Wednesday, October 29, 2014

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Protection for African Lion

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Protection for African Lion
SCI News
Specialists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have proposed to list the African lion (Panthera leo leo) – a symbol of majesty, courage and strength since earliest times – as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, due to habitat loss, loss of prey and increased human-lion conflicts.
 African lions are still found across a large range in Africa, but about 70 percent of the current African lion population exists in only 10 major strongholds containing approximately 24,000 lions.
Most populations in protected areas of eastern and southern Africa have been essentially stable over the last three decades.
However, because the majority of the human population's livelihoods within the lion's range depend on agriculture and livestock, loss and degradation of lion habitat is expected to accompany rapid human population growth.
Given the predicted rapid increase in human population in Africa by 2050, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) experts expect habitat loss, prey availability and human-lion conflict to continue and likely worsen.
Currently, the African lion is not listed as either endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), although the Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica) has been listed as endangered since 1970 under the ESA and its precursor, the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969.
"After reviewing the best available scientific and commercial information, the USFWS is proposing to list the African lion as threatened under the ESA," the experts said in a statement.
In addition to proposing ESA protections, the experts are also proposing a rule under section 4(d) of the ESA.
The rule, if finalized, will establish a permitting mechanism for the importation of sport-hunted lion trophies, provided that the lions originate from countries with a scientifically sound management plan for African lions.
"By providing incentives through the permitting process to countries and individuals who are actively contributing to lion conservation, the USFWS will be able to leverage a greater level of conservation than may otherwise be available," said Dan Ashe, the director of the USFWS.
The ESA provides numerous benefits to foreign species, primarily by prohibiting certain activities including import, export, commercial activity, interstate commerce and foreign commerce.
"By regulating these activities, the United States ensures that people under the jurisdiction of the United States do not contribute to the further decline of listed species."
"The ESA can also generate conservation benefits such as increased awareness of listed species, research efforts to address conservation needs, or funding for in-situ conservation of the species in its range countries."
"In addition, the ESA provides for limited financial assistance to develop and manage programs to conserve listed species in foreign countries, encourages conservation programs for such species, and allows for assistance for programs, such as personnel and training."

Beware of lion: Threat that keeps intruders away in Greater Gir

Beware of lion: Threat that keeps intruders away in Greater Gir
The Times of India
In the Greater Gir, lions are not only tolerated by humans, but it appears that humans in the area also assiduously cultivate the company of the magnificent beasts. It turns out that the lions' special place in the human scheme of things owes to their capacity to be security guards who ward off blue bulls and wild boars, animals which can destroy fields if given a free run.
These facts emerged from a study, 'Ecology of Lions in Greater Gir Landscape', carried out by two doctors — Jalpan C Rupapara and Purvesh K Kacha. They have pointed out the burgeoning population of blue bulls in the Greater Gir area is a major threat to the fields. But when lions are around, farmers do not have to bother about either the blue bulls or indeed the wild boars.
Interestingly, the villagers also consider lions to be wildlife showpieces and call their friends and relatives from adjacent talukas and villages for big cat shows.
In 2009, a lioness and four cubs strayed into Gondal following heavy rains and were marooned. They were rescued and caged in the Sakarbaugh Zoo. The residents were so exercised by the capture that they launched an agitation and forced the forest department to release the lions in the same area. Such is the attachment, altruistic or not, that the villagers feel towards the lions.
The human-beast bonhomie is broken only when the lions are disturbed. In fact, the report states that lion attacks almost always happen when the animals are teased. However, the truth is never revealed by the victims of such attacks because illegal lion shows organized by local residents are the primary cause of irritation for the lions.

