Friday, September 30, 2011

Forest officer challenges transfer order

Forest officer challenges transfer order
Times of India

A forest officer has approached Gujarat high court challenging his transfer from Sasan Gir, allegedly at the behest of Congress MLA from Talala. Range forest officer (RFO) B R Parmar claimed that he was transferred earlier this month because his action to stop lion shows was not acceptable to local community.

Parmar filed a petition challenging his transfer from Gir to Rajkot and contended that he was transferred five times in the last two years.

He told the court that he was instrumental in putting a brake on lion shows that was going on in and around the sanctuary to attract and entertain tourists. Parmar claimed he took stern action in poaching cases which displeased local people.

They approached Talala MLA Bhagabhai Barad, at whose instance he was shifted to Rajkot earlier this month, Parmar said in his petition.

The forest officer told the court that the politician was not happy with his posting in Gir. During his earlier posting there in 2008, he tried to stop various illegal activities in the sanctuary and his actions infuriated Barad, who along with his supporters attacked him. A criminal proceeding in this regard has been pending, the forester has claimed.

After hearing allegations against the MLA, justice A S Dave decided to join Barad as a party respondent in the proceeding.

The next hearing in the case is on October 3.

Forester says shunted for his lion care

Forester says shunted for his lion care
Express News Service

Moves HC with petition that Talala Congress MLA got him transferred from Gir sanctuary in Junagadh
A forest officer has moved the Gujarat High Court challenging his transfer from the Gir sanctuary in Junagadh to Rajkot alleging that he was shifted because he had stopped 'lion shows' and several other illegal activities inside the sanctuary.

Acting on the petition by Range Forest Officer B K Parmar, which alleged that Talala Congress MLA Bhaga Barad was responsible for the transfer, a single-judge bench has ordered to name Barad as a respondent to the petition.

Parmar was transferred from the Gir lion sanctuary to the Rajkot Social Forest Department last week. Following this, he challenged the transfer through his lawyer, Mukul Sinha, who contended that the transfer was done at the instance of Barad.

To emphasise his point, Parmar has stated that the transfer was part of a series of five transfers that he received in the last two years because of his honest working style, which did not go well within the circles of his posting.

According to Sinha, Parmar has cited various instances where he acted against various persons found indulging in various illegal activities in the sanctuary, like conducting illegal 'lion shows' in Junagadh, which is the only abode of Asiatic lions in the world. He has alleged that locals used to tame lions using baits for visitors, who insisted on seeing the big cat at close quarters for a hefty fee. The officer had also effected arrests of some locals for the poaching of a chinkara inside the sanctuary.

Sinha said the local Maldhari community had approached Barad against Parmar, following which the transfer order came. He said the community members were indulging in various illegal activities inside the sanctuary which Parmar had resisted.

Giving another reason to indicate Barad's alleged role behind his transfer, Parmar cited a 2008 case when the latter was posted in Junagadh and the former along with his accomplices had allegedly attacked him. A criminal case was registered at the relevant time against certain persons, including Barad. "Because Parmar is discharging his duty without fear or favour of anybody, he keeps getting transferred quite frequently. And Barad being close to the local Maldhari community, we believe him to be behind the transfer," said Sinha.

The court has kept further hearing on October 3.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

African Cheetah dies in Junagadh zoo

African Cheetah dies in Junagadh zoo

An African Cheetah, brought from Singapore Zoo in 2009, died here due to renal failure this morning.

The 12-year-old Cheetah was brought from Singapore along with three other cheetahs when
Sakkarbaugh Zoo traded three of its lions with them to Singapore zoo.

According to the zoo officials, last cheetah in the zoo had died 60 years ago in 1946. The death of the male cheetah today has shocked the zoo officials who tried to save his life desperately.

They even called specialists from Singapore to treat the ailing cheetah but to no avail.

