related to wildlife for the first time.


The case assumed importance as lions were poached for the first time in the country. Also, poaching of 10 lions at a stretch revealed international dimensions because there is no market for their body parts in India. For police officers in Gujarat investigating this wildlife crime, there was hardly any precedent to know the criminals and their modus-operandi. It was thus a blind case to investigate. NGOs like Wildlife Protection Society of India and Wildlife Trust of India came to the rescue in identifying poachers and their profile. All the information was pooled and dispatched to district units and finally all these efforts led to the arrest of poachers of 'Baheliya' from Madhya Pradesh.


Then began the process of collecting evidence under the close supervision of forensic experts. Forensic evidence from matchstick, button, bandage, footprints, eatables, weapons, blood splatters, clothes, nails, utensils, excreta (of children) etc., finally led to arrest of poachers. Subsequently polygraph and narco-analysis of the accused was undertaken. Special public prosecutors from trial court to the Supreme Court were appointed to fight the case. None of the 20 accused arrested were able to secure bail in any of the court due to the solid investigation. The links of the poachers were found in Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka. Evidence led to the arrest of a trader from Karnataka called Prabhakar Gaza Kosh. Arrest was also made of Shabbir Hussein Qureshi in Lucknow. Enforcement Directorate of UP have registered a case of money laundering against him and seized his entire property. Enforcement Directorate, Ahmedabad is shortly to begin such an investigation against the accused here. This was the first case of wildlife crime where 20 accused were convicted at a national level in one go due to forensic evidence. No case of poaching has been reported thereafter. (The writer, an IPS officer, headed the CID crime when investigation was being conducted into the lion poaching case)


It was a rare conviction for wildlife crime in India by a senior division judicial magistrate first class court of Junagadh in October 2008. Twenty people, including three women, were sentenced to three years imprisonment with Rs 10,000 fine each, for poaching lions in the Gir forest of Gujarat.

Lion couple blocks main road


Lion couple blocks main road

Divya Bhaskar

Briefly translated from Gujarati


Lions are straying far and far from Gir forest recently. A lion couple blocked Una-Gir Gadhda road near Dholiwaw village. Traffic was jammed in the evening.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Maldharis to be shifted out of Barda


Maldharis to be shifted out of Barda

Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik


Gandhinagar: The Gir lions are one step closer to getting a new home. The state forest department has speeded up its plan to shift some of the endangered Asiatic lions to Barda Dungar sanctuary.


The department completed survey of Maldharis and have finally sent a proposal to the state government to relocate these families outside the sanctuary, said conservator of forest, Junagadh, MM Sharma. A senior official said, "In all, there are some 1,400 Maldhari families who will be shifted outside the sanctuary. Shifting of families would get funding from the Central government." The official said the department has identified alternative land for their relocation in Jam Jodhpur, Kutiyana, Upleta, Dhoraji and Gondal. The forest department has proposed land for construction of houses, area to keep individual cattle and also a place where the Maldharis would have the right to graze their cattle. The official said for every 100 families, there would be a dispensary. Apart from these, there would be a school building and roads. Sources said each family will get a compensation, which will be fixed by the government.


The forest department is proposing Rs 1 lakh as compensation for each family. Once the state government approves the proposal, it would be sent to the Centre. The relocation may take another six months and by December 2009, the lions would be shifted to Barda.

‘Hyena killed sheep’


'Hyena killed sheep'

Times of India


Forest officials have revealed that it was not  a leopard but a hyena which killed 36 sheep recently in a cattle yard in Nana Ankadiya village near Amreli. Interestingly, the investigations also indicated that many of these sheep died out of fear. "Earlier, we found pug marks of a leopard near the yard and suspected it to be behind the death of 36 sheep found lying in a pool of blood in the cattle yard of Bhola Gamara on Sunday night. However, during our probe on Tuesday, we found pug marks of a hyena and marks of a sheep being dragged to a nearby bush," said a forest official. "However, the hyena injured only 10 sheep, the rest of them died out of scare," the official said.