Gir draws 81% more visitors this season

Gir draws 81% more visitors this season
The Times of India
The extended Diwali vacation saw a record 81% jump in the number of tourists in the Gir Sanctuary, the last abode of the Asiatic Lion. Around 24,000 tourists visited Gir Sanctuary over the four-day Diwali period starting October 23 this year, an increase of 10,800 tourists in comparison to same period last year.
On Sunday, more than 8,800 people came to visit the king of the jungle on a single day, a record in itself. Principal chief conservator, wildlife for Gujarat, C N Pandey, said that this was their busiest festive season as people flocked in the thousands to spot the lions. What's more, almost 100% bookings for the jungle safari were done online. Even for Devaliya safari 50% bookings were done online.
"In the four days surrounding Diwali festivities, 81% more visitors came to Gir. The greater tourist pull is the lions and a large number of cubs, which can be spotted all over the sanctuary. In case of Devaliya safari there is always 100% chance of spotting a lion," added Pandey.
Like last year, this time too, 150 permits were granted each day, relaxing the 90 permit limit observed on the regular days, to manage the heavy tourist rush. "More than 1000 tourists went for Devaliya safari each day on all four days while rest of the tourists went in for jungle safari," said Pandey who is also chief wildlife warden of Gujarat.

4-year-old lion electrocuted near Mahuva

4-year-old lion electrocuted near Mahuva
The Times of India
Yet another lion died an unnatural death on Wednesday when it was electrocuted near Mahuva town of Bhavnagar district.
Sources said the body of the four-year-old male lion was found clinging to a fence on the border of a research farm of Junagadh Agricultural University and the one belonging to Sufiyan Gafar Halani of Vaghnagar village located at a distance of 5km from Mahuva. Forest officials said that they will register a case in the matter once the postmortem report arrives. Sources said that farmers put up electric fences to ward off animals like Neelgai and wild boar that destroy their crops. These fences also claim the lives of lions at times.
In-charge deputy conservator of forest at Bhavnagar division Jivraj Rokad said the carcass of lion was found near the fence wire and the postmortem was conducted at Animal Rescue Centre at Ranigala.
"Primarily we have concluded that the big cat died of electrocution. We have taken viscera samples for forensic examination. We are now investigating the source of electric supply to the wire and who did it,'' Rokad added.
As many as 12 lions have died due to unnatural causes since January 2014 in Bhavnagar, Amreli and Junagadh districts of Saurashtra.
This is the second incident of a lion dying an unnatural death in the Mahuva forest range. Earlier, a female cub of about five months had died after falling into an open well in Mota Pipaliya village. Lions have settled in Mahuva's Ranigala forest area for the last 14 years.
According to the lion census of 2010, there were 411 Asiatic lions in Gir forest and its adjoining areas. In the last five years, 261 lions have died and many of them have met an unnatural end.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Lion electrocuted on Bhavnagar farm

Lion electrocuted on Bhavnagar farm
The Indian Express

A forest guard on routine patrol found the four-year-old lion entangled in an electric wire.

An Asiatic lion was killed after it allegedly came in contact with a live electric wire and suffered an electric shock on an agricultural farm in Vaghnagar village near Mahuva in Bhavnagar district on Wednesday morning. This is the second unnatural death of the big cat in Mahuva this year.

A forest guard on routine patrol found the four-year-old lion entangled in an electric wire on the edge of the cotton field of Gafar Abbas Halari in Vaghnagar village, some five kilometres away from Mahuva on.

"The lion was found dead near an electric wire. So, prima facie, we believe it was electrocuted. However, we are awaiting the post-mortem report and results of forensic tests to know the exact cause of death," Jivraj Rokad, in-charge deputy conservator of forest (DCF) of Bhavnagar said.

The carcass of the lion was later taken to an animal rescue centre at Ranigala near Mahuva where a panel of veterinarian conducted post-mortem.

Many farmers use low-voltage direct current generated by batteries to illuminate their farms at night and keep wild animals like blue bulls and wild boars away. The current is not usually fatal. "We are investigating if the wire was charged with DC or AC (alternating current) power. As of now, nobody has been arrested," the DCF further said.

Ramani added the male lion was part of a pride of four lions which they had been observing in the area for the past four days. "We are trying to locate the other members of the pride. The process to record Halari's statement is also underway," said the RFO.