The Sakkarbaug Zoo, established in 1863, has a natural history museum in a large hall in the veterinary hospital. The museum opened with the skeletons of two Asiatic lions, as well as panther, deer, wild boar, antelope, black buck, blue bull, and spotted deer. Eggs, beaks, and feathers of various birds were also on display. The museum will be expanded as specimens become available, the officials said.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lions safe, but vulnerable due to Gujarati pride: US

Lions safe, but vulnerable due to Gujarati pride: US
Times of India

Right from poaching to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's enthusiasm for the big cats' conservation, US diplomats have shown deep interest in the efforts made by the state. During several visits here, the foreign diplomats met state forest officials and sent detailed notes on lions in Gir. Many such documents sent from Mumbai consulate and Delhi US embassy were leaked by the whistleblower website Wikileaks.

A 2008 Wikileaks cable titled 'Wildlife Conservation In India's Gujarat State Yields Impressive Dividends But Pride Leaves Lions Exposed' reads: "Although Gujarat exemplifies what political will, education, and effective enforcement can do to protect wildlife, the justifiable pride Gujaratis feel in their conservation efforts stands in the way of ensuring the continued viability of the Asiatic lion. Despite the scientific evidence, with which they openly agree, Gujarat's wildlife officials maintain that only Gujaratis can protect the lion."

The cable adds that a senior forest official and an IPS officer claimed that the reason for the success was the keen personal interest and intervention of CM Narendra Modi which led to an "unusual level of interdepartmental cooperation between the forest department and the Gujarat police". The forest official informed an US embassy official that Modi personally attends forest department meetings with local communities to sort out complaints and issues.

The cable says: "Strong and palpable positivism of Gujaratis towards wildlife is also thanks in part to religious sentiments and the culture of vegetarianism as 80% of all Gujaratis are vegetarian, including the Maldhari community that resides inside GNP. According to deputy forest officer Raja, when a lion does kill a villager's livestock, the villager considers it an offering. Raja noted the forest department's longstanding and efficiently implemented policy of quickly paying compensation to the villager also helps to reduce villager retribution against lions."

Human Encroachment on Large Predators

Human Encroachment on Large Predators
Startribune By T.R. Michels

One of the comments on my last bear blog mentioned the FACT that we humans are encroaching (moving into) habitat that is or was used by large predators. In the past, whenever that happened, the predators lost. While there may have been loses to humans in the form of human lives, or property damage, or livestock loss, which in most cases is or was the reason for our antagonism for and fear of large predators - in the end it was the predators that lost their right to use the habitat - and they lost it by being hunted, trapped and poisoned. They were exterminated, in most cases completely.

We see it now, as more and more human development moves into the once wild land of central and northern Minnesota, where wolves and bears have been the target of humans. We may also have lost mountain lions, but I don't think there were any reliable records on their previous populations. We have undoubtedly lost some otters, fisher, pine marten, weasels, mink and skunks, and possibly wolverines in the far north. We have also lost bobcat and Canadian lynx. But those smaller predators don't receive the publicity that the larger predators do, because they do not cause the damage and fear that the larger predators may do.

It is not only North America where this is happening. Bengal tigers are being poached in India, Indochinese tigers are endangered in Cambodia, China, Laos, Burma, Thailand, and Vietnam. The estimates for this subspecies vary between 1,200 and 1,800, with only several hundred left in the wild. The Malayan tiger is found exclusively in the southern part of the Malay Peninsula. It was not considered a subspecies in its own right until 2004. Recent counts showed there are 600–800 tigers in the wild, making it the third largest tiger population, behind the Bengal tiger and the Indochinese tiger.

The South China tiger, also known as the Amoy or Xiamen tiger, is the most critically endangered tiger subspecies and is listed as one of the 10 most endangered animals in the world. The Chinese government banned the killing of wild tigers in 1977, but it may have been too late, because they may already be extinct in the wild. There are only 59 tigers of this subspecies, all captive animals, all within China. However, they are known to be descended from only six animals. The genetic diversity required to maintain the subspecies might no longer exist. There are breeding efforts to reintroduce the tigers to the wild.