Project Asiatic Lion, just like Project Tiger


Project Asiatic Lion, just like Project Tiger

Divya Bhaskar

Briefly translated by Gujarati


Few months before Gujarat Chief Minister had requested central Govt. for Projection Lion like Project Tiger. On receiving favorable response Govt. of Gujarat has sent two proposals of Rs. 82 (62 + 20) crores to ministry of Environment & Forest, New Delhi After studying of the proposal central Govt. will release the fund in about 1 – 11/2   months. At present this is under consideration by planning commission     

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

How sleuths using forensic science cracked killings of 10 Gir lions


How sleuths using forensic science cracked killings of 10 Gir lions

Thaindian News


Ahmedabad, Dec 16 (IANS) It was a macabre serial crime. Ten killings in over a month and the killers had melted away in the darkness of the dense jungle. But a dogged Criminal Investigation Department of Gujarat Police that probed the killings of 10 Gir lions was able to crack their first wildlife case, using conventional forensic methods, and nab the criminals.In early 2007, in a span of 35 days 10 lions were killed in three different incidents in the sprawling Gir wildlife sanctuary in western India. "Only two claws were recovered," says Keshav Kumar, Inspector General of Police, Prisons, who prosecuted the case.


"After a lacklustre probe by the forest department, the CID Crime was called and I was asked to head the probe," Kumar, who had served for four long years in CID Crime, told IANS.


"There were many firsts to the case. It was a wildlife crime investigation case that was given to the police CID Crime to investigate. None of the accused was released on bail until conviction - a national record as in most wildlife crime cases bail is granted within 15 days," said Kumar.


In October, 20 people, including three women, were sentenced to three years' imprisonment along with Rs.10,000 fine each for poaching lions in the Gir forest of Gujarat.


It was a rare conviction for wildlife crime in India by the court of a Senior Division Judicial Magistrate First Class of Junagadh.


Speaking to IANS about his experiences in handling the wildlife crime, Kumar said, "When I began I knew nothing about wildlife crime though I had 23 years' expertise in solving conventional crimes with orthodox police training. I therefore sought the help of wildlife crime investigation experts, wildlife NGOs and expert help from the forensic lab."


"It was then that I contacted Belinda Wright, who heads the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI). She told me to focus on hazel-eyed Baheliyas, a tribal community of Madhya Pradesh, that specializes in poaching activities at an all India level."


"But how was I to recognise a Baheliya? Belinda told me that foul smell emanated from these people as they rarely took bath and usually pitched tents on the roadside selling exotic herbs. Their womenfolk looked different in ghaghras (full length skirts). She said they hid their instruments in potholes dug behind the tents," Kumar said.


"My early focus was in Junagadh and my team picked up 55 suspects in the Junagadh Range… It was also for the first time that blood splatter analysis was done to reconstruct the scene of crime," Kumar said.


He was given a full forensic team and deputy director who camped with him in the jungle for 15 days. It soon paid off.


"From Baheliya women in custody we found two lion claws. There was lion blood in the finger nails of their menfolk. The claws, the clothes and other things were sent to the forensic lab. I prepared the case systematically," Kumar said.


As the case progressed the defence wanted bail on grounds of the accused being very poor.


"Baheliyas are known to jump bail and they cannot be traced as they are nomads," Supreme Court lawyer Sudhir Mishra, appointed legal consultant for the case, told the apex court.


"I too pointed to the court that lion's blood was found on the finger nails of the Baheliyas and further investigation is on, including polygraph and narco-analysis. The bail was cancelled. It was for the first time all lower courts and session courts had rejected their bail applications," Kumar said.


Why did the culprits, who included the notorious Circus Lal of Madhya Pradesh, go for lions instead of tigers? "This is the first known case in India in which the lions were hunted for trade. Tigers are the first preference as each part of it is highly valuable. But with tigers disappearing, the poachers thought that lions would have to do, and secondly it is difficult to differentiate the parts of the two species," Kumar said.


"The tools of conventional forensic methods were used for the first time in wildlife crime and it is Kumar who deserves full credit ultimately in cracking the case," Samir Sinha, country head of Traffic India, which is part of WWF Delhi, told IANS.