This is second unnatural death of endangered Asiatic lions in Mahuva in October. A three-month old female lion cub had been killed after it fell in an open well in Mota Pipaliya village early this month. A male lion was allegedly electrocuted to death in Moti Monpari village in Visavadar taluka of Junagadh and the forest department had arrested five farmers in this connection.

Mahuva is part of greater Gir area covering Junagadh, Gir Somantha, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts in Saurashtra.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

At lion rescue centre, cubs yanked out of cage by visitors

At lion rescue centre, cubs yanked out of cage by visitors
The Times of India

 Lions are not safe in reserved forests too!

A family not only got access into the reserved forest area of Ranigala near Mahuva but also managed to take out lion cubs from the rescue cages to play with them. One of the family members posted the pictures of his family playing with the cubs on the social networking site.

The photos, which are in TOI possession, show that the cubs were brought out of the cages into the open area. Sources said that lion cubs were rescued by forest department after they were abandoned by lioness in the forest. Other photos show that a woman and a man playing with two cubs inside the animal rescue enclosures in the forest.

Asiatic Lion is protected under schedule one category under Wildlife Protection Act-1972, the highest protection given to wild animal in the country.

When contacted, deputy conservator of forests, Bhavnagar, KS Randhawa said, "If this is true, it is extremely alarming and I will look into this matter. We will take action against those persons who are found responsible for this."

Sources said that this could be among the most alarming incidents of how people have easy access to lions even in reserve forest areas. No wonder, this is the same area, from where 10-month-old lion cub had gone missing in April 2012 and forest department is yet to trace it.

In April 2011, a lion was electrocuted at Valar village in Mahuva range. When the carcass was found, the claws were missing. Four persons were arrested in the connection but forest officials have not found the claws.

Sources said that human danger is always lurking for lions in Ranigala. During holidays and sometimes weekends, large number get unauthorized access to the area and they come with SUVs and cars. Sources also said that people freely move behind the lions in their cars.

According to the last census, there were 411 lions in the sanctuary and of this, 33 were in Bhavnagar district, mostly in Mahuva range. Over a decade ago, lions from Gir forest migrated towards Mahuva and have settled here permanently.

Activist writes to PM, urges him to give go-ahead for lion transfer to MP

Activist writes to PM, urges him to give go-ahead for lion transfer to MP
Hindustan Times

With Narendra Modi scheduled to visit Madhya Pradesh on Thursday to inaugurate Global Investors Summit at Indore, environmental action group Prayatna has written a letter to Modi, requesting him to make the announcement at the mega event regarding translocation of lions from Gujarat to MP's Kuno Palpur for ensuring 'long-term survival' of the big cats in India.

The group has stated that if Modi doesn't make the announcement on Thursday and no movement happens on the translocation issue, it will be left with no other option but to stage a sit-in dharna at Jantar Mantar in Delhi from second week of November.

The group has already filed a contempt petition in July against Ministry of Environment and Forests and Gujarat government for not complying with the Supreme Court order on translocation of lions.

Wildlife activist and Prayatna secretary Ajay Dubey said if MP took care of people from Gujarat's Kutch who had settled in Kuno Palpur over three decades ago, it can also take care of Gujarat's lions. "Scientifically October to February is the best time for translocation," Dubey said.

"Wildlife lovers and activists not only in MP but across the country want Modi to fast-track the translocation of lions as per the orders or the SC," he added.

Dubey said that following the rejection of the curative petition filed by Gujarat government against translocation of lions, there was only one thing left now — translocation of lions.

Barda suitable site for lion translocation: WII study

Barda suitable site for lion translocation: WII study
The Times of India

Barda Dungar, a lion translocation site within Gujarat, should be an isolated lion habitat, which should not have connection with Gir Sanctuary, suggested experts of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII).