The Siberian tiger is found in far southeast Russia. The last two censuses (1996 and 2005) found that there were between 450–500 Amur tigers (within their single, and more or less continuous range. This makes them one of the largest undivided tiger populations in the world. Genetic research in 2009 demonstrated that the Siberian tiger, and the western Caspian, which was once thought to be a separate subspecies, that became extinct in the wild in the late 1950's, are actually the same subspecies. The separation of the two populations may have occurred as recently as the past century - due to human intervention - again.

Unfortunately other tiger subspecies have not fared as well. The Bali tiger was limited to the island of Bali. They were hunted to extinction. The last Balinese tiger may have been killed at Sumbar Kima, West Bali on September 27, 1937. The Javan tiger was limited to the island of Java. It probably became extinct in thea1980s, as a result of hunting and habitat destruction. The Caspian tiger, also known as the Persian tiger or Turanian tiger was the westernmost population of the Siberian tiger ,was found in from turkey east to Mongolia. It apparently became extinct in the late 1950's.

Both the African Lion ,of Africa, and the Asiatic Lion of India are not faring much better. Most African lions live in eastern and southern Africa now. Their numbers are rapidly decreasing, with an estimated 30–50% decline over the last two decades. The total population may range between 16,500 and 47,000 wild lion in 2002–2004. This is down from the early 1990's when the estimates ranged from as high as 100,000 and possibly 400,000 animals in 1950. The wild population of more than 200 Asiatic Lions may have been derived from just 13 individuals, and it may be highly inbred.

And I have not talked about how grizzly bears have been decimated in North America, especially the United States. They now live almost exclusively in the wilderness regions of Canada and Alaska, where human encroachment has not impacted them as much - so far. Nor have I talked about leopards, jaguars, mountain lions and cheetahs, or wolves around the world.

Here in the United States there is once again a big uproar about the reintroduced wolves of the Yellowstone ecosystem. I recently was sent a link to a video about the wolves of the Yellowstone Ecosystem. It was a well put together video with what appeared to be very knowledgeable and passionate people, stating whereat were supposedly facts and true statements, most of which were negative, designed to sway anyone watching it, into believing what it presented was a reliable presentation of what is or has been occurring as a result of the reintroduction of wolves into the western United States.

I'm willing to bet that by now, most of you could predict that I, as an animal conservation advocate, could find more than a few things wrong with the video. And that I would have more than a few scientific facts to support my own view on the subject - which I will write about in my upcoming blogs.

What this is all leading to is - habitat and wildlife conservation – which I as a professional outfitter, guide and hunter for the last 55 years, believe that all of us who live on the planet, have a responsibility to care about, and do something about, or we are not fulfilling our responsibilities to the planet we live on, and the God that I believe created it - who I refer to as the Judeo-Christian God - Yahweh.

Please - do not bully others, or allow your children and friends to malign, abuse or talk bad about other children. I just learned that two more children from the Kenyon area of southeast Minnesota commited suicide as a result of being bullied.

Please - be aware of anything that might lead to cancer in your family. My wife is currently receiving chemo and radiaton treatments because she has lung cancer, from smoking cigarettes for over 20 years. Smoking can lead to mouth, throat, esophgeal and lung cancer.

My 25 year old daughet just had two moles removed from her back, one of them was cancerous, And the doctor is concerned about one or more other moles, which she has had from birth, and they are not in places where they are affected by the sun. Any large or irregular moles, or ones that change in shape or increase in size should be checked by your doctor - on a regular basis.  

I canot tell you how a diagnosis of cancer affects the patient, but it is extremely difficult - both psychologically and emotionally - for the family of the patient and all others who care about them. When you smoke, you may be affecting not only yourself, but also those you love.