Discussing another wildlife case, he said the Karnataka government had recently held one Prabhakar and seized from him Rs.12.5 million worth of tiger skins, claws and teeth. A fortnight before that, a notorious smuggler Shabbir Hassan Qureshi was apprehended by the Uttar Pradesh police from Lucknow and 17 tiger skins and 100 tiger bones, worth Rs.20 million, were recovered. A team went from Gujarat to Uttar Pradesh.


Qureshi, who was nabbed Nov 25, was interestingly booked under the Money Laundering Act along with the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.


"Unlike the Wildlife Act, fixing Shabbir Hassan Qureshi under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) was quick and effective as it involved only paper work," said Rajeshwar, assistant director in the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Lucknow.


Speaking to IANS from Lucknow, Rajeshwar said it was a new dimension to book an accused of wildlife crimes also under the PMLA. "PMLA results in faster conviction in almost 100 percent cases," he said.

Lion attacks farmer in Dhari


Lion attacks farmer in Dhari

Times of India


A lion attacked a farm labourer, injuring him grievously at his farm in Dangavadar near Bharad in Dhari taluka. As per details, the lion pounced on Vallabh Bhura from behind while he was watering his field and pulled off 2 inches of flesh away from his body. Hearing his screams, people came running and scared away the lion. Bhura was rushed to a hospital in Dhari, where his condition is stated to be serious.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Seven liquor breweries raided in Gir sanctuary


Seven liquor breweries raided in Gir sanctuary

Times of India n=default& AW =1229162 64 7796


Junagadh: Forest officials on Friday raided seven liquor breweries and recovered a cache of over a 1,000 litre of illegal country-made liquor from Gir sanctuary on Friday.


According to local crime branch (LCB) officials, a team led by police inspector JK Jhala swooped down on the area behind Wilingdon Dam in Datar Hill area and raided seven liquor breweries. "The raid yielded 200 litres of country liquor and 10,300 litres of raw material. This apart, equipment worth Rs 29,000 was also recovered from the breweries," said an LCB official.


"However, liquor mafia including Devayat Rabari, Karshan Rabari, Manu Rabari, Parbat Rabari, Manda Rabari, Naresh Rabari and Arjan Rabari fled before police could catch them," the official said. The raid put a question on the forest department's claim of maintaining law and order in the sanctuary. This is the first major haul of liquor from the area which is thronged by more than 10 lakh pilgrims at least twice a year. This is the same Datar Hill area where Chandni rape-and-murder case was reported oneand-half years ago.

79 Asiatic lions die in past two years


79 Asiatic lions die in past two years

Press Trust of India


New Delhi, Dec 11 (PTI) At least 79 Asiatic lions have died in Gir forest alone in Gujarat in the last two years since 2006, Environment minister S Reghupathy told the Lok Sabha.

According to Reghupathy, while 24 lions died in 2006, another 55 died in 2007. Out of the total deaths, as many as 50 died due to natural reasons such as old age while 13 animals died accidentally felling into wells in the area during the two years, he said.


The Minister, who was replying to a written question, said in 2007, six cases of electrocution and eight poaching incidents were also reported.


"As per information received from the state government, the population of Asiatic lion, based on the census carried out in 2005, is approximately 359 in Brihat Gir region of Gujarat," Reghupathy added.


The Minister said as part of its effort to protect the animal, the state government has taken several steps such as augmenting manpower, increased mobility of staff by providing motorcycles and other vehicles, better communication between the personnel and gathering support of local residents. PTI

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Should Acacia trees be cut?


Should Acacia trees be cut?

Divya Bhaskar

Briefly translated from Gujarati


Accia (Gando Baval) trees are fast spreeding in Savarkundla area surround Gir East forest. This is favourite Labitate for Lions as sources say. It may happen that further these type may start thickening the forest. Since about 20 years trees are not cut inside the forest area.