It was in October 2013 the state government had asked WII scientists and lion expert Y V Jhala and his team to prepare a report over reintroduction of lions in Barda Dungar. The report prepared by WII team of Jhala, Kausik Banerjee, Parabita Basu, Stotra Chakrabarti and Subrata Gayen states: Barda should be a separate free ranging lion population so as to mitigate the threat of a catastrophe on an isolated single population on which debates and discussions are going on since past two decades. In the case of Barda, connectivity with Gir landscape is not desirable and lion population in Barda needs to be managed artificially as a metapopulation, where lion movement between populations is human controlled with appropriate checks for disease so as to avoid epidemic induced catastrophic mortality. This will augment the conservation importance. With this, the long-term viability of lions in Saurashtra landscape is enhanced by adding Barda.

The report further recommends Barda sanctuary should be made free from human habitations to create habitats exclusively available for lions and biodiversity conservation and also restore wild prey population in Barda through continued restocking programme.

The report states that almost 98% Maldharis were ready for resettlement, while only two per cent were happy to stay inside Barda and not willing to move out. Better livelihood options, better amenities and human safety were the primary reasons behind Maldharis' willingness to leave Barda sanctuary.

The report also gives out various possibilities of translocation of lions. It says that the total area of Barda landscape was 410 square km, out of which 374 sq km comprised of larger patches and the rest 36 km with smaller patches. The report states that the larger patches of Barda landscape are likely to hold three lions per 100 sq km, while the smaller patches can hold two lions per 100 sq km. These summed up to an additional lion numbers of 12 adult individuals supported outside Barda.

Barda wait began with Kuno

If Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh has been waiting for lions since 1990's, it is Barda Dungar in Gujarat which has also been waiting for a similar period to hear the roars of the big cats in the wild. Barda was proposed as an alternative site for reintroduction of Asiatic Lions by the Gujarat forest department when Kuno Palpur was being proposed by wildlife biologists in 1990.

However, Barda project never saw the light of the day since early 1990's. It was only after the Supreme Court's April 2013 order directing lions' translocation to Kuno Palpur that the state forest department decided to put the project on fast track. In early 1990's wildlife biologists selected Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS) in Madhya Pradesh as a potential reintroduction site. In this light Barda WLS situated in the western part of Saurashtra was selected as an alternative site for reintroduction of Asiatic lions by the Gujarat forest department.

Gir lions infected with rare bacteria

Gir lions infected with rare bacteria
The Times of India

Lucknow: The lions brought from Gujarat are unable to walk and are becoming weaker.
"Both the lions are unable to walk properly and are getting weaker by the day. They were perfectly healthy when they were brought here," said a vet attending to the lions in Etawah in Uttar Pradesh.
The blood samples of the ailing lions were sent to the Indian Veterinary Research Institute in Bareilly and the results were shocking, to put it mildly.
"The report from IVRI states that the lions are infected with a rare bacterium called Leptospira that they may have contracted from the urine of rats. The urine of rats may have got mixed with the water or meat served to the lions.
This bacterial infection damages the liver and kidney and the nervous system is adversely affected. This explains why the lions are unable to walk properly, have become weak and seem disoriented," said a  wildlife expert who has been monitoring the condition of the lions.
Forest department officials say the lions were also injured while being transported to the lion safari from Kanpur Zoo where they had been initially kept. "They had simple wounds and it is possible that they contracted the infection through these wounds," the official said.

Lions have more leg space as they move out of sanctuaries

Lions have more leg space as they move out of sanctuaries
The Times of India

 It is a known fact that Lions of Gir Sanctuary are moving out in search of new territories because of lack of space, but it is now documented as the Lions move out of the sanctuary, they rule a larger area as they get more space.

The territory of the Lion and lioness multiplies as they move out of the sanctuary and get closer to the humans. According to a study 'Ecology of lions with emphasis on the agro-pastoral landscape of Greater Gir Ecosystem' by Wildlife Institute of India experts, within the Gir sanctuary, territorial males had 2.5 times larger range (average 103 sq. km) than females (average 40 sq. km), but the eastern landscape, that is outside the sanctuary area, the minimum home range size of territorial males increased to 333 sq km, while the same for the female was 193 sq. km.