May God bless all of you and your families,

Friday, September 09, 2011

Cheetahs can wait

Cheetahs can wait
The Pioneer By Anuradha Dutt

Right now we need to save the remaining big cats

Over the past decade, saving big cats — tigers, in particular — has been the focus of wildlife conservation in the Ministry of Environment and Forests. India is home to over half of the world's tigers, with the latest census placing the number at 1,706. The number, as per the 2008 census release, was 1,411. Tiger habitats spread over 17 States were surveyed for counting. Though the number is up, poaching is still the biggest threat to the survival of tigers and even leopards. It may be recalled that Project Tiger was upgraded in the last decade with the National Tiger Conservation Authority and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau being set up after Sariska reserve's tigers, estimated at 16-18, were poached. The fact came to light in January 2005. Subsequently, Panna sanctuary was found to have been divested of its 27 tigers by poachers.
An exercise to revive the big cat population in these reserves was initiated by re-locating tigers from other sanctuaries. The world-wide demand for tiger and leopard pelts and parts drives poaching. All the brain-storming by conservationists and the concerned agencies on how to counter it effectively has not been able to yield a fool-proof strategy. Government responses seem to be exceedingly slow, with a panel to probe the disappearance of four tigers from Ranthambore reserve about eight to 10 months ago being set up now. It should submit its findings by the month end. No one knows whether they are dead or have simply migrated in search of new territory.

In such a scenario, the Centre's plan to bring six to 12 cheetahs from Africa or Iran or both, to the Palpur Kuno sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh by early 2012 has triggered disbelief among wildlife experts such as Belinda Wright, who question the rationale of this exercise, given the failings in tiger conservation. Rajasthan, too, may be brought within the ambit of the cheetah revival scheme. Cheetahs were decimated by hunters in India early last century. However, experts point out that Palpur Kuno's proximity to Ranthambore means that tigers, leopards and cheetahs would be forced to co-exist, with big cats prone to wandering outside the reserves. This would create volatile situations, with the threat of poaching dogging them everywhere. In fact, the four tigers that are untraceable since many months may be an intimation of the fate that may befall the cheetahs.

Undeterred by criticism, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has reportedly approved re-introduction of cheetahs in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. It has also hiked the budget for tiger conservation from Rs 650 crore to Rs 1,216.86 crore, owing to the increase in cost of relocation of villages from tiger habitats and other factors. A statement released by the committee tries to justify the plan to bring in cheetahs thus:

"Re-introduction of cheetahs in the States of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan under the scheme at a cost of Rs 50 crore after ensuring the historical co-existence of cheetahs with other carnivores, especially the tiger, would benefit all the 40 tiger reserves falling in 17 tiger States, besides the people living in the fringe areas as well as communities opting for voluntary relocation from the core or critical tiger habitats."

It is mystifying how the existing tiger reserves will benefit from the cheetah revival plan. Whether African (or Iranian cheetahs) will be able to adjust to the alien environs and co-exist with tigers, carnivores that are very different from lions, which move in packs, is a debatable point. Earlier, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had vetoed the plan to relocate some of the Gir sanctuary's lions to Palpur Kuno. Mr HS Panwar, former Director, Project Tiger, credits the success of lion conservation in Gujarat to the fact that "the Government of Gujarat is seized of the matter right from the Chief Minister to field formations of forest and police departments."
The 2010 census revealed that the Asiatic lions' number had gone up by 52 to 411. It was 359 in 2005. Trophy hunters had reduced their numbers to a meagre 15 in the early 20th Century. The Nawab of Junagadh had first accorded protection to the Gir habitat and its denizens. Gujarat's success in this sphere needs to be contrasted with the routine poaching in, say, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and other parts.

Data on apprehension of illicit traders in big cats, collated only for July and August, is edifying —
• August 21: Two persons arrested for illicit trade in tiger bones; the animal was poached in the vicinity of the well-guarded Nagarahole Tiger Preserve.
•August 7: Two persons were arrested and leopard pelts seized from their possession in Kashipur town in Udhamsingh Nagar district.•
•July 31: Two persons were arrested from South Delhi, with two leopard pelts being seized from them.
•July 10: Chandrapur police seize leopard skins seized from four men near Kothari, 200km from Nagpur.