Carcass of Leopard found


Carcass of Leopard found

Gujarat Samachar

Briefly translated from Gujarati


A carcass of Leopard was found in Ambardi forest near Dhari. It is expected that leopard had died about 15-20 days back. Hence it is not possible to ascertain cause of death, forest officials said.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Hyena attacks 4 in Savarkundala village


Hyena attacks 4 in Savarkundala village

Times of India


A hyena that strayed into Abhrampara village of Savarkundala bit four people on Sunday night. The injured, including a woman and her daughter, were admitted to hospitals in Rajkot and Ahmedabad. According to forest department officials, Amba Wakeriya was attacked when he was driving his motorcycle near Abhrampara. "The hyena jumped at Amba and bit his leg while he kept on driving the vehicle," said a forest officials. "Later, the same animal entered the orchard of Naresh Donga (25) and bit him. After this, the hyena went to the adjoining orchard and attacked two women-Mukta Nashit(42) and her daughter Alphana(20)," the official said. "The victims were rushed to hospitals for emergency anti-rabies treatment. Meanwhile, we have set up cages to trap the hyena at different spots on the village outskirts," he said.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Cattle Killing by Lions


Cattle Killing by Lions

All News Paper

Print Edition


Pride of lions injured two cows at Radha Vallabh Gushala on Fareda Road in Gir Gadhda in Gir East (Source : Gujarat Samachar 21-11-2008)


Lion couple jumped 7ft high compound wall and killed a calf around 11PM. Incidence happened Punja Bhagwan's home in Lor village near Jafrabad in Greater Gir. (Source : Divya Bhaskar 21-11-2008)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Gujarat legislator accused of harming Gir forest


Gujarat legislator accused of harming Gir forest

Times of India


AHMEDABAD: A Gujarat legislator is carrying out illegal mining and stone crushing in the protected Gir forest - home to Asia's only lion species - ravaging the areas around its periphery, a state government employee has alleged.


Kanaksinh Parmar, 40, who works as a translator in the state secretariat in Gandhinagar, has written to Chief Minister Narendra Modi to draw his attention to the environmental degradation in the Kodinar area of Gir.


"I spent my childhood in Kodinar and I grew up there amid its sylvan surroundings. But all this has changed now," said a worried Parmar.


Kodinar is the place where two of the three lion corridors - Gir Kodinar and Gir Mitiyala - pass. Gir is around 400 km from here.


"There are a number of mining and stone crushing activities within a periphery of five kilometres of the Gir forest area in Harmadia, Ebhalvad, Pinchhvi, Arithia and Nagadala villages in the Kodinar taluka of Junagadh district. These illegal activities are due to direct involvement of Kodinar-Khamba MLA Dinubhai Boghabhai Solanki," he said in the Nov 4 letter to Modi.


Asserting that he is ready to substantiate all his charges against the legislator, Parmar says he is fighting a lone battle against Solanki, whom he charges with being a "a law unto himself" and accuses him of "denuding the forest".


"Many police cases, some of them serious, have been registered against him," Parmar says in his complaint.


Parmar said: "I am doing this at risk to my life. It may seem a losing battle, but I will keep fighting. Solanki has let loose a reign of terror in Kodinar."


However, the legislator brushed off the allegations as unfounded and politically motivated.


"We do not do anything illegal. My family does have a quarry and it has a valid permit," Solanki said, claiming that a malicious campaign had been let loose against him.


He alleged that a local NGO was blackmailing him and said the various criminal cases against him were filed by his political opponents during various elections.


Junagadh Collector Ashwini Kumar also denied there was any mining or stone crushing activity in and around the Sasan Gir area which is a protected lion sanctuary.


However, the official clarified that unlike Sasan Gir, the Girnar reserved forest falls within the Junagadh city limits and it was only four months ago that an area of five kilometres around its periphery was declared part of the sanctuary area.


The decision was protested by local residents as quarrying of limestone is their mainstay.


"We have allowed the cutting of stones which is done by heavy cutters on humanitarian grounds. However, there is no blasting at the site," the collector said.


Pradeep Khanna, Gujarat's chief wildlife warden and principal chief conservator of forests, said the area that falls in Junagadh city was notified as a sanctuary area on May 31, 2008, and the forest department gave a no-objection certificate for stone quarrying in the area on certain conditions.


"The final decision is yet to be taken. The very fact that the government had declared the area as an eco-fragile zone means we are concerned about the ecology and want to find a solution to it. However, there is no question of any mining in Sasan Gir," he said.


According to the conservation body IUCN, there are around 175 lions in the Gir forests.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Leopard falls in to Open Wells


Leopard falls in to Open Wells

Divya Bhaskar

Briefly translated from Gujarati


A leopard fell into a well at Inaj village near Verawal. After two hours of hard work by forest dept it was pulled out and taken to Sasan hospital for treatment. Along with, dead body of cat was also brought out. Thus it is assumed that leopard may have fallen chasing the cat.