The space occupied the Lions outside the sanctuary was three times than the space occupied by the Lions within the Sanctuary, while in case of female it was it was almost five times. The territory which was around 40 sq. km increases to 193 sq km as the lioness moves out.

The study of the WII experts Y.V. Jhala, Kausik Banerjee, Parabita Basu and Subrata Gayen states that the average core area of lions was estimated to be 166 sq. km. Also the study said that the a lion outside the sanctuary was nearly 36 months, while the average estimated age at which the sub adult males leaves the group searching for new territory was 3 years and nine months.

Officials said that the sub adult males who establish their new territory showed no or very little overlap with their parental territories. The study reveals that the low dispersal of Gir lions compared to the Serengeti is probably because of even distribution of prey and small size of available habitats in Gir.

Experts suggest:

* Conservation of all vegetation patches larger than four sq. km and attempt should be made to restore outside one kilometer radius from villages for breeding lionesses and daytime refuge for other lions. This will minimize confrontations and potential of conflicts with humans.

* Riverine patches within the Gir-Girnar corridor are vanishing at an alarming rate and the remaining patches are likely to be converted to agriculture by 2020. Sustainable management of these forest fragments along other small rivers is required with a focus on lion conservation.

Animal-loving celebrities turn to adoption

Animal-loving celebrities turn to adoption
The Times of India

Ever since the animal adoption scheme was introduced at the Chamarajendra Zoological in Mysore in 2001, a slew of animal-lovers, especially celebrities, have taken it upon themselves to make the lives of these captive creatures more comfortable.

The most recent additions to this evergrowing list are filmmaker Indrajit Lankesh, who adopted a white peacock for life, and cricketer Vinay Kumar, who's loosened his purse strings for an Asiatic lion.

When the filmmaker, who also runs a tabloid, announced that he was adopting a peacock for life, it did not take many by surprise, given that the logo of his publication features the national bird.

On his most recent visit to Mysore, the cricketer, accompanied by his wife Richa decided to adopt a lion called Darshan.

Sandalwood actor Darshan, who has a private zoo of sorts at his farm in Mysore, has adopted the tiger cub Manya and a baby elephant.

It's a Bengal tiger called Agasthya that caught the fancy of Indian cricket skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

As the vice chairman of the State Wildlife Board, the former cricketer decided to do his bit, when he paid for the upkeep of the Asiatic Lion Shankara and a giraffe calf.

Former Indian cricketer Rahul may not have been the fastest on the field, but he pays for the welfare of a very fast animal -the cheetah. Rahul has adopted not one, but two African cheetahs.

The former Kar nataka chief minis ter adopted a tiger called Amulya for a year, which he has been renewing year-on year.

Lion found dead near Junagadh

Lion found dead near Junagadh
The Times of India

A lion was found dead in Junagadh Agricultural University (JAU)'s research farm on the outskirts of Junagadh town on Tuesday morning.

The lion is believed to be around one-and-a-half-year old. The decomposed body was found some 10 km away from Junagadh towards Bilkha Road. The carcass suggested that the lion might have died two days ago.

"We have sent the body for post-mortem to ascertain the exact cause of death. But preliminary investigation suggests that lion may have died due to snake bite,'' said Parbat Maru, range forest officer, Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary (Girnar South division), Junagadh.

Forest officials said that a lioness and her three cubs were seen roaming around this area before a few days.

The death of lions have remained cause of concerns for wildlife conservationists as over 265 lions have died in Gir forest and adjoining areas in last five years, most of them in unnatural death.

According to last lion census, there were 411 lions in Gir forest, the last abode of Asiatic lions.

Suo motu PIL in Gujarat High Court on new tourism zone in Gir

Suo motu PIL in Gujarat High Court on new tourism zone in Gir
Business Standard

The Gujarat High Court today sought explanation from the Centre and the state government on a plan to set up new tourist zone in the Gir Asiatic lions sanctuary.