The list of offences, beginning from January, suggests that big cats' poachers are operating quite freely. In two recent judgements, meted out by lower courts in Rajasthan, on June 19 and June 25, the accused were sentenced to seven years' imprisonment and fined. These cases related to poaching of tigers in the Sariska reserve and Akbarpur range. But the option of appeal is always available to them. On August 5, a Bangalore lower court sentenced three tiger poachers to a three-year jail term. This was the first such conviction in Karnataka. But if poachers are let out on bail, the trend so far, it would nullify their crime.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Heavy rains claim three in Saurashtra

Heavy rains claim three in Saurashtra
Times of India

A number of interior roads in Junagadh district became inaccessible after heavy rains lashed its coastal areas for at least three hours on Saturday night.

Rainfall were also experienced in parts of Saurashtra, including Rajkot city, in the past 24 hours till 2 pm on Sunday and during the period at least three persons lost their lives due to drowning and on being struck by lightning, district flood control room officials said.

Heavy rainfall was reported in Gir in Junagadh district. Rainfall was also experienced in Mendarda (116 mm), Talala (103 mm), Bhesan (78 mm), Visavadar (76 mm), Manavadar (32 mm), Veraval (46 mm), Una (32 mm), Kodinar (30 mm), Ranavav (76 mm), Rajula (33 mm), Jam Khambhaliya (32 mm), Jafrabad (25 mm) and Maliya-Miyana (22 mm).

Friday, September 02, 2011

Big cats fight habitat loss to keep stripes

Big cats fight habitat loss to keep stripes

The big cats in India are highly fertile but their low population in the wild makes it difficult for them to find a mate for breeding.

The fast dwindling numbers are not due to fertility or inbreeding problems, but related to the loss of the habitat.

According to city researchers, the ratio between male and female tigers and other big cats is roughly 3:7. For breeding to take place, the animals should meet one another and during the encounter, the female animal should be in heat or ovulation. The loss of habitat and consequent fall in the number of big cats has made such encounters difficult, and thus there's no remarkable increase in their population.

The CCMB scientists, who conducted research on Asiatic lions and Indian tigers, found that "a majority of the animals exhibited good spermatozoa number, high percentage of motile spermatozoa and low incidence of abnormal spermatozoa". They also found that there is no "inbreeding depression" as yet in the big cats.

"The high fertilising ability of the semen samples and the high levels of serum testosterone further support the view that the Asiatic lions and Indian tigers are not completely inbred," a study by the CCMB team revealed.

In the case of the Gir forests, where lions are in sufficient number, the population growth rate is relatively higher. But in tiger reserves like Nagarjunasagar, which are spread over a vast expanse of area in Guntur, Nalgonda, Mahbubnagar, Prakasam and Kurnool districts, big cats do not often meet and this explains why more cubs are not born.

"The Asiatic lions exhibit a moderate genetic variability of around 26 per cent. The Indian tigers also exhibit similar levels," a Central Zoo Authority report says.

Scientists analysed the skin samples of tigers as old as 125 years and compared the data with the present generation of big cats. They did not find any significant difference between the old generation and the present generation tigers, implying that the low genetic variability is an inherent feature in these animals.

Lion density most in eastern Gir, away from tourists It’s 16 In East Gir Compared To 12 In Tourist Zone

Lion density most in eastern Gir, away from tourists
It's 16 In East Gir Compared To 12 In Tourist Zone

Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik

The next time you go to Gir, it might be worth your while to drive through the eastern reaches of this sanctuary. Chances of spotting the big cats and their prides are much more in the eastern sector of Gir – the only abode of Asiatic Lions in the country.