Kishore Kotecha's Comment :- One more killer well incidence…. Dangerous rescue operation….. And poor chap is injured but saved.

Friday, November 21, 2008

'Bhuvan is ISRO's new eye in the sky


'Bhuvan is ISRO's new eye in the sky

Times of India


AHMEDABAD: Imagine if you could count the lions in Gir or fishermen could locate fish shoals in the sea, just by the click of a mouse. Space Applications Centre of ISRO has just made that possible by an innovation called 'Bhuvan'.


'Bhuvan', meaning 'earth', is the addition to the numerous scientific innovations by SAC and is a satellite mapping tool, just like Google Earth or Wikimapia, but allows you to zoom far closer than the aerial view from a chopper. If Google Earth shows details down to 200 metre resolution on the surface and Wikimapia to 50 metres, Bhuvan will have image resolution down to 10 metre, which means you can easily see details up to a three floor high building and also add information.


Announcing this at the 28th International Congress on Collaborative Mapping and Space Technology of the Indian National Cartographic Association (INCA) at Gandhinagar recently, ISRO chairman Dr G Madhavan Nair said: "Bhuvan will use the data recorded by the Indian satellites only. The prototype of Bhuvan will be ready by the end of November and ISRO is hoping to officially launch the service by March next." 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gene pool of Asiatic Lions to come up in Gujarat


Gene pool of Asiatic Lions to come up in Gujarat

The Hindu


The Asiatic Lion faces threat from poaching and deadly diseases, affecting its population in the lone habitat of the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo: P. V. Sivakumar


Ahmedabad (PTI): Turning to science in a long-term conservation plan of endangered Asiatic Lions, an exclusive gene pool of the species will be set up with blood and DNA samples to maintain their genetic diversity.


The measure taken up by the Gujarat government is aimed at protecting the diverse gene pool of the last surviving Asiatic Lions — just 359 as per the last census in 2005 — which faces threat from poaching and deadly diseases, affecting its population in the lone habitat of the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary.


The forest department would set up four gene pools at four different places around the sanctuary, Forest Conservator Mayank Sharma told PTI. Blood and DNA samples, semen and live tissue specimens of large number of lions will be preserved at these units.


"We have identified four different places, where we will build full-fledged gene pools as a part of a long term conservation plan," Sharma said.


These units would come up at Rampara and Umath in Rajkot district, Shakkarbaug in Junagadh and Barda in Porbandar. The purpose of the project is to maintain genetic diversity of the lions, he said.


The wildlife department plans to keep six to eight breeding pairs of lions in each of these gene pool, Sharma said, adding that they would be kept in captivity in huge enclosures built at each of the four identified centres.


"Each gene pool will be built at a cost of Rs 1.50 crore," Sharma said.


"We will prepare genetic profiling of each lion present in the gene pool, conduct DNA fingerprinting on them, take their tissue and sperm samples and preserve them in cold storage."


The project also plans to build a laboratory at Sakkarbaug in Junagadh for storing live tissue materials.


"We plan to keep the gene pool for the next 50 years. New techniques would have been developed for conservation of wild animals by then," the forest conservator said.


The building of enclosure has been completed at Rampara near Vankaner town in Rajkot district and lions will be introduced there by 2009-2010. Construction of enclosure is underway at Barda Wildlife Sanctuary in Porbandar district.


"Enclosures will be bigger than those in Zoos. People will not be allowed there," Sharma added.


"We will not pick up lions from Gir and introduce them to gene pools. Lions straying out of the sanctuary and the injured ones after rehabilitation would be shifted to gene pools," he added.

Monday, November 17, 2008

In Gir, too many lions, too little space


In Gir, too many lions, too little space

Hindustan Times By Rathin Das 07642 d&MatchID 1=4836&TeamI D1=6&Tea mID2=2&M at chType1=2&SeriesID1=1219&PrimaryID=4836&Headline=In+Gir%2c+too+many+lions%2c+too+little+space


Earlier this month, two lions were captured in Gondal, 100 km north of India's only refuge for the Asiatic lion.