The court took up the issue as a suo motu PIL.

The division bench comprising justices Akil Kureshi and J B Pardiwala served notices to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) and the state government's forest department in the PIL, which demanded that the area be declared as a 'critical habitat zone'.

The court also directed the Gujarat government to file a status report on developmental and construction activities in the Gir Lions sanctuary elaborating whether those activities are permissible under provisions of the law.

The bench asked details of private properties constructed in the sanctuary and directed the district collector of Gir-Somnath to file a reply.

The issue surfaced after a 'whistleblower' made a detailed application to the Gujarat High Court Chief Justice, last month, stating that the Gujarat government has proposed a new tourist zone in the south-east area of the Gir sanctuary.

It was contended in the application that the south- east area should be declared as a 'critical wild-life zone' instead of proposing a new tourist zone.

There is already a tourist zone in Gir Asiatic lions sanctuary and due to this encroachment of developmental activities, the ecology of the area has incurred a loss, the application said.

The Gujarat High Court has taken up the issue as a suo motu PIL and initiated proceedings.

After issuing notices to all respondents, the court posted the matter for further hearing on October 16.

Two lionesses join Jerusalem zoo

Two lionesses join Jerusalem zoo
The Time of Israel

Recent arrivals at Biblical Zoo from Germany and Czech Republic to join male brought earlier this year

Jerusalem's Biblical Zoo on Thursday announced the arrival of two Asiatic lions from European zoos to join its collection.

The two lionesses were acquired from the zoos in Magdeburg, Germany and Prague, Czech Republic. The elder, from Prague, is 13-years-old and the younger German lioness is a year-and-a-half-old. The zoo didn't disclose the names of its new additions.

"They are both acclimating behind the scenes and will soon slowly get used to their new home and come outside into their courtyard," the Biblical Zoo said on Facebook. "We will provide ongoing updates."

The two females will accompany the current resident male Asiatic lion, Ziv, who was imported from Sweden earlier this year.

Lider, a 16-year-old Asiatic lion, was put to sleep last year after veterinarians and keepers decided that his difficulties in walking and standing, brought on by chronic back pain, were insufferable. The zoo has since sought to bring additional big cats to the park to replace him.

Asian lions were once indigenous to Israel and the Middle East, but now a mere 359 or so animals exist in the wild in the Gir Forest of India, according to a local conservation group. Another 200 Asiatic lions live in zoos worldwide.

Drama on Maldharis to entertain Gir tourists

Drama on Maldharis to entertain Gir tourists
The Times of India

The state forest department is planning to promote the culture of Gir and its surrounding areas. Apart from Lion Safari, the department has planned to tie up for performance of Akoopar, a drama on the life of Maldharis and their relationship with lions.

"We plan to have this drama as a regular feature along with the short documentary on lions. There will be an expert present during the documentary show to take live questions from the audience," said a senior forest official.."An amphitheater has been constructed for the purpose. The department also plans to promote eco-tourism apart from the Lion Safari. The department has planned to have performance of 'Akoopar,' especially on weekends or on public holidays," said C N Pandey, principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife).

The officials said that this year they are expecting a heavy rush as soon as the sanctuary re-opens on October 15. "The rush is anticipated because the sanctuary opens on October 15 after a gap of nearly three months. As soon as the sanctuary opens, there will be Diwali vacation. There will be a tremendous flow of tourists."

Officials at the Sasan headquarters said that in order to meet the heavy rush, the department now plans to have more trips of 15 seated buses. In order to meet the heavy rush, the department is compelled to have more trips of buses. The officials said that the online reservation of the safari tickets which usually open three months in advance are all booked for the vacation period. There is only one permit available for October 31.

Akoopar play: Akoopar play is based on the life of Maldharis, who live in Gir forest. The play is based on the well-known novel 'Akoopar' by Dhruv Bhatt. The play covers the culture and traditions of the Maldharis, their relationship with nature, the animals and their philosophy of life, which leads to the conservation of environment.

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