A study "Social Organization and Dispersal of Asiatic Lions" has revealed that Gir East has more lion density than the tourism zone of Gir West. Even the size of lion prides in the eastern part is larger compared to that in West and Central Gir sanctuary.

According to the study, density of 16 lions per 100 sq km was highest in Gir East. In Gir West, the lion population is 12 lions per 100 sq km and in Gir Central it is eight.

The study was conducted by Yadvendradev V Jhala head of the department animal ecology and conservation biology of the Wildlife Institute of India, Ravi Chellam former director of Wildlife Conservation Society-India and Bharat Pathak, director of Gujarat Ecological Education and Research (GEER) Foundation.

Jhala told TOI that Central Gir has hilly terrain and is a non-productive area as far as lions' prey is concerned. But East and West had a good population of livestock and this is the reason why concentration here is more compared to the other parts. "Dense, moist forest area is the most preferred habitat while broken terrain and relatively arid areas are generally avoided by these big cats," said Jhala.

The study, which covered 1,883 sq km of Gir's protected area, revealed that the area has a healthy growing population of lions. Jhala and his team found that the lions spent most of their time resting or sleeping. But a territorial male spent majority of his active time in advertising, marking and protecting his territory. Territory advertising included roaring and patrolling and was done primarily in the early morning and late evening hours.

The study also brought out a fact that the size of the pride in Gir East was bigger then that of Gir West. He said that killing of big cattle was an indication of the size of the pride. H S Singh, additional chief conservator of forest (social forestry), said that the eastern areas have more grasslands than that in the Gir West. He said that tree density was also more in Gir West compared to Gir East. "This is also one of the main reasons why the big cats prefer the eastern parts of Gir. Grasslands are their favoured habitat," said Singh. He added that the lions used Gir East as the gateway to venture into other Bhavnagar and neighbouring places.

'Natural causes behind 66% deaths'

The study revealed 66 per cent of lion deaths reported from the sanctuary were owing to natural causes. Of the remaining 34 per cent, 21 per cent deaths were because of accidents while the cause for the rest are undetected. According to the researchers, 60 per cent of cub mortality was owing to infanticide by male lions, while 26 per cent was natural causes. The rest of the deaths were owing to abandonment.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

'Don't move Maldharis from Gir'

'Don't move Maldharis from Gir'
Times of India

The state government may be planning to move Maldharis out of Gir sanctuary, but a study has revealed that livestock contributed as a major food source for the lions.

The study on "The Relevance of Maldhari Livestock to Lion Conservation" was conducted by Kaushi Banerjee as a part of the main study, "Social Organization and Dispersal of Asiatic Lions."

The study of Banerjee was taken up in the eastern part of the sanctuary. Banerjee monitored six Maldhari nesses to determine significance of Maldhari livestock to the conservation of lion.

He concluded that if livestock was removed from the sanctuary area, lion density, pride size and structure are likely to be altered significantly.

The study revealed density of the livestock is estimated to be 30 livestock per sq km during summer season which increases to 42 livestock per sq km during monsoon.

The main study was undertaken by Yadvendradev V Jhala, head of the department of animal ecology and conservation biology of the Wildlife Institute of India, Ravi Chellam former director Wildlife Conservation Society-India and Bharat Pathak, director of Gujarat Ecological Education and Research (GEER) Foundation.

It was found that on an average about eight livestock were hunted or scavenged per 100 livestock.

The study further revealed that the hunting of livestock is highest in summer, followed by monsoon. The livestock hunting is lowest in winter.

The data of livestock consumption compared with the lion density revealed that livestock contributes approximately 50 per cent to the lions' diet. The average financial loss per hundred livestock was estimated to be Rs 20,800.

The lions hunted predominantly on sub-adult cows followed by the adult cows. The study further revealed that inclusion of cattle in grazing herds by the Maldhari community suggests that Maldharis of Gir use the cattle as a strategy to minimize predation on more valuable buffaloes. The average financial loss per hundred livestock was estimated to be Rs 20,800.

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