It's only the latest indication that the lions of Gir National Park are becoming victims of a conservation success.


This decade, lions have preyed on domestic cattle, fallen into village wells, been electrocuted by fences, even seen on Gujarat's beaches.


The last official census in 2005 revealed 359 lions where there were 180 three decades ago in Gir, set up in 1974 as the Indian lion's home.


Only, no one told the lions.


"They don't know where reserve forest limits end and villages begin," noted I. K. Chauhan, deputy conservator of forests. "They go wherever they see thick vegetation."


Gir, spread over a core area of 258.7 square km in Gujarat's Junagadh district, can accommodate upto 300 lions. That's not enough now.


The solution: Expand the core area — no humans allowed here — or move some lions.


Expanding the core will displace tribals, and that's politically impossible. As for finding a new home, the Gujarat government refuses to share its lions.


Madhya Pradesh has been trying to lay its hand on a few of Gir's surplus lions for more than a decade, hoping to move them to a forest near Gwalior, to its Kunopalpur forest reserve.


Gujarat didn't actually refuse to move lions: It simply did not.


The MP government has since approached the Supreme Court, but Gujarat refuses.


"Why should we give up our lions?" a senior politician argued, requesting anonymity.


Wildlife experts cite another reason. "Lions and tigers can't stay in the same forest," said S.K. Nanda, state environment and forest secretary. "There are tigers at Kunopalpur. We won't sacrifice our lions."

Another poacher gang active in Gir?


Another poacher gang active in Gir?

Times of India


Foresters Comb Sanctuary After Lioness Was Found Injured


Junagadh: Barely a month after 19 poachers— who killed six lions in March 2007 in Babaria forest range of Gir, were awarded three years' rigorous imprisonment— forest department has raised alarm suspecting another gang having become active. Reports suggest forest department has started intense combing of the area.


The department also suspects that the gang belongs to Madhya Pradesh, which was the native of the dreaded poacher, Sarkaslal. Three jeeps of forest officials and police conducted searches in Kankai-Sasan and Lalpur areas of Gir (West ) on Saturday. Sources also confirmed a thorough check of all nomadic tribes, who have settled here.


Top officials have termed the checks as routine procedure. However. sources said, this type of intense operation is taking place for the first time after Sarkaslal's gang was caught in 2007.


A top source in the forest department said, "A lion has been missing since last few days, while another lioness was spotted injured with two of her cubs. Marks of injury on her head and throat do not suggest infighting, but something more." B h a r at Pathak, chief conservator of forest said, "Though we have not been given any specific information, we have been asked to conduct intense patrolling. Following which, we have conducted combing at Una and nearby areas."

On the prowl for insights into lions' genetic evolution


On the prowl for insights into lions' genetic evolution



An international team of researchers has successfully traced the evolutionary history of the world's lions in unprecedented detail. The researchers' findings published online in the journal Public Library of Science (PLoS), indicate that there are 11 genetic subsets in today's lions that not only distinguish African from Asian populations but also separate genetic strands within the African population.


The subsets, most of which are determined by geographical clusters, include individual ones in Namibia, Kruger National Park (South Africa), Ngorongoro Crater (Tanzania), Kenya, Uganda and the Gir Forest in India as the only Asia subset. In addition, there are two distinct clusters in Botswana and three in Serengeti National Park (Tanzania).


The findings contradict the theory that African lions consist of a single, randomly breeding or so-called 'panmictic' population. The authors of the study, including researchers from Portugal, the UK, Africa and the US, conclude that greater efforts should go into preserving individual populations as opposed to large-scale conservation schemes.


'Understanding the broader aspects of the evolutionary history of the lion has been hindered by a lack of comprehensive sampling and appropriately informative genetic markers,' the authors explain. In an effort to address that shortcoming, they examined the genetic makeup of 357 lions from Africa and Asia.


The scientists also analysed patterns and variations of viruses found in the big cats. 'The unique social ecology of lions and the fact that lions have experienced well-documented infectious disease outbreaks [...] provide a good opportunity to study lion evolutionary history using both host and virus genetic information,' the study reports. 'Indeed, population genetics of transmitted pathogens can accurately reflect the demographic history of their hosts.'


In this regard, the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), a retrovirus analogous to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), was particularly useful because, the authors explain, 'the virus is quite genetically diverse in lions, offering a unique marker for assessing ongoing lion demographic processes.'


According to the analysis, today's population of 50,000 free-ranging lions in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia derive from several habitats in Eastern and Southern Africa in the Pleistocene epoch (about 324,000 to 169,000 years ago). These genetically distinct populations spread into Central and Northern Africa and into Asia during the Late Pleistocene (about 100,000 years ago). Between 14,000 and 7,000 years ago, during the Pleistocene/Holocene transition, the big cats from habitats in the south spread again towards the north and east, so that there was interbreeding between populations.


Yet, the study concludes, 'in spite of the ability of lions to disperse long distances, patterns of genetic diversity suggest substantial population subdivision [...], and reduced gene flow, which, along with large differences in [...] six distinct FIV-Ple subtypes among lion populations, refute the hypothesis that African lions consist of a single panmictic population.'


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African, Asian Lion Populations Genetically Diverse, Research Suggests


African, Asian Lion Populations Genetically Diverse, Research Suggests

GenomeWeb News - NY,USA By a GenomeWeb staff reporter


NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Lion populations contain unexpected genetic diversity, according to a new study.


An international team of researchers used a combination of mitochondrial DNA, Y-chromosome, biparental nuclear DNA, and feline immunodeficiency virus sequence data to characterize lion population genetics and evolutionary history. Their work, appearing online today in PLoS Genetics, suggests that existing lion populations fall into at least eleven genetic groups, challenging the notion that African lions fall into one large genetic group. That, in turn, provides insights into potential lion conservation strategies.


"We refute the hypothesis that African lions consist of a single panmictic population," senior author Warren Johnson, a staff scientist with the National Cancer Institute's Laboratory of Genetic Diversity, and his colleagues wrote, "highlighting the importance of preserving populations in decline rather than prioritizing larger-scale conservation efforts."


In the past, lion fossils dating back millions of years have been unearthed in eastern and southern Africa. The animals appear to have spread from Africa to other parts of the continent and into Eurasia and the Americas. These days, though, remaining free-ranging lion populations are found in just a few primary regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa and India's Gir Forest, where researchers estimate that there are fewer than 50,000 lions remaining.


The team compiled genetic data from 357 lions from Africa and Asia, focusing on sequences from mitochondrial genes, the SRY-3' UTR on the Y-chromosome, two biparental nuclear genes, and 22 microsatellite markers.


They also compared sequences from FIV samples, since the viruses vary genetically from one lion population to the next. FIV genetics, meanwhile, added another layer to the picture. The virus is endemic to eight of the 11 lion populations, absent only in populations in India, Namibia, and the Botswana/Kalahari region.


Overall, the team found eleven genetically distinct groups of lions: one each in Namibia, South Africa's Kruger National Park, Tanzania's Ngorongoro Crater, Kenya, Uganda, and Gir, India, two groups in Botswana, and three in the Serengeti National Park.


In Botswana, the researchers found one distinct genetic cluster of lions in northern Botswana and another in southern Botswana and the Kalahari in South Africa. In the Serengeti region, on the other hand, three genetic clusters were found in an overlapping region.


Along with their assessment of existing lion populations, the researchers were also able to make inferences about past migration events. Their analysis of lion and FIV genetic data indicates that East African lions are genetically older than other lions, supporting the notion that lions were present in East Africa before spreading to other regions sampled.


The genetic patterns in each region also revealed information about some past lion migration events. For instance, the team concluded that lion populations living today originated in East and Southern Africa during the Pleistocene period, between 169,000 and 324,000 years ago.


From there, the researchers inferred that there were two major migration events. The first migration, from southern and eastern Africa to Central and North Africa and Asia, appears to have occurred during the Late Pleistocene about 100,000 years ago. More recently, during the Pleistocene/Holocene transition (some 7,000 to 14,000 years ago), lions appear to have migrated from Southern Africa towards East Africa, inter-breeding with other lion populations on the way.


"[W]e found substantial population subdivision, reduced gene flow, and large differences in FIVPle sequence and sero-prevalence among lion populations, as well as evidence of historic secondary contact between populations," the authors wrote.


Beyond providing information about past lion populations, the team noted, the findings could have implications for those designing lion conservation schemes. Because there appears to be a substantial amount of genetic diversity between different lion populations, genetic clusters could be lost should individual lion populations disappear.


"[E]mploying a bottom-up perspective that prioritizes populations, rather than large-scale units (e.g. all African lions), might preserve and maintain lion diversity and evolutionary processes most efficiently," the authors wrote.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Science in the wild


Science in the wild

India Today By Mihir Srivastava


Between February and March 2007, 10 lions were killed by poachers in three different incidents at the Gir National Park (GNP) which houses 360 Asiatic lions, the only surviving population in the wild.


Eighteen months later, 30 tribals belonging to the Baheliya tribe were found guilty by a local court in Junagadh and sentenced to three years imprisonment. This is unprecedented in the history of wildlife crime in India on two counts: use of forensics to crack the case and speedy conviction of the accused.


In late March 2007, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi took personal interest in the case and the investigation was handed over from the Forest Department to the CID-crime under Inspector General of Police (IGP) Keshav Kumar.


"We inherited a blind case with no seizure, no eyewitnesses," says Kumar. Forensics was the only ray of hope. The Modi Government gave him a seven-member team along with a mobile forensic lab.


The reconstruction of the site of crime, linking the evidence gathered to the perpetrators of the crime was crucial for solving the case.


Each and every piece of evidence was meticulously collected and sealed. Evidence collected from the scene indicated that the poachers were in the forest along with their families.

At this stage of investigations crucial help came from a Delhi-based NGO, Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), which specialises in anti-poaching operations. It provided police with the crucial input about the modus operandi of the Baheliyas, a traditional nomadic poaching tribe.


They dress shabbily as herbal medicinal vendors while travelling to various wildlife centres, never revealing their true identity. Baheliyas go by strange names like Cycle Bhai, Motor Singh and Diesel Singh.


A search operation was ordered and police apprehended a gang of 45 Baheliya women and children, barring two males, in Gujarat. Director of central India operations of WPSI, Nitin Desai says, "My informers helped establish the real identity of the accused. They helped police nab four absconders."


Even after the arrests, linking them to the crime was difficult. Those arrested feigned ignorance and no recovery of lion parts was made. Here forensic support came handy. The team had recovered lion carcasses, with bones and claws missing, from pits near the Baheliya camping sites.


The accused were subjected to forensic tests, which established that their nails, spears and animal traps carried traces of flesh, blood and hair of the poached lions. The analysis determined the species of the sample as well as the unique DNA fingerprint of one particular animal, whose flesh was found on the equipment. The link was clearly established.


First of its kind

·                         Forensic science was used to crack the case.

·                         Narco-analysis was done on a woman and that too in a wildlife case.

·                         DNA fingerprinting used to link crime, site of crime with the perpetrators of the crime.

·                         Life insurance policies were recovered from the poachers, hinting at the involvement of    bigger players. 


To confirm the line of investigation, in a yet another unprecedented move, a narco-analysis test was conducted on one of the accused, a woman. It confirmed the initial findings. Based on the irrefutable evidence, the CID was able to submit a charge-sheet within three months.


The investigation would have gone in vain had the accused secured bail.


"Baheliyas are known to jump bail and they cannot be traced as they are nomads," says Sudhir Mishra, a Supreme Court lawyer, who was appointed legal consultant for the case by the Gujarat Government.


The accused had bona fide proof of address— ration cards and voter I-cards—but the probe proved they were fake.


Faced with no ground for defence, the accused withdrew their bail application.


The investigations revealed the extent of patronage the tribals get for poaching animals to keep the global trade in wildlife parts going. The supposedly poor tribals had huge life insurance covers.


The police found 18 LIC policies in the name of three of the gang, with Rs 4,50,000 paid as premium for these policies. They were bought from one agent in Madhya Pradesh.


The police is now probing the source of money for these policies. "In this case, wildlife crime was treated at par with any other crime. That made the difference," says Belinda Wright, executive director, WPSI. Poachers on the endangered list?